New Banana War in Germany


Lidl claims the pioneering role in fair and sustainable goods, but competition presented numbers that prove the opposite.

Two chains, Lidl and Edeka claim as being the first to introduce sustainable bananas for the mass market in German. It is about the image, but also about money, because fair products are in trend among Germans.

Lidl had announced last autumn to switch to full-on fair-trade bananas. "After the change, we are the first grocer in Germany to offer only Fairtrade bananas," the company promotes - emphasis on "exclusively".

At the Green Week in Berlin Lidl then put down a large advertising presence. Germany boss Matthias Oppitz invited the competition from the stage of the event ostensibly to pull along: "It was not our idea to be alone" Instead we would want to "persuade others to come along", said Oppitz.

Now all the retailers have to follow us and make sure that starvation wages and child labor are a thing of the past in the production of popular tropical fruits, he said. "Lidl has recognized how to do it, and I would buy my bananas from Lidl," said Minister Gerd Müllerthe enthusiastically in a video, holding up a bundle of Lidl bananas.

The PR coup at the show has provoked anger in the industry. Especially from discounter supermarket operator Edeka which claimed to have the pioneering role on the issue. The Hamburg head office points to the fact that Edeka had already started a comprehensive project on sustainable banana cultivation in 2014 together with the environmental organization WWF. Other chains are also effective in promoting sustainability of the yellow fruit. They sell bananas only unpackaged and in organic varieties.

Organizations such as Oxfam or Südwind have repeatedly pointed out the poor working conditions in many growing countries. Most bananas sold in Germany come from Colombia, Ecuador or Costa Rica. At the same time, with a consumption of around eleven kilos per capita per year bananas are an important economic factor with an import value of almost 900 million euros.

Although the share of organic and fairtrade goods is constantly rising, it still accounts for only a fraction of the market - bananas are often the subject of price wars despite all good words about sustainability.

What annoys the food industry now is not the trend towards fair and ethically bananas but Lidl's claims to be the pioneer on the issue.

The comment of a spokesman for the Hamburg Edeka headquarters is correspondingly tight-lipped: "We are delighted that the Edeka WWF banana is finding imitators".

Fair trade bananas enjoy more and more popularity among Germans each year.

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