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Many manufacturers of branded goods missing out on opportunities in direct communication with consumers

What happens when the consumer tries to engage the company in dialogue? It doesn’t matter whether they don’t like the sausage, the cake packaging is difficult to open or they want to know whether the milk comes from happy cows. Does the manufacturer react and – if so – in what way and how often? What opportunities do customers have to communicate with the manufacturer, both on- and offline? 60 German brand manufacturers were put to the test in the current food industry consumer communication survey in 2015. The conclusion of this unique insight into the quality of consumer communication is surprising: Only a few companies have made it their business to communicate with consumers as a key differentiating feature. Companies are thus giving away valuable potential, especially in terms of crisis prevention.

The Lebensmittel Zeitung issue dated 4 September 2015 reports on the study (PDF-Artikel).

The Getränke Zeitung also reports in the issue of 12 November 2015, about the study results of the AfG sector. (PDF-Artikel).


The survey examined 15 companies from the sub-sectors meat products, dairy products (MoPro), confectionery/continuous bakery products (SBW) and non-alcoholic beverages (AfG). The broad-based study was conducted over a half-year period during which brand manufacturers were confronted with up to three consecutive and realistic consumer enquiries using a pseudonym, and responses were judged according to content, language and form. Scientific support for the design, development and implementation was provided by Marla Reck M.Sc. from the University of Hohenheim. In this context, Engel & Zimmermann had no influence on the selection of the manufacturers examined.

Anfragenbearbeitung in der Lebensmittelwirtschaft: Erfüllungsgrad formaler, sprachlicher und inhaltlicher Kriterien


When the answers were analysed, major shortcomings emerged: many manufacturers disappoint, particularly when it comes to criticism product sensory analysis, one of the key aspects of foodstuffs. Manufacturers of non-alcoholic beverages met barely two-thirds of the set criteria (based on form, language and content), while manufacturers of MoPro and SBW also had room to improve, each achieving 81% fulfilment. Only the meat industry was fully convincing in this respect, with 96% of all evaluation criteria met in the product sensory analysis field.

There is also substantial room for improvement in some places of the sub-sectors with regard to questions concerning contents and product packaging. The way enquiries about product range were handled as well as how ideas and suggestions were treated were generally found to be positive.


Many companies remain unaware that customers are increasingly keen to engage in real dialogue – especially when an e-mail or a Facebook post are so quick and easy to write. And answering one query alone may no longer suffice, given that consumers are asking questions more and more frequently. To determine how willing companies were to engage in dialogue, they were contacted up to three times. While 93% of companies responded to the first enquiry, 23% of the respondents failed to answer the follow-up to the manufacturer’s initial response. A further enquiry was followed up by a 84% of the remaining companies. Particularly striking: only around 60% of meat processors responded to a follow-up enquiry.

  • Communication channels open: only 25% offer social media channels, meat processors and MoPro manufacturers are noticeably reluctant to embrace this.
  • Query processing: MoPro manufacturers scored high marks with a personal tone.
  • Speed and rate of response: meat producers were obviously in a permanent state of alert, AfG manufacturers were often too slow.
  • Company size: large companies impress with availability and structure, small and medium-sized businesses surprise with empathy.
  • Many communications channels AND reliable response: SBW producers lead the way, AfG manufacturers have a lot of work to do to catch up.

Bewertung Verbraucherkommunikation in der Lebensmittelwirtschaft: Angebot Kommunikationskanäle und Bearbeitung von Verbraucheranfragen

Verbraucherkommunikation bei Markenartiklern der Lebensmittelwirtschaft 2015: Angebot Kommunikationskanäle und Anfragenbearbeitung


How you benefit

We offer companies examined individual evaluation of results and we outline possible areas of improvement. We can also provide comparisons with other companies in the sub-sector and with comparable companies of similar size. On request, we can test companies that have not been examined and offer them analysis and evaluation.

Your contact:

Maria Große Böckmann

Senior consultant

Tel 089-89 35 63 583

E-mail m.grosse-boeckmann@engel-zimmermann.de


E&Z flyer “Consumer communication” (PDF)