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Twentieth-Century Product Innovations in the German Food Industry

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2011

Abstract

Product innovation, a decisive factor in modern economies, is usually analyzed from one point of view–that of the producers. A more realistic approach to the subject would add at least four dimensions to a consideration of the topic: the perspective of consumers and the cultural context within which they form their views; the differences in how experts and consumers acquire knowledge about products; the increasing influence of retailers at the point of sale; and the technological options available to producers and households. Two twentieth-century German case studies–on the scientific innovation of yogurt and the preserving and canning of food–connect the often separate perspectives of business, consumers, and culture.

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67 Such problems were discussed early but without any relevant result. See Renk, Friedrich, “Conservirung von Nahrungsmitteln,Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für öffentliche Gesundheitspflege 13 (1881): 3650.Google Scholar

68 See Meinecke, Friedrich, Die volkswirtschaftliche Bedeutung der deutschen Gemüse-Konservenindustrie (Braunschweig, 1914).Google Scholar Before 1914 canned foodstuffs, especially beans, were affordable for skilled workers, principally. But market range aimed at middle-class consumers. The consumer-cooperatives, as part of the labor movement, did not start their canning plants until the 1920s.

69 Hempel, Bruno, “Deutschlands Konservierungs- und Nahrungsindustrie,Die Konserven-Industrie 19 (1932): 231Google Scholar; cf. Stegemann, Franz, “Die Konservenindustrie,” in Handbuch der Wirtschaftskunde Deutschlands, vol. 3 (Leipzig, 1904), 830–44.Google Scholar

70 Wagner, Curt, Konserven und Konservenindustrie in Deutschland (Jena, 1907).Google Scholar

71 The average price for 1 kilogram of canned peas dropped from 2 M in 1872 to 1 M in 1902; for canned beans, from 1 M to 30 Pfg. See Thorns, Henry Ed., “Die volkswirtschaftliche Bedeutung der Obst- und Gemüsekonservenindustrie,Monatsschrift für Handel und Industrie 16 (1906): 341.Google Scholar During that period the nominal yearly wages of skilled workers rose from ca. 500 M to ca. 800 M, while real wages increased probably more than 40 percent. See the different calculations in Pierenkemper, Toni, “The Standard of Living and Employment in Germany, 1850–1980: An Overview,Journal of European Economic History 16, no. 1 (1987): 66.Google Scholar The problems in interpreting such average data are discussed in Spiekermann, Uwe, “Die Ernährung städtischer Arbeiter in Baden an der Wende vom 19. zum 20. Jahrhundert. Monotone Einheit oder integrative Vielheit?Internationale wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 32, no. 4 (1996): 453–83.Google Scholar

72 Barg, B. H., “Konservierte Nahrungsmittel,Zeitschrift für Volksernährung 13 (1938): 57.Google Scholar Canned meat was less important, mainly after the tariff reform of 1902, which closed the German market to cheaper U.S. imports. Meat dishes were canned either as luxuries or for consumption by the armed forces.

73 Examples are Schottelius, Max, “Giftige Konserven,Die Umschau 10 (1906): 781–85Google Scholar; Gerhardt-Amyntor, Dagobert v., “Warum in meinem Hause keine Konserven gegessen werden,Blätter für Volksgesundheitspflege 8 (1908): 3335Google Scholar; Reitz, Adolf, “Konservengifte,Kosmos 7 (1910): 217–22.Google Scholar

74 In 1902 and 1904, many preservatives were forbidden for meat and meat products. See Technische Begründung des vorstehenden Bundesraths-Beschlusses über gesundheitsschädliche und täuschende Zusätze zu Fleisch und dessen Zubereitungen vom 18. Februar 1902,Zeitschrift für Untersuchung der Nahrungs- und Genussmittel 5 (1902): 333–52.Google Scholar

