Totally on trend – consumption in Germany

June 2017

In any given household, anywhere in Germany, just after the alarm clock goes off: While he jumps in the shower, she sets the table for breakfast. Protein bread bought yesterday is a must to give an extra health and energy boost. She prepares a vegetarian snack of tofu and bean sprouts for her lunch to take to work. Later on, she will meticulously enter the number of calories into a smartphone app. While she hops on her e-bike to go to work, he sets off on foot. After all, his fitness tracker is recording every step he takes. In the evening, they are reunited again and bring the day to a close with an episode of their favorite series. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t on TV in Germany – why else would we have laptops and a selection of streaming services? Does this scenario ring a bell? If so, you are part of a group of consumers who follow current consumer trends.

The consumer world changes so quickly nowadays – at least it feels like it does; especially since digitization has had an increased effect on our day-to-day lives. Every day, we see adverts for new products which are designed to make our lives simpler, more flexible or more connected. Some such new technological innovations quickly become “must-haves” for the masses through social media and have an impact on our everyday life. In contrast, other products only interest certain buyers, while others still quickly disappear from the shelves.

If you look at sales over a long period of time, you can identify consumer and lifestyle trends which have been adopted by consumers. Data from the GfK Retail Panel, the GfK Mobility Monitor and the GfK Consumer Scan show where Germans go for electronics, mobility and everyday items. Which products and services have noticeably gained favor among Germans?

Consumer Electronics: Wearable computers are on the up

The trend in the Consumer Electronics segment is clear: Wearable computers such as fitness trackers, smartwatches and the like have enjoyed huge growth since 2012 in terms of volume. On average, the market has experienced growth of 111% year on year and is currently worth €400 million in total. Clearly, people value being able to control and optimize their life using digital features. Now, instead of desktop devices, much smaller items such as sports bands and watches offering many digital functions are being produced to save even more space. This objective is also the reason consumers have helped streaming services to experience a substantial surge in growth over the last few years. Who really wants DVDs gathering dust in their living room after they have only been watched once? And who wants film downloads taking up precious space on their computer hard drive? Evidently, more and more people are taking this view, instead choosing to enjoy their favorite music or the latest series online, rather than holding onto them or saving them for a long time. This is why the market has seen year-on-year growth of 80% on average since 2012 and is worth €761 million today. Whilst it is true that these new options may lead some consumers to spend more time than usual on the sofa, this does not mean that household chores and gardening are being ignored: Now, some tasks can be done without any human support – with robotic devices such as lawnmowers or vacuum cleaners. On average, 40% more products of this type have been sold year on year since 2012 and the current sales figure is approximately €250 million.

Trends at home: Eat yourself healthy and save energy

Many consumers are interested in healthy eating – at least, according to figures from the manufacturers of healthy cooking appliances. Sales of smoothie makers, juicers, air fryers (which use little or no oil) and other similar kitchen aids recently rose to €123 million, while the number of sales rose by 35% year on year. Energy-efficient household appliance manufacturers also enjoyed a similar volume growth (32%). As consumers are increasingly more concerned with running an energy-saving household, sales currently amount to a huge €2.4 billion. The modern styling products segment, which includes electronic hair removal devices and pedicure sets, is growing at a somewhat slower pace, with a year-on-year plus of 24% (sales: €115 million). In total, electrical appliances with independently controlled processes such as washing machines with dosage dispensers and fridges with automatic defrosting systems account for 19% (sales: €620 million). Smart home devices and premium kitchens see growth in yearly sales volumes of 15% and 13% respectively and the sales figures of these expensive products reach billions of euros. In turn, coffee machine manufacturers generate €540 million. They remain incredibly popular: The annual sales volume has been increasing by 8 percentage points year on year since 2012.

Leisure trends: Travel, coloring and buying clothes with a clear conscience

Mobility trends show that consumers value things which support their modern way of life and make their day-to-day lives easier. Sales of e-bikes and pedelecs have increased by almost a third year on year since 2012 and currently stand at €1.3 billion. Evidently people value both sport and comfort when they are on the move. They are also doing something for the environment at the same time. Ecological aspects also play an increasingly important role when it comes to buying clothes. Sustainable fashion is up by 13%, with sales currently amounting to over €2.5 billion.

