German Supermarket is Changing the Way People Think About Food

The leading supermarket chain’s new food campaign recently launched.

Looking at labels at the supermarket.

 (LADO /

When you shop for groceries, you might shop for price but did you ever think about what goes into deciding that? Now a leading discount supermarket just ran a week-long campaign in August, 2023 to factor in the true cost, in terms of the environmental impact of food. 

All 2,150 branches of the Penny chain priced a range of nine products – mostly meat and dairy –  to what experts from two universities calculated to be the true cost in terms of their effects on the climate, water use, and health, reported The Guardian.

About the campaign 
The food that was part of the campaign was labeled with the true cost as well as the regular price. A 300-gram (10.58 oz) piece of cheese was increased from 2.49 euros to 4.84 euros. Wiener sausages rose from 3.19 euros to 6.01 euros.

The company told The Guardian that it would donate the extra income to Zukunftsbauer or Future Farmer, a sustainable farming organization.   

Penny’s chief operating officer, Stefan Görges, told German media. “We need to put out the uncomfortable message that the prices of our foodstuffs which are accrued along the supply chain in no way reflect the environmental on-costs.”

The company expected a huge drop in sales of the test items, in the single-digit million range, according to Reuters.

“I think it's good,” Holger Meckel told Reuters  while shopping at a Penny’s store in Frankfurt. “I have to see how expensive the individual products have become. I'm not sure whether I would buy it. It depends.”

When the trial ends, scientists from the Technical University of Nuremberg and the University of Greifswald will look at the data on how consumers reacted to the true cost prices.

Other environmental initiatives.
Germany’s agricultural ministry has long pushed for action to cut the carbon footprint of the agricultural sector which includes advocating for buying local produce, organic farming, and the labeling of meat to show how the animals were raised.

Lidl, another German discount supermarket chain announced in February, 2023, that it would stop selling inexpensive meat that relied on questionable farming practices and that the chain would increase the amount of plant-based protein products sold.

With the rise in food prices due to inflation and the extreme weather that Germany has experienced, prices of food are already going up. While the true cost campaign only included a small selection of products, it could be an indicator of whether people will pay higher prices based on the environmental impact, reported The Guardian.

Dr Amelie Michalke, an industrial engineer and sustainability expert from the University of Greifswald told The Guardian, “There is a lack of comprehensive scientific groundwork on this. But we hope this will give us a strong impulse to discuss and consider prices for groceries in a way that is user-friendly and fair.”

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