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The German market potential for coffee

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Germany is Europe’s largest importer of green coffee beans. Its coffee roasting industry is enormous, serving both its domestic market — the largest in Europe — and exports markets. Sustainability commitments for coffee are increasingly important in the German coffee market, where specialty coffee is growing and taking on larger market shares.

1 . Product description

Approximately 124 coffee species exist in the wild, of which only a few are commercially relevant. The two most important species on the market are:

  • Coffea Arabica (Arabica): Referred to as a highland coffee, because it grows best at altitudes between 600 and 2,000 metres, Arabica is the most dominant species in the coffee market, representing about 75% of global coffee production. Each coffee tree yields an average of two to four kilos of cherries. Arabica beans are fairly flat and elongated. Arabica coffee beans have a smoother, more aromatic and more flavourful taste compared to Robusta. Arabica beans have a caffeine content of approximately 1.5%.
    The main sub-varieties of Arabica are the Yemeni coffees (Typica and Bourbon), the Ethiopian and the Sudanese coffees. Examples of Typica cultivars are Java and Maragogipe (known for its large bean size). Coffees related to Typica are the Hawaiian Kona and the Jamaican Blue Mountain.
    Examples of Bourbon cultivars are Caturra, Villa Sarchi, Pacas and Pacamara in Latin America, and Batian, SL28 and SL34 in East Africa. Jackson is a coffee related to Bourbon which grows mostly in Burundi and Rwanda.
    Examples of the Ethiopian and Sudanese coffee line are Geisha, Sudan Rume and Tafarikela.
  • Coffea Canephora (Robusta): Robusta coffee can be considered a lowland coffee, as it grows best at altitudes below 600 metres. Robusta accounts for around 20% of global coffee production. Its beans have a caffeine content of approximately 2.7%. Robusta is less susceptible to pests and diseases than Arabica. Its beans are smaller and rounder than Arabica beans. When roasted, Robusta beans generally have a stronger and harsher taste than Arabica, which is often described as bitter. Robusta beans are often used in coffee blends.
    Examples of crossbreeds of the Arabica and Robusta species are Catimor, Castillo (the most commonly coffee plant grown in Colombia), Colombia, Rairu 11 and Sarchimor.

Harmonised System (HS) codes are used to classify products and to calculate international trade statistics, such as imports and exports. The focus in this study is on green coffee beans, which are classified in HS codes 090111 (coffee, not roasted, not decaffeinated) and 090112 (coffee, not roasted, decaffeinated). The available data do not distinguish between conventional and specialty coffees.

2 . What makes Germany an interesting market for coffee?

Germany is the largest importer of green coffee beans in Europe

Germany is Europe’s largest importer of green coffee beans. In 2018, Germany accounted for 34% of total European imports sourced directly from producing countries, an approximate 1.1 million tonnes valued at €2.3 billion. Import volumes remained stable between 2014 and 2018 on average, but import value dropped by -3% in the same period.

Most green coffee beans enter Germany via the Port of Hamburg. The ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven are also important entry points for coffee into Germany. Most German green coffee traders are located near these ports. Examples of large coffee trading companies in Germany include ECOM, Kaffee Import Compagnie, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe and Rehm & Co. An example of a small importing company focusing on specialty coffee is Touton Specialties.

Germany is an important coffee trade hub in Europe

Germany is a consolidated hub for coffee re-exports in Europe. Germany was the largest re-exporter of green coffee beans in Europe in 2018, with a share of 53%. Total German re-exports of green coffee beans in 2018 reached 362 thousand tonnes, increasing on average by 2.9% between 2014 and 2018. In value, exports increased by 1.1% annually, amounting to €892 million in 2018. The main destinations for Germany’s green coffee re-exports were Poland (25%) and the United States (22%). Other export destinations include the Netherlands (8.9%), Spain (8.7%) and France (7.6%).

Besides the trade in green coffee beans, Germany also holds a key position in the trade of roasted coffee beans. Germany is Europe’s largest roasted coffee exporter, with a market share of 23% in 2018. Exports of roasted coffee beans from Germany amounted to 227 thousand tonnes in 2018, at a value of € 1.3 billion. Between 2014 and 2018, Germany’s exports of roasted coffee beans registered an annual average growth rate of 1.9% in volume and 6.1% in value. The main destinations for German roasted coffee in 2018 were Poland (16%), the Netherlands (13%) and France (9.1%).

Germany has a large coffee roasting industry

According to PRODCOM figures, Germany has the largest coffee roasting industry in Europe, with a sold production volume of 551 thousand tonnes in 2018, at a value of €1.6 billion. Sold production volumes of roasted coffee increased slightly between 2014 and 2018, growing 0.9% on average annually.

Large coffee roasters in Germany include Tchibo, Jacobs, Dallmayr, J.J. Darboven and Melitta. Nestlé also has large roasting facilities in Germany. In 2014, Nestlé opened Europe’s largest Dolce Gusto coffee capsule plant in Germany. Examples of small-scale roasters are Backyard Coffee and Bergbrand, which cater to niche markets. To find more roasters in Germany, have a look at the database of the German Coffee Association.

Germany is the largest coffee consumer market in Europe

Germany has the highest volumes of coffee sales in Europe. In 2018, the country accounted for 26% of the total European coffee consumption, with 367 thousand tonnes of green coffee and instant coffee. Consumers in Germany prefer Arabica and lightly roasted coffees. In line with this preference, there has been a shift towards Brazilian naturals and other mild flavours within the Arabica group.