Various trends also emerge when it comes to the best time of the year: When traveling, Germans now use coaches more and more as an alternative to trains, planes and automobiles. This led to an average increase of 13% in the number of coach journeys over the past few years (sales: €83 million). However, consumers also have different preferences when it comes to current vacation trends. Companies offering vacations in the countryside (+12%; sales: €4.2 billion), followed by city breaks (+10%; sales: €6.8 billion) saw the biggest increases. Additionally, the cruise industry experienced year-on-year growth of almost 10% in recent years (sales: €5.6 billion), placing it ahead of wellness trips, which saw growth of 7% and total sales of €8.4 billion. Along with this type of leisure activity, more and more adult consumers are entertaining themselves with a past-time which used to be only for children. Justin Bieber uses it as a way to relax and many German consumers discovered this new trend for themselves: Coloring in mandalas or other pre-drawn pictures with sharpened coloring pencils. In total, €14 million was spent on coloring books in recent years. With average sales growth of 38% annually, this leisure activity has been a particularly successful trend over the last five years.

Food trends: From organic to burgers

Do you still eat conventional organic produce or have you already converted to a more up-to-date diet, perhaps one which seems to be a constant source of discussion in the media at the moment? Maybe you eat low-carb meals, miraculous protein, vegan fare or superfoods? Heated debates on which diets or meal plans are the most effective often take place around the kitchen table. One thing is for sure: People are tackling the subject of nutrition hands on – and buy the relevant products according to their preferred trend. The market for organic food is ahead in terms of sales: At this point in time, consumers spend almost €6 billion on products bearing an organic symbol. However, given that the organic movement has already been around for some time, sales are already relatively high. The rate of growth in comparison with other trends has therefore remained limited. The market has grown by 6% annually since 2012. Manufacturers of protein-rich food, such as high-protein bread or protein bars, saw much bigger increases. On average, the number of products purchased increased year on year by 77%, while sales recently climbed to almost €150 million. Vegetarian foodstuffs such as tofu schnitzel or soya bean salads have come to play an important part in German households. In recent years, meat substitutes have seen an average increase of 20%. This means that today people spend around €375 million on pursuing a meat-free lifestyle. But vegetable lovers and tofu addicts aren’t the only ones setting new trends. For some time now, restaurants have been popping up offering “pulled pork” or “pulled beef” on their menus. These typically American foods and others too are increasingly being purchased to be eaten at home. The amount of products purchased increased by 15% on average in recent years (sales: €118 million).

Fresh and healthy: From superfoods to food-to-go

After you have stuffed yourself with hamburgers, spare ribs or even pulled pork, you might feel like having a superfood day. Shiitake mushrooms, chia seed muesli – the sky is the limit...as long as you have the money to spare. Germans spend almost €670 million on modern superfoods and the market is growing by around 12% each year. There is even something for people who want to eat fresh, healthy food but don’t have the time to cook: Food-to-go, such as ready-to-eat fruit, prepackaged salads or savory snacks experienced growth of 6% and sales of over €2 billion.

Drinks: Raising a glass to our lifestyles

Filter coffee or tea in the morning, water during the day and a nice cold beer now and again in the evenings – clearly the time when our store cupboards just contained these few products are behind us. Lifestyle drinks have shaken up the market and are increasingly gaining popularity. Annually, Germans shell out around €1.8 billion on energy drinks, coconut water or special pre-mixed drinks; each year, the amount rises by 11% on average. The trend for premium beverages (which includes fresh fruit juices, expensive mineral water and high-priced spirits) is somewhat less pronounced, with growth of 6% and sales of €925 million.

Drugstore items: Practical and hygienic

Ease of use and products which eradicate germs both at home and on the go are of importance to consumers when purchasing cleaning products and detergents. Germans spend an average of €224 million per year on these products. The annual growth is quite clear, at 11%. The washing convenience segment also experienced significant quantitative increases: In recent years, almost 20% more pre-portioned capsules, tablets or similar items were purchased on average, so that different types of clothes can be washed all at once, making tedious sorting of clothes a thing of the past. Currently, the new generation of washing detergents generates €86 million per year.

Future trends: food delivered by drone or print out with a 3D printer?

As with every other trendy product or service, e-bikes, tofu burgers and fitness trackers don’t seem new or special to us anymore. But a few years ago they hadn’t even been developed or were only affordable or of interest to small consumer groups. So it is more than likely that we will see trends in the near future which we can’t even imagine right now. Will the couple at the start of this Focustopic have their food delivered direct to their house by drone in future? Or will they simply print it out with a 3D printer? You can read about a whole range of exciting visions for the future in the online magazine „TrendsderZukunft.de“. There you will discover specific reports on what might enthrall us in the world of tomorrow.


Source: Brand Roadshow 2017; Navigating the jungle of consumer and communication trends. A joint event of GfK, Serviceplan and Markenverband.

Data source: GfK retail panel, GfK MobilityMonitor, GfK textile panel, GfK Consumer Scan

If you have any queries, please contact Wolfgang Adlwarth, GfK SE, or Claudia Gaspar, GfK Verein.


Do you want to be informed as soon as a new Focustopic is available? Here you can sign up with your email.