Alongside mechanical engineering, the food industry is the most important sector of the manufacturing industry in Schleswig-Holstein in terms of turnover and employment. From a statistical perspective, the food industry comprises the branches that produce foodstuffs and animal feed, tobacco products and beverages. In 2018, the turnover for 262 companies with 20 or more employees was around 7.09 billion euros. A total of around 22,500 people are employed in the food industry in Schleswig-Holstein (2018). Around 60 per cent of the analysed companies have between 20 and 50 employees, demonstrating the considerable medium-sized structure of the food industry in Schleswig-Holstein.
Meat and dairy processing businesses have traditionally been very important in the region. Manufacturers of baked goods and confectionery have also enjoyed positive growth in recent years, adding to today’s broad mix of industries. Another characteristic feature of the food industry is its relative independence from economic cycles, which is due to the stable demand for products manufactured mainly for final consumption. This shows that the industry is a guarantee of stability even in times of crisis.
Companies in the region are renowned for the high quality of the goods they manufacture. Products from the food surplus state of Schleswig-Holstein are difficult to miss on the shelves of national and international food retailers. Confectionery products and cheese lead the way in terms of exports. Following a period of adjustment and restructuring, the food industry has regained momentum and has been recording a more or less steady increase in sales figures since 2008. As part of the Regional Innovation Strategy for Schleswig-Holstein (RIS3 SH), the food industry has been identified as one of the relevant specialist fields in Schleswig-Holstein; this has been laid down in a cluster strategy. Against this background, measures are set to be taken to make the food industry more competitive nationally and internationally by 2030, primarily through innovations. Environmental and economic follow-up costs are also considered here in order to take into account the challenges of dwindling resources and climate change. The existing networks are supported by the state government to increase the value-adding networking of food producers and thus the ability of the north German food industry to innovate and compete.