18 January 2023

Competence Centre for Agriculture: “Talking to, rather than about one another”

The REWE Group cooperative is the first food retailer in Germany to establish a competence centre for agriculture. Read on to discover what exactly this is and how it will work.
Reading time: 7 min.

The idea behind the newly established Competence Centre for Agriculture is to pool expertise from the retail industry and agriculture with the aim of developing groundbreaking projects to shape the transformation of sustainable German agriculture. Hans-Jürgen Moog, REWE Group Management Board Member for Merchandise/Procurement and Emilie Bourgoin, Group Director Public Affairs, discuss the background to the new centre

REWE Group’s newly founded Competence Centre for Agriculture combines a sense of tradition with a start-up mentality. It is the first of its kind in the German food retail sector.

Escaping the narrow confines of industry solutions, the new centre combines expertise from the retail industry and agriculture with a view to coming up with fresh ideas, innovative approaches and new ways of working together. Working with partners from German agriculture, REWE wants to develop groundbreaking projects for a sustainable transformation of agriculture.

In this interview, Hans-Jürgen Moog, REWE Group Board Member for Merchandise/Procurement, and Emilie Bourgoin, Group Director Public Affairs, discuss this unique and groundbreaking concept for the German food retail industry.

Hans-Jürgen Moog
Hans-Jürgen Moog
Member of the Management Board – Chief Procurement Officer
Emilie Bourgoin
Group Director Public Affairs

What is the idea behind the competence centre and how will it work?

Hans-Jürgen Moog: With REWE and PENNY in particular, we are an important part of the agricultural supply chain, serving as an interface between our suppliers – agriculture – and our customers – the consumer. With more than 50 million customer interactions per week in Germany alone, we are able to act as a barometer of consumer wishes and understand their needs perfectly.

Emilie Bourgoin: And in respect of our suppliers, REWE Group’s almost 100-year history as a cooperative in Germany shapes the way we manage relationships. We have always had strong local roots and therefore maintain strong and sustainable relationships with farmers. We understand their needs and concerns as well as the limits of the system. The logical next step, therefore, was for us to pool and integrate our expertise and leverage our diverse networks to find new paths.

With the establishment of our competence centre, we are taking communication to a whole new level by pooling our expertise and combining it with that of our strong partners. It is about communicating with candour and interacting as equals.

The centre will bring together farmers, agriculturists, practitioners, people from the processing industry and from the REWE Group to actively encourage new ideas. To this end, we are creating a strong triangle comprising an advisory committee of experts, a department to coordinate the advisory committee, and an internal steering committee to maintain a close connection with the operational side of the retail business and keep everything on the right track.

Hans-Jürgen Moog: The role of the advisory committee is to provide inspiration, develop ideas and also evaluate the feasibility of potential projects. Alongside the advisory committee of experts, the steering committee, as the internal decision-making body, will assume responsibility for the strategic coordination of all projects. This will help to anchor agricultural expertise even more strongly within the REWE Group and facilitate the development of effective and innovative best practices.

The long-term goal is to develop specific projects together with partners from the agricultural sector to stimulate sustainable German agriculture. By working shoulder to shoulder with the producers, we want to move from mere ideas to actual products in our markets, which will make a tangible contribution to the modern transformation of agriculture.

A number of platforms, including The Commission on the Future of Agriculture (ZKL), the Central Coordination for Trade and Agriculture (ZKHL) and the network for dialogue on sustainable agriculture (“Dialognetzwerk zukunftsfähige Landwirtschaft”), have already been set up with a view to transforming agriculture. Why is the REWE Group now establishing another platform with the Competence Centre for Agriculture?

Hans-Jürgen Moog: As a cooperative, having strong local roots is in our DNA, which is also why we seek to offer fair, individual solutions for every farmer. To do this, we rely on our years of agricultural expertise. But this is only possible and effective where we are also a direct buyer of agricultural products, without intermediaries. We therefore want to expand direct relationships and improve transparency as well as discuss topics outside of the big industry groups; but most of all, we want to put these plans into action.

Emilie Bourgoin: In the big industry groups, we are limited by antitrust law and stiff competition as well as long-standing unchanging opinions and prejudices. With the competence centre, we are creating our own forum for candid discussion which could lead the way in transforming agriculture. This is unique in the German, and perhaps even the European, food retail industry.

Hans-Jürgen Moog: And it strengthens our role as a sustainable, innovative retailer with local roots. Our independent retailers and supermarkets are situated at more than 3,700 locations throughout Germany and thus maintain direct, partnership-based links with local agriculture. What many do not know is that farmers can only supply us in a single market. Our REWE local partnership alone is groundbreaking in the industry.

And there are many more REWE and PENNY projects taking place in cooperation with agriculture on a regional level. These include the “Landmarkt” concept in Hesse, the certified quality label in Bavaria, the “Regionalfenster” label in Lower Saxony, providing information about produce of local origin, and the “PENNY Zukunftsbauer” initiative. A large number of regional meat initiatives, such as the “Strohwohl Schwein” animal welfare label in North Rhine-Westphalia, have also contributed to our agricultural expertise. The competence centre will bring together all this knowledge and experience, enabling us to take our pioneering role even further.

What are the next steps?

Emilie Bourgoin: We are in the final stages of setting up the competence centre. Our Agriculture department will approach suitable members for the expert advisory committee. At the same time, the internal steering committee comprising retailers and REWE Group employees will be set up. Work will then begin on content.

Hans-Jürgen Moog: Topics will range from discussions about agricultural production costs and suitable remuneration models through to the development of new contract models. We aspire to be a reliable and competent partner for agriculture. In short, talking to rather than about one another.

Finally, we will be able to start implementing the first specific projects. Our recipe for success is combining a sense of tradition with a start-up mentality. This ensures joint innovations.

We will keep you posted.