RILA invests in a rheingold study on the future of country-specific delicatessen products in food retail


On behalf of RILA Feinkost-Importe GmbH & Co. KG, and under the direction of Stephan Grünewald, rheingold has investigated the status and opportunities of ‘exotic food’ in the food retail sector. The aim was to gain a better understanding of how the consumer views this category, of the consumer’s wishes, and of which of these have already been met and which have not yet been met. This high-quality basic psychological basic study accompanied consumers on shopping trips and then, through exploration and discussion, identified the opportunities for all stakeholders in this market. The study identified five kinds of retail delicatessen consumer, each with different expectations of ‘their’ retailers where delicacies from distant lands are concerned.

An entire universe of consumption

Curth+Roth broadened the rheingold findings in a quantitative, nationwide survey. The result: the desire for something different, something exotic, can be displayed even more extensively in the supermarket. Based on the findings compiled, the culinary discoverers at RILA in the study of exotic food identified ways in which retailers can present the category of exotic food with different culinary regions in a holistic way for the different types of consumers. The sales opportunities forecast in the study need to be tapped: Fully one-fifth of buyers (22 percent) plan to use foreign kitchen products more frequently.

Culinary culture in Germany: from the ‘regulars’ table’ to the ‘exotic table’

There are a variety of influences on the growing importance of exotic food. On the one hand is the new, globalised food culture that renowned food researcher Hanni Rützler describes in the framework of exotic foods. On the other hand, culinary culture in Germany has historical roots of its own as well. Hanni Rützler describes the exciting journey, from the guest workers’ foods that were so foreign to German palates in the 50s/60s, to the multi-cultural culture of the 70s, the discovery of fast food in the 80s, and onwards to the globalisation that has brought gastronomic trends such as sushi and street food to Germany. The Germans have long since begun to think and consume internationally. Developed jointly with Hanni Rützler, the world map of exotic foods shows, for the first time, the ten trend regions with a decisive and lasting influence on the German culinary landscape. ‘Ceviche and falafel – Germany is and remains culinarily curious’, as Hanni Rützler points out. ‘And not only in what we eat, but also in how we eat it.’

RILA Remote Food Study Asian

The five types of eaters of exotic food

When Germans treat themselves to food and drink, it is primarily as a reward. rheingold has deciphered the culinary DNA of the Germans in this study of exotic food. And identified five types of consumers in the process: the patchworker, the mum enWok, the joint adventure consumer, the joyrider and the ethno-expert. These types involve different patterns of shopping and cooking behaviour, each described vividly and in detail in the study.

Stephan Grünewald describes the dilemma that these consumer types still face today: ‘The charm, the fascination of the range of exotic foods is still far from being optimally played out everywhere. People are in search of a holiday getaway; they want to immerse themselves in the exotic features of the various culinary worlds; they expect inspiration and presentation that retailers do not yet have on offer everywhere.’

More sensuality in the supermarket

50 percent of respondents think about holidays when consuming foreign products. The different culinary regions trigger different moods: those with a hankering for Mediterranean familiarity today might want to enjoy exotic things from Asia, Africa or the Levant tomorrow, depending on their mood. But how can retailers provide the customer with precise visual guidance to their soul food? More than half of the 777 respondents surveyed by Curth+Roth already rate the packaging design for exotic foods as rather mediocre. For Günther Nessel, co-author of the study and managing director of the food agency taste! in Offenbach, this is an excellent opportunity for all importers and for retailers in particular. The importers are the tour guides who often provide the merchandise from the remotest regions. The retailer acts as a tour operator – and, from the consumer’s point of view, comes in a wide variety of qualities. Günther Nessel describes the outlook: ‘If the teamwork between retailers and importers works, what results is a contemporary, highly consumer-relevant category on the sales floor, one that strengthens the own profile of bricks-and-mortar supermarkets in competition with ever-growing online retailers’.

New travel routes for the exotic food shelf

The conclusion: It depends on the presentation and staging of ethno foods at the PoS. The study of exotic food offers insights into the expectations of the different consumer types when shopping. For instance, the patchworker often wishes for more clarity, the joyrider would like to see a wider selection of exotic convenience products. Mama enWok longs for better assistance with her everyday logistics, the joint adventure consumer seeks more spontaneous inspiration, and the ethno-expert seeks the authentic above all. With the aid of the exotic food study, RILA’s culinary explorers show how retailers and makers of delicatessen products, can act as competent travel guides to offer the ideal and secure route to fine exotic food and identify where the inspiration for further growth lies.

It is the ten culinary regions of the world where lots of recipes for delicacies are still waiting to be discovered, with lots of products still to be developed and introduced to the consumer. Bernd Richter, Managing Director of RILA, explains the motivation behind the study: ‘We have worked with exotic food since 1969. Next year, we celebrate our 50th anniversary – a good time to delve deeper into this topic in all its facets, both historically and with an eye to the future. This is precisely what the study and the resulting concepts for importers and retailers accomplish.’

The RILA study of exotic foods, now available in book form for 69 euros, is a must for anyone involved with the topic of ‘exotic food’. The RILA study of exotic food is available through www.rila.de.

The rheingold expert

Stephan Grünewald


The psychologist Stephan Grünewald from Cologne is founder of the market and media research institute rheingold. Grünewald was with the books "Deutschland auf der Couch" (2006) and "Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft" (2013) and "Wie tickt Deutschland?" (2019) bestselling author. Tel .: +49 221-912 777-17 E-Mail: gruenewald@rheingold-online.de