14 June 2023

“We must demonstrate the added value of organic products”

In the current issue of Voice of the Month, Matthias Sinn, who is committed to organic products both professionally and personally, explains why organic farming needs strong partners and a more open discussion.
Reading time: 5 min.

Dear Reader,

a political issue at the breakfast table: the discussion about sustainable food has long since become a topic of discussion among our private circles. And I think this is a good thing. Because while such conversations may be difficult, we need to have an open and honest discussion about where our food comes from. We need to talk about its impact on the climate, and our personal, corporate, and political responsibility in this regard. I truly believe that “organic” is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to sustainable food and sustainable agriculture – and ensuring that farmland will still be cultivable in 40 years’ time.

I like to see myself as a passionate category manager and a firm believer in organic food. However, I don’t think we should impose restrictions, but instead offer attractive alternatives and thus provide our customers with an opportunity to buy more sustainable products. This is because, as a full-range provider and local retailer, we want to offer our customers as diverse a range of products as possible. But with regard to organic items, it’s also essential to explain the added value of these products and tell the story behind them. In my view, this is the retailer’s task, as well as the task of associations, producers and, of course, politicians.

We’ve been seeing significantly greater interest in organic and vegan products among customers in cities. So, there are differences in the way people in cities and those in rural areas eat, at least in part. This point is especially important to me. Organic products should not be seen as a status symbol or be politicised. We need to make organic products “mainstream”, and I believe that, as a national retailer, this is a particular responsibility of the REWE Group – a responsibility we’ve long been aware of.

I firmly believe that “organic” is an important piece of the puzzle for sustainable food and agriculture.

Matthias Sinn, Head of Omnichannel Category Development at REWE
Matthias Sinn, Head of Omnichannel Category Development at REWE

Back in 1988, we launched an organic own-brand line called “Füllhorn”. Our “REWE Bio” line represents the largest contract for farming organic fruits and vegetables in Germany. We are also Germany’s largest partner of Naturland, and we recently added products sourced from farms that are in the process of switching to organic farming. Working with Naturland, we label the products from these farms as “REWE Wegbereiter” (pioneers) because they are produced in line with organic requirements, although they can’t yet officially be called “organic”. This allows farmers to earn more money and recoup a portion of the additional costs they need to change farming methods. It also increases the amount of land that is farmed in an environmentally friendly manner. The strategic partnership with Naturland was established more than 12 years ago and is unique in the German retail sector in terms of its scope.

Expanding organic farming requires strong partners. This is and will continue to be an enormous task. The federal government’s goal of having 30% of farmland devoted to organic farming is ambitious, and support will be required to establish sustainable agricultural practices more firmly. Information will be required. Discussions will be required. It must also be clearly stated that environmental farming results in lower yields per hectare, but, for example, higher fuel consumption, because it requires farming vehicles for tasks such as combatting weeds by mechanical means. This makes it possible to significantly reduce or, in the best case, avoid the use of pesticides – so organic farming is the most sustainable form of agriculture, in my view.

As a committed consumer of organic products, I would, of course, like to see more people regularly choose organic products, especially because of the added value for the environment and the climate. That is what my team and I are working toward, and we’re always on the lookout for new trends and attractive partners in the industry. Some strides have already been made, but not quickly enough. For this reason, we need to have an honest discussion, a genuine debate, without maligning other forms of farming. I am confident that this will enable us to move forward.

Yours Matthias Sinn

Matthias Sinn
Head of Omnichannel Category Development at REWE

is responsibility for identifying organic trends. He has been with the company since 2016.