The sector – Daily bread
Whilst flows of goods from all over the world are crossing paths in Hamburg, the food industry reveals its importance primarily in the country areas of the Metropolitan Region. All phases of production in processing of foodstuffs boost the region’s value-added and safeguard jobs in industry and commerce.
In 2008, a good 220 food industry companies employed around 21,800 co-workers. Companies employing fewer than 20 people are not included. Looking at the entire added value chain, from raw materials producers in the agrarian economy, through firms involved in food preparation and onward processing, as well as the high concentration of wholesale and foreign trade around the Port of Hamburg, and on to food retailing, estimates of employment range from about 50,000 to 60,000 in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region agrarian and food industry.
Focal points – From apples to instant whip
The food industry plays an important role in both country and suburban areas of the Metropolitan Region. However, urban centres, with their consumer markets, account for only one outlet for production. Exports – increasingly significant - are handled via the Port of Hamburg. Parallel to the expansion of efficient structures in the food industry that favour sales of German food products, structures in food retailing are also being adapted further.
Green agriculture, animal husbandry and farming have shaped large swathes of the countryside in North Germany and Hamburg Metropolitan Region. In areas close to the coast, animal fodder farms dominate on fertile peaty soils, mostly producing milk and beef cattle.
Then there are highly specialised subregions. Alte Land – between Hamburg and Stade – where one in four apples harvested for sale in Germany is grown is famous throughout the country. With respect to vegetable growing, the traditional areas include the cabbage region around Dithmarschen in the northwest and the Elbe marsh in the southeast of the Metropolitan Region. Cultivation of fine vegetables is traditional in the Hamburg marshes and Moorwerder.
As industrialisation progressed, companies based on primary production emerged; today their reputation extends far beyond the region. Amongst these are Peter Kölln KG a.A. in Elmshorn, Nordmilch AG, with its headquarters in Zeven, Nordzucker AG’s sugar refinery in Uelzen, Lysell Marken GmbH & Co. KG with its canned fish products in Cuxhaven or Appel Feinkost GmbH & Co. KG.
As an international trading hub, Hamburg developed into a gateway for exotic wares and fruits, spices, and not least coffee and tea. Brands connected with this are for example Hermann Laue (Hela), Tchibo and Arko Then there are companies such as coffee expert J.J. Darboven GmbH & Co. KG, tea importer Ostfriesische Teegesellschaft OTG or Unilever Deutschland GmbH, which manufacture in the Metropolitan Region or market their products world wide from here. Baking company Harry grew out of a small Altona bakery into one of the largest companies in the branch in Germany.
Education, research & development – New talent ensured
In addition to a bachelor degree course in dietetics and nutrition, Hamburg university of the applied sciences (HAW) now also offers a master’s degree in food science, which provides an in-depth understanding of processing and production of food through the whole production chain, and trains urgently needed new talent for the food industry. The fruit experimentation and consultancy centre in Jork (OVB-Jork) is a centre of agricultural research whose competence is recognised world wide.
In the neighbourhood of the Metropolitan Region, the German food technology institute (DIL) has a very good reputation as a research institution and direct partner of the food industry. In Hanover, the Institute for food chemistry at Leibnitz University specialises in fundamental research.
The range of studies offered at the Institute for agricultural economy at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel ranges from classical agricultural business operations to modern food marketing. Also belonging to Kiel university are the Institute for human nutrition and food science and the Institute for food economics and consumption studies. They are established research institutions and generate talent for the food sector. Another institute in Kiel with worldwide renown is the Max Rubner Institue (formerly Institute for milk research).
Business development – Networking competence is crucial
In the southern part of Hamburg Metropolitan Region the Süderelbe AG growth initiative has the food business in its sights. Companies in this network can top up their expertise and improve their competitive position. The initiators are particularly hopeful that this will bring advantages such as faster reactions to market demands and better cost-benefit ratios.
Out of Süderelbe AG’s cooperation with the northeast Lower Saxony SME offensive the Süderelbe/northeast Lower Saxony food initiative was born. Regular nutrition forums are held on expanding knowledge on nutrition-related topics such as energy or brand development. There is also close contact with the Lübeck-based sectoral intiative FoodRegio, the Schleswig-Holstein food industry competence network and with NieKE, the Lower Saxony food industry centre of excellence, all of which are working to integrate and strengthen expertise in the food industry.
The lead project From the Region – For the Region, planned by Hamburg Metropolitan Region, aims to build stronger networking between food companies in the region. This should help agricultural companies position their fresh and processed produce in the regional market. The aim of this inter-regional campaign is to strengthen regional economic cycles. Consumer-awareness of regionally produced products is also to be reinforced. Regionally produced agricultural produce and craft products are the “ambassadors” of country areas. Every consumer could help to safeguard the future of these areas through responsible consumption.
- Food Processing Initiative Süderelbe (in German language)
- foodRegio initiative Lübeck
- Growth Initiative Süderelbe AG
- NieKE Lower Saxony Competence Centre for the Food Industry (in German language)
- Schleswig-Holstein Competence Network for the Food Industry (in German language)
- Food Industry Cluster of the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Science, Economic Affairs and Transport
- Chamber of Agriculture Schleswig-Holstein (in German language)
- Chamber of Agriculture Lower Saxony
- Chamber of Agriculture Hamburg (in German language)
- Initiative „From the Region – For the Region“ by Hamburg's Ministry for Economy and Labour (in German language)
- Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg), Department of Nutrition & Home Economics
- German Institute of Food Technologies (in German language)
- Institute of Food Chemistry at the Leibniz University of Hannover (in German language)
- Department of Agricultural Economics at the Christiana Albertina University of Kiel