In Germany lard has long been part of a staple meal used as a spread on bread (“Schmalzbrot”), but recently brands are looking to expand beyond traditional compositions.
Lard in Germany is usually rendered from pork, the country’s most popular meat, though can also be sourced from geese or duck. As it has a strong aroma, it is often used in the preparation of hearty recipes, such as stews of roasts and also in cooking and baking. Looking at the spread in particular, it can be served plain, but they are usually salted and mixed with seasonings, such as small chunks of fried pork skin called Grieben (“Griebenschmalz”), or pieces of apple or onion. Traditionally the spread is served in restaurants and pubs, often on rye bread accompanied with pickled gherkin and rings of raw onion.
Lard is undoubtedly a niche product in the yellow fat market. Yet, primarily based on its traditional use as a spread, it is much more popular in Germany than any other key European markets, although it is also widely used in Eastern Europe. Four in ten (41%) of German consumers stated that they had bought lard/solid fats in the past six months when surveyed in 2013. This included vegetable fat (26%), pork lard or beef dripping (16%) and goose fat (9%). Although total lard/ solid fat purchases in Germany are lower than Poland (57%), they are way ahead of France (26%), Italy (24%) and Spain (21%).
Lard’s perception has changed over time in Germany. Once associated with the Depression era, when it was considered a cheap and filling makeshift option – bread with lard spread now has a more favourable image. It’s use, however has long mainly been limited to grounded brewery pubs, as well as regional restaurants serving traditional German fare. More recently though, lard has gained importance in the German foodservice industry generally, with up-market restaurants even serving bread with lard instead of butter.
Although obviously a rather fat spread, lard can, like butter, profit from being perceived as a more natural and authentic product than margarine or other spreads. A growing distrust in the industrial food system has nurtured consumers’ progressively more critical interest in their food. Consumers are increasingly seeking out natural, sustainably farmed, locally sourced and traditional foods. Traditional recipes and generally simpler processes and ingredients evoke a sense of security and warmth, enabling consumer to indulge their nostalgic sentiments.
These changing consumer perceptions are being picked up on by manufacturers across food and drink categories. In the case of lard, however, the foodservice industry was quicker than the retail market to have its finger on the pulse.
In the German retail market, lard is primarily sold as a shelf-stable spread. The sector, while niche, is highly fragmented, with a few national and many regional meat producers active on the scene. National suppliers include Bedford, Laru, R&S and Ponnath and more recently, Aldi and Rewe. The sector is still characterised by products positioned as economical options, predominantly retailing in plastic containers.
However, more up-market premium products are slowly making inroad into the lard shelf, drawing on their traditional character, as well as hand-made, artisanal product and packaging features. Flavours have mainly remained mainstream, with chilli and garlic variants representing the most non-traditional flavours on the shelf.
While traditional lard is derived as a meat by-product, the German market has over the last couple of years experienced an interesting rise in “vegetable lard” spreads. Spread launches based on vegetable fats, including products such as onion lard, apple lard or pepper lard, accounted for nearly half (45%) of total lard introductions between January and October 2014. This is more than double the 18% over the same time period in 2011.
Vegetable lards are increasingly positioned as premium products, featuring seasonal themes and more adventurous flavours, such “fire pot winter lard” or “rosemary winter lard”. These developments in “vegetable lards” can offer some inspiration also the the meat lard sector.
Although consumers are constantly looking for new stimulations, comforting traditional food is regaining lost space as consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it was made. As well as this consumers are increasingly attracted by traditional recipes and simpler preparation methods, developing pride in local, regional and national foods. Lard sandwiches (“Schmalzbrot”), which enjoy a long history in Germany, can profit from this development.
Manufacturers can therefore benefit from putting a new spin on traditional favourites, playing with more unusual flavours and ingredients and offering more premium versions of old classics. This also helps introduce younger, more adventurous consumers to traditional foods.
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Julia specialises in delivering insights on issues affecting the German market, performing analysis across a range of food and drink categories.