75 Die Borsäure im Reichstag,Zeitschrift für öffentliche Chemie 9 (1903): 8589, 105–112, 125–29Google Scholar; Schottelius, Max, “Konserven als Volksnahrung,Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für öffentliche Gesundheitspflege 42 (1910): 5977 (incl. discussion).Google Scholar

76 Hydor, (pseudonym), “Verdorbene Nahrungsmittel, ihre Erkennung und Wirkung,Der Zeitgeist 5 (1912): 504–7Google Scholar; Gefahren in Lebensmitteln,Blätter für Volksgesundheitspflege 12 (1912): 2022.Google Scholar

77 See Spiekermann, Uwe, “Die Normalität des (Lebensmittel-)Skandals. Risikowahrnehmungen und Handlungsfolgen im 20. Jahrhundert,Hauswirtschaft und Wissenschaft 52, no. 2 (2004): 6163.Google Scholar

78 Kupferhaltige Konserven,Deutsche Nahrungsmittel-Rundschau 2 (1904): 5961Google Scholar; Giftige Konserven?Deutsche Nahrungsmittel-Rundschau 9 (1911): 171,181.Google Scholar

79 Stengele, F., “Das Eindünsten von Obst und Gemüse nach J. Week's (verbesserte Dr. Rempel's und Hüffner's) Methode,” Wochenblatt des Landwirthschaftlichen Vereins im Großherzogthum Baden (1898): 358–;59, 380–82.Google Scholar

80 Müller, W. D., “Aus der Werbegeschichte des Hauses, Week,’” Mitteilungen des Vereins Deutscher Reklamefachleute (1915): 280–82.Google Scholar

81 The price of Week's basic standard equipment (pot and jar holder) was ca. 13 M, depending on size and materíal. A 1 kg. glass jar cost 0.85 M, a rubber band 0.10 M (Week Preisliste Nr. 18 [;Öflingen, 1913], s.p.). Hundreds of household advice books and cookbooks reflected and presented home canning as a standard skill of German bourgeois housewives. See Wiedemann, Inga, Herrin im Hause: Durch Koch- und Haushaltsbücher zur bürgerlichen Hausfrau (Pfaffenweiler, 1993).Google Scholar Over time, Week diversified the range of products. Smaller equipment sets were offered for as little as 5.10 M, competitors sold even cheaper machines, and—apart from the inflation period—fixed prices steadily reduced the relative costs of home canning.

82 Kuhn, Barbel, “‘… und herrschet weise im häuslichen Kreise’: Hausfrauenarbeit zwischen Disziplin und Eigensinn,” in Verbrecher, Strafen und soziale Kontrolle: Studien zur historischen Kulturforschung 3, ed. Dülmen, Richard v. (Frankfurt/M., 1990), 238–77, 301–6.Google Scholar Jars and canning machines were durable consumer goods, which one could expect to use for several decades. Only rubber rings and locks needed to be replaced after about six uses.

83 Although jars were the containers predominantly used for preserving food, more than 50 million cans were also produced in German households in 1930. This was 50 percent of the whole output of the canning industry. See Hempel, Bruno, “Immer breitere Basis der Herstellung von Gemüse- und Obstkonserven in Deutschland,Die Konserven-Industrie 19 (1932): 56.Google Scholar

84 Willms, Angelika, “Grundzüge der Entwicklung der Frauenarbeit von 1880 bis 1980,” in Müller, Walter, Willms, Angelika, and Handl, Johann, Stmkturwandel der Frauenarbeit 1880–1980 (Frankfiirt/M., 1983), 35.Google Scholar In the prewar and early postwar periods German women's employment rates exceeded those in the U.K. and the U.S.

