Polish food market big and open for plant based products

Polish domestic food market is big and open for new plant based trends. But hurry up, otherwise shelfs will be filled with other products and you miss your chance.

This was the main conclusion of the webinar for the participants of the alternative protein mission to Poland.

ceasar salades with plantbased 'meat'
©Murawska

Warsaw new Berlin for plant based?

Poland has 38 mln inhabitants and is still an undiscovered market for many Dutch food companies wanting to enter Poland with their plant based alternatives.

There are many restaurants in bigger cities in Poland that are popping up but they all have one thing in common: to serve vegetarian options for their clients, even if the profile of the restaurant lies elsewhere. It is no surprise that the well-known portal Happy Cow lists Warsaw and Krakow in the top of most friendly cities for vegetarians and vegan lovers in the world. Obviously there are more and more restaurants and places fully dedicated to plant based cuisine.

Many Polish people don’t explicitly choose that they eat vegan or vegetarian, they just want to eat something different than regular meat portion. So in a way it is even a bigger market than it would be seen on the moment it will be extended to flexitarians or even traditional consumers who want to try something fashionable as vege food is now really ‘in’ in Poland.

Seen from the Embassy’s perspective it is also a right moment to enter this market: with the Corona crisis people stayed at their homes and started to cook themselves thinking about their health. Next to that, the priority of the Dutch government is to focus on sustainable recovery. A plantbased diet fits into the goal of sustainability and can contribute to the Climate goals by decreasing the emission of greenhouse gases.

If you think about doing business in Poland, you need to consider that Polish people are more formal than the Dutch. Think about decent clothes while having a meeting, even if it goes completely online and you’re at home. For your Polish partner it is still a business meeting and he/she will take you more seriously on the moment you will treat him seriously too.

biologische groenten
©Homan

Polish food market

Polish consumers spend a relatively large amount of income on food. On the average it is 25% of the salary. Therefore it is not a surprise that Polish consumers are mainly price oriented considering food choices in Poland. On the moment the first wave of Corona developed in Poland many people were afraid that food prices will increase. Price is the first consideration for consumers in every food research executed in Poland, followed by taste and health. It would be good to realize that the taste of Polish consumers differs from the taste of for example Dutch consumers and that products sometimes need to be adjusted to this.

The competition of the markets and brands on the Polish market is substantial. Many bigger and smaller grocery stores are available almost on every corner in the city. And next to supermarkets, also local stores play a significant role in the retail structure in Poland. The role of small local stores increased in the last months significantly due to Corona pandemics and a natural feeling of consumers to avoid spaces with other people.

Polish consumers pay with card, cash is not common in the FMCG sector in Poland.

The biggest Polish retail chain is Biedronka. It’s value is ca 25 bln pln (approx. € 5,6 mld). In practice it means that the total value of Biedronka and its market position is as big as the 5 next players in the Polish retail. Therefore also the negotiating position of Biedronka is huge as it is seen as a guarantee of a success on the moment the product will be placed on shelfs in the stores of this brand.

Producers and players entering the Polish market have to be aware and deal with the fast changing law and regulations that already many times surprised companies operating in Poland. Therefore also producers entering the Polish market should follow the situation in Poland as it might affect them as well and have a rapid and negative influence on the price of their product (introduction of sugar tax for example).

You can read more about the Polish market for plant based product in our report here.

Online shopping
©Pexels

Go online

There is also a possibility to operate fully digitally. Allegro is the biggest Polish online selling platform. It is the fourth biggest operator in Europe (after Amazon and Alibaba and E-Bay). Allegro as such is more oriented on sales of electric equipment but there are many shops or other categories that operate only via Allegro and have their clients and earn decent income. Depending on the kind of product there is also a possibility to deliver the product not only to a regular pick-up locker (InPost is the most popular brand in Poland) but there are also pick-up refrigerators or even freezers, however mainly in bigger cities. These lockers are accessible 24/7 and therefore very convenient for delivery. It is possible to operate completely online on the Polish market and avoid the whole retail factor and deliver fresh or frozen product to the end consumer. This way it is also possible to test the products you want to sell on the Polish market.

