Ray Ryan reports on efforts to promote home cooking during Green Week in Berlin, where thousands of visitors will learn of the benefits of eating in.
The housewife in the kitchen is an endangered species, according to the organisers of Green Week in Berlin, the international exhibition for the food, agricultural and horticultural industries, which ended yesterday.
Some 1,660 exhibitors from 65 countries, including Ireland, attended the event which attracted more than 400,000 visitors from around the world.
Since being first held in 1926, Green Week has hosted close to 85,000 exhibitors from 128 countries who presented their wide-ranging products to over 32m trade visitors and the general public.
Over those 90 years, the event has seen dramatic changes in food production, marketing and consumer attitudes.
This year it drew attention to the growing trend of consumers cooking less.
The everyday world of consumers is unstructured.
They are pressed for time and constantly on the move.
This all has a significant influence on their cooking and eating habits.
Only one third of the 29-49 age group in Germany eat their midday meals at home, and only four out of every 10 children aged between three and five have lunch at home.
Apart from the time aspect, there is frequently little motivation to cook a meal.
A recent study revealed only 34% of German consumers now cook regularly, and 42% of them hardly cook at all.
But an increasing number of those who cook regularly are choosing high-quality food.
Germany’s experience of fewer people cooking their own food is not an exception, as the findings of a consumer attitudes study conducted by PERIscope for Bord Bia revealed last year.
It found that the majority of adults across Ireland and Britain continue to eat their lunch at home.
But in Britain there has been a 5% increase in those eating at work since 2013.
A growing trend was noted in people buying their lunches more often, both in going out to eat and in bringing something back to the office to eat.
Eating out of home has always been more popular in Britain than in Ireland. Some 37% of British adults are now visiting food service outlets weekly, compared to 31% in Ireland.
However, adults in Ireland appear to be eating out with increasing frequency. The type of restaurants frequented varies slightly between the two markets.
Middle-of-the-road restaurants in Britain, such as Chinese, café style and pub grub, are showing increasingly popularity, but these outlets are marginally more popular in Ireland.
Adults in Britain are also becoming increasingly more interested in restaurants which provide healthy menu options, showing a 7% increase in 2015.
Eating in a restaurant/pub/café remains the most common activity. In fact, this records an increase in weekly incidence for both markets.
Over half of Irish adults now claim to have eaten in a restaurant/pub/café in the previous seven days.
In addition to this, the frequency of eating out in Ireland has increased to 2.2 times per week.
Green Week, however, is more than just a showcase for food and drink. It is also a forum for discussing the state of agriculture in the EU and across the world.
Irish farmers would have identified with the focus on the difficult economic pressure on German farmers, which has led to an average decline in incomes of around 35% — with some individual producers suffering a 50% cut.
German Farmers’ Union president Joachim Rukwied described falls in prices over the past year, especially for pig and dairy farmers, as drastic.
“One example that graphically illustrates this fact is that farmers retain just 12 cents from each sausage that they sell.
“The Russian embargo alone has cost some €1bn, and this is one of the main reasons for the collapse in agricultural prices.
“Despite this current economic crisis our country’s agribusiness is being presented at Green Week as confident, highly competitive and efficient.
“With sales totalling some €433bn, it forms an important mainstay of our national economy,” he said.
Mr Rukwied, addressing the challenges facing the industry, said political attention and society’s appreciation for nutrition, food, agriculture and the cultivated landscape are one aspect.
The other aspect is the economic perspective and, from the viewpoint of many farming families, economic survival.
“Currently, we are at a low point, and this applies not only to agricultural markets but also to the entire worldwide structure of the commodity markets.
“This has serious consequences for incomes, the creation of value and the future prospects for agriculture in Germany,” he said.
Mr Rukwied said the entrepreneurial abilities of farming families to cope with this situation are being seriously challenged, and in some cases too much is being asked of them.
“At the present time the social and economic appreciation of good, sustainable agriculture are two diametrically opposed aspects.
“Resolving, or at least mitigating this contradiction, is a task that must be tackled jointly by farming families, agricultural policy, the food industry, the food trade and consumers.
“Failure to do so would deprive agriculture and rural areas of the basis for earning a living,” he said.
Mr Rukwied said the refugee crisis, growing international tensions and climate change have placed the “social debate” about agriculture and food in a different framework, but have not removed it from the agenda.
“For this reason change remains the key word for the domestic market. What is needed are the implementation of social demands in line with market requirements, and new trends in demand.
“Farming families are prepared to make these changes, and they want to play their part in structuring such changes, developing them further and ensuring that they are viable.
“We are ready to meet the changes, but this means that we need added value and we expect an appreciation of our worth,” he said.
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