Spar Austria’s organic brand prospers

Spar Austria head Gerhard Drexel has vowed to keep focusing on organic products due to the strong demand for the supermarket’s own Natur Pur range.

Drexel told the Kurier today (Thurs) that his supermarket chain’s Natur Pur portfolio had achieved two-digit growth rates each year since its introduction. The businessman claimed the sale of organic vegetables, dairy products and pasta was not affected by potential effects of the crisis. He said customers were appreciating the opportunity to buy organically produced food because of the small difference in price to regular products.

Analysis agency RegioPlan said in September that the turnover with sales of organic food and non-food products of this kind increased by 20 per cent from 2009 to the next year to 1.05 billion Euros. RegioPlan officials said the range of organic products had improved in Austria in the past years. They also explained that the general price level of these items had decreased because of the rising number of discounters starting the sale of organic fruit, sweets and bread.

Drexel also underlined that all items sold as part of Spar Austria’s S-Budget range were of the utmost quality. “Only products which fulfil quality criteria get on our shelves,” he said. Consumer information and protection watchdogs have criticised leading supermarket companies like Spar Austria, Billa and Zielpunkt for branding many of their goods on sale with slogans like “From Austria” although most ingredients are shipped to the country from abroad before the final production procedures get carried out here.

Czech media reported in October that Spar Austria considered building up a network of small shops called Spar To Go. The initiative is seen as the Salzburg-based company’s response to similar projects of rivals such as Billa and Tesco. Spar Austria has so far considered managing megastores in the country as its main priority.

The Austrian firm opened a small supermarket focusing on offering takeaway food like freshly made wraps and sandwiches close to Mariahilfer Straße, a popular Viennese shopping street, in July. Business newspapers expect Spar Austria, which runs around 1,500 supermarkets across Austria, to open more such stores in the coming years. Market leader Billa succeeded with two so-called Billa Box shops in Vienna and Innsbruck. The small stores opened in the vicinity to busy public transport stations in 2009.

Billa belongs to Germany’s Rewe Group. Merkur, Bipa and Penny are also part of the supermarket industry giant. In a controversial endeavour to increase their market share in the booming coffee business, Billa and Spar recently presented coffee capsules fitting into Nestle’s Nespresso machines. The Swiss food firm might call on European and federal juridical authorities to check the matter as many of its competitors refuse to acknowledge its patents on the popular capsules. Nestle reportedly fears turnover decreases by the growing number of supermarket enterprises and low-cost coffee manufacturers focusing on the production and sale of coffee capsules.