85 See Saul, H., “Die Gemüse- und Obstkonservenfabrik der GEG in Stendal,Konsumgenossenschaftliche Rundschau 24 (1927): 116–17Google Scholar; Sierakovsky, Fritz, “Der Erweiterungsbau der Konservenfabrik der GEG in Stendal,Konsumgenossenschaftliche Rundschau 26 (1929): 402–3.Google Scholar

86 Konservierung und Vitaminzerstörung,Die Volksernährung 4 (1929): 252–54Google Scholar; Kirchhof, Hans, Ratgeber für Dosen-Konservierung im Haushalt und Kleinbetrieb (Braunschweig, 1936).Google Scholar

87 Winkler, E., “Welchen Umfang nimmt die Konserve in unserer heutigen Ernährung ein?Zeitschrift für Ernährung 1 (1931): 307–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

88 Die Konservengegner,Die Volksernährung 5 (1930): 112–13Google Scholar; Fincke, Heinrich, “‘Gift in der Nahrung,’” Deutsche Nahrungsmittel-Rundschau (1931): 112–15.Google Scholar

89 Data from Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung über die häusliche Vorratshaltung,Markt und Verbrauch 14 (1942): 81 and 72.Google Scholar

90 Die Konservenindustrie im Jahre 1937,Wirtschaft und Statistik 18 (1938): 595–96.Google Scholar

91 Vollkonserven—die Zukunft der deutschen Fischkonserven,Deutsche Fischerei-Rundschau (1933): 331–34.Google Scholar

92 Mosolff, Hans, “Der Aufbau der deutschen Gefrierindustrie,Der Vierjahresplan 5 (1941): 596600Google Scholar; Emblik, Eduard, “Die Bedeutung der Gefrierkonserve in der europäischen GroZeitschrift für die gesamte Kälteindustrie 50 (1943): 8993.Google Scholar

93 Berghoff, Hartmut, “Enticement and Deprivation: The Regulation of Consumption in Pre-War Nazi Germany,” in Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America, ed. Daunton, Martin and Hilton, Matthew (Oxford, 2001), 173.Google Scholar

94 Europa als Markt fur konservierte Nahrungsmittel. Zusammengestellt von der Firma J.A. Schmalbach,Die industrielle Obst- und Gemüseverwertung 43 (1958): 466.Google Scholar

95 Kirsch, Paul G., “Mehr als eine Milliarde in Konserven: Die Einfuhr macht zu schaffen,Der Volkswirt 16 (1962): 2524–26.Google Scholar

96 See Heinecke, Barbel, Nahrungs- und Genußmittelindustrie: Strukturelle Probleme und Wachstumschancen (Berlin, München, 1964), 8487Google Scholar; Müller, Jan, Entwicklung der Konzentration in der Ernährungsindustrie in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland von 1962 bis 1970, vol. 2 (Munich, 1973), 640Google Scholar; Breitenacher, Michael and Täger, Uwe Christian, Ernährungsindustrie. Strukturwandlungen in Produktion und Absatz (Berlin, 1990).Google Scholar

97 In 1954, 75 percent of German households preserved food. See Mosolff, Hans, Schwenzer, J. E., and Andersen, E., Marktanalyse über Zucker (Bonn, 1954), 65.Google Scholar

98 Kirchmann, Ruth, Einmachen in Deutschland (Bonn, 2002).Google Scholar

99 For a comparative view, see Hamilton, Shane, “The Economics and Convenience of Modern-Day Living: Frozen Foods and Mass Marketing, 1945–1965,” Business History Review 77 (Spring 2003), 3360Google Scholar; Davies, David and Charr, Alf, “When It's Time to Make a Choice”: Fifty Years of Frozen Food in Britain (Grantham, 1998).Google Scholar

100 Original data from http://www.tiefkuehlinstitut.de. On product innovation, compare to Pawlik, Heike, Die Nachfrage nach Tiefkühlkost—Struktur, Bestimmungsgründe und Perspektiven (Hamburg, Berlin, 1993).Google Scholar

101 Data from Statistisches Jahrbuch über Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten 50 (2006): 217 and 223.Google Scholar The market share of German cans was 12 percent (vegetables) and 33 percent (fruit).

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