For both ways of selling it is better to have a local operator that will keep track on all the developments that are occurring on the market.

vegan burger
©Pexels

Poland goes vege in cities…and on the countryside. A bit.

According to the latest research from October 2020 even 40% of Poles is declaring to eat less meat on a daily basis and they are open for new products. Sales of bio is popular and growing fast but in the absolute numbers it is still only 1 bln pln (approx. € 220 mln). But this means it is a starting point and on the moment you want your product to be present in Polish stores you should go for it now, and not later when the market will be already saturated with other products.

It is also exactly the right moment to explore Polish vegetarian market. It is indeed still relatively small considered in absolute numbers but it grows.

Eco and vege trends are really visible and popular in Poland but mostly in cities and mainly among younger generation. It is the youth that is currently teaching their parents and other family members to eat more plantbased, in a healthy way and a new way of cooking. More traditional cuisine is to find in rural areas of the country where still it is eaten in a quite traditional way. In the pandemic consumers changed slightly their behavior: as they stay more often at home and have more time to cook, they also prefer to buy bigger packages and choose more often for long term products like rice or pasta. It is a good trend for plant based products as vegetarianism is considered as a healthy way of eating (and living). There is also a large conservative part in the Polish society which considers the vega(n) trend as a threat to the traditional Polish values. However even in the conservative catholic media you can find famous people presenting plant based food. Vege products are easily to buy on many petrol stations in Poland (not only in cities but also on the way) and in small corner stores called ‘Żabka’ – another national retail player in Poland. In this sense the trend for plant based products is not a niche anymore but has reached the mainstream.

Polish vs foreign

Polish consumers are also learned that Polish products and food is healthy, tasty and good. But it doesn’t affect negatively other products on the Polish market as Polish consumer (especially the younger one) likes to try new things and tastes. It translates directly into offer on the shelfs: more and more products from other countries are available in Poland. Therefore it is not a problem to put a foreign product on the Polish market as long as it is not pretending to be Polish. As long as the product has its own good story and is attractive and according to the Polish taste, the tolerance and curiosity of the Polish consumer will appear as well.

handshake in an office
©Pexels

Private label?

As a good price is a leading factor for Polish consumers it is not a surprise that even 30% of the sales occurs via private label brands.

If the producer will choose to operate under a private label then he doesn’t have to be worried about selling points of the product. The retailer will take over and take care of the right exhibition of the product on the shelf.

Private labels in Poland are quite popular as they promise good quality for a reasonable price. For sure discounters will further develop this kind of sales but also regular retail chains will have private labels in their offer. The importance of it will only grow.

On the moment a producer operates under its own brand, he can choose for many different stores and chains, but then he has to take care and pay attention to pick the right stores in the right places (in cities or on the country side or even small cities depending on the target group) and even at the shop itself (right shelf next to other right products that should appear in the same group of products). The strategy should also cover the structure of the store (whether it is a big supermarket or a small corner shop chain).

Branding

Social media in Poland is extremely popular. Its is relatively cheap and easy to operate and there are several companies which managed to gather a huge audience and fans of their products via social media only. In Poland, Facebook is still playing a leading role considering food promotion and amount of followers, followed by Instagram that is dedicated to a bit younger generation. The role of Instagram is increasing. Another option is to hire one of the food bloggers that are quite popular in Poland. Bloggers also differ, but if the product fits to the audience of the chosen blogger, the sales will increase visibly. But for every of this channel a certain promotion strategy should be invented and executed, otherwise it probably won’t work. In general Polish consumer doesn’t really differ from the Dutch one. On the moment your product is authentic and has a good story it is definitely worth to show it to your future customers in Poland.

panel discussion in a green box with visible camera's
©A.Murawska

Webinar

The plant based mission was organized by the Netherlands Embassy in Poland together with Netherlands Polish Chamber of Commerce and RoślinnieJemy.

During the mission a webinar for the participants was organized. Our speakers were:

  • Ms. Carolien Spaans, Netherlands Embassy Warsaw
  • Ms. Edyta Kochlewska, Dla Handlu
  • Mr. Piotr Malepszy, Retail Trade Expert
  • Mr. Maciej Otrębski, RoślinnieJemy
  • Mr. Dirk Aarts, 24/7Communication.

Below you can find presentations of all our speakers.