Germany’s per capita coffee consumption is not among Europe’s highest, but at approximately 5.5 kg per year, it still above the European average of approximately 5 kg. Germany’s per capita coffee consumption is expected to increase only slightly in the coming years by 0.2%.


  • If you use Chrome as a web browser, read here how to translate this study into another language.
  • Look up the websites of the Port of Hamburg and the ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven to learn more about the ports themselves and potential trade partners based there.
  • See the website of the German Coffee Association for more information about the coffee industry in Germany. This association supports the coffee interests of its members, including coffee traders, brokers, roasters, producers of instant coffee and coffee equipment manufacturers.
  • Access the EU Trade Helpdesk to analyse European and German trade dynamics and to build your export strategy. By selecting Germany as your reporting country, you will be able to follow developments such as the emergence of new suppliers and the decline of established ones.
  • See our study of trade statistics for coffee for more detailed information about the European trade in green coffee beans.

3 . Which trends offer opportunities in the German market?

Sustainability commitments in coffee are increasingly important in the German market, and sales of sustainably certified coffee are increasing. Germany is Europe’s largest organics market, which makes organic certification an interesting proposition for coffee exporters. Specialty coffee is also growing and taking on larger market shares in the German market.

The German organic market is shifting from niche to mainstream

Germany is the market leader of organic food sales and consumption in Europe. In 2018, organic food sales in Germany reached almost €11 billion, representing about 5.3% of total food sales in Germany. The organic market in Germany grew approximately 5.5% from 2017 to 2018.

Within the organic food market, the demand for organic coffee in Germany continues to grow. In 2017, 26% of consumers in Germany said they prefer organic instead of conventional coffee and 78% said they are willing to spend more for organic coffee than conventional coffee.

The popularity of organic foods in Germany is driven largely by consumer interest in health and environmental impact. In addition, German consumers have relatively high disposable income compared to those in other countries in Europe, which allows them to spending more on everyday products, such as coffee.

Coffee exporters will find some of the best opportunities for organic coffee in Germany, but they will also encounter a competitive market that is the prime destination for producers of certified organic coffee.

Sales of sustainably certified coffee on the rise in Germany

Sales of coffee with sustainability certifications show continuous growth in Germany. The main reason behind this growth is that German consumers increasingly demand coffees with positive social and environmental impact. When it comes to social impact, German consumers are most concerned about child labour, fair wages and good working conditions.

Germany is one of the largest markets for Fairtrade-certified coffee worldwide. In 2018, more than 20 thousand tonnes of Fairtrade coffee were sold in Germany, making up 4.5% of the entire German coffee market. Fairtrade coffee sales increased at an average annual rate of 13% between 2013 and 2018. Approximately 77% of Fairtrade-certified coffee sold in Germany was also certified organic. Important suppliers of Fairtrade-certified coffees to Germany are Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and Peru.

Aldi, Lidl and REWE were among the German retailers with highest Fairtrade coffee sales in 2018. Tchibo and J.J. Darboven are the leading German roasting companies for Fairtrade coffee. The share of Fairtrade-certified coffees also grew in out-of-home consumption, mostly reflected in the sales numbers of German bakeries Dallmeyers and Nobis as well as the Studieredenwerk, a service provider for German universities.

Rainforest Alliance, now merged with UTZ, is also widely present in the German coffee market. Approximately 80 Germany-based coffee supply chain actors were certified by both Rainforest Alliance and UTZ in 2018. Among them are importers (EFICO and List + Beisler), roasters (Tchibo and Melitta), retailers (Lidl and Kaufland) and coffee shops (McCafé and Caffe Bistrot). The number of new supply chain actors joining Rainforest Alliance in 2018 was relatively high in Germany, compared to the global average.

Germany’s specialty coffee market is growing

The market for specialty coffee is growing in Germany. This is partly reflected in the increase of out-of-home consumption in the country. In 2017, a quarter of Germany’s total annual coffee consumption was consumed out-of-home, mainly at work. But consumption in coffee shops and bakeries is steadily increasing as well. This growth is expected to continue, seeing that approximately 50% of German coffee drinkers were willing to spend more money for better quality coffee in 2018.

Germany is the second-largest coffee shop market in Europe, after the United Kingdom. The upward trend of out-of-home consumption in Germany brings opportunities for exporters of high-quality coffees, with coffee shops leading the way in introducing them to consumers.

The specialty coffee market in Germany is also marked by the expansion in small-scale roasters, such as The Barn, Five Elephant and Flying Roasters, which are all in Berlin. These roasters cater to niche markets and follow the principles of direct trade, transparency and high-quality products. Most of these small-scale roasters will continue to buy from dedicated importers, but some are becoming large enough to import directly themselves, which is the case of Elbgold Rösterei in Hamburg.

Single-serve coffee machines become more popular in Germany

Germans mainly consume ground coffee (59%), followed by whole beans (27%) and single-serve methods, such as coffee capsules and pods (14%). Demand for whole beans and coffee capsules in particular is increasing at the expense of ground coffee. Sales of single-serve machines, such as coffee capsule machines (+9.6%) and espresso machines (+6.8%) grew steadily between 2011 and 2018. In 2018, approximately 20% of German coffee drinkers owned an espresso machine.

Retailers sell all kinds of coffee capsules to cater to consumer preferences. For instance, REWE recently added organic coffee capsules to its assortment. High-quality coffee cups and single-origin varieties are also widely available.


This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by ProFound – Advisers In Development.

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