Sausage and meat stood for prosperity for a long time. But for a few years, too high consumption has been frowned upon, the sausage manufacturer Rügenwalder mill spoke of his own products of the "cigarette of the future". And Rügenwalder is no longer just joining the path to becoming a manufacturer of vegetarian alternatives, but driving it forward consciously.
On 1 September, the company from Bad Zwischenahn in the north of Lower Saxony sealed the end of their currywurst out of meat. The sausage manufacturer needs more space for his vegetarian products, says company boss Godo Röben. The 50-year-old also says, "It's time to eat 50 percent fewer animals." Almost 40 percent of its sales come from vegetarian products.
Meanwhile, the interest in meat replacement products is increasing worldwide. Just as the tobacco lobby now relies on smoking cessation and e-cigarettes, today meat percentages such as Rügenwalder promote vegetarian and vegan products. For the successful IPO of the US startup Beyond Meat even CSU politician Alexander Dobrindt raved after a visit to the Silicon Valley of meatless burgers - and also experimented with Kentucky Fried Chicken with vegan dishes.
"Telling people what to eat is not working"
At Rügenwalder, the strategy in-house did not initially convince everyone. "Of course there was a great deal of resistance," says Röben about the introduction of veggie products five years ago. "The vegetarian was the natural enemy of the meat and sausage manufacturer." But the previous business model was simply no longer sustainable. And the end of the Currywurst also means that the company had only since 2014 on offer - and admits that the marketing was difficult.
"Already ten years ago, we could see that we have three huge problems in our product range that are getting bigger every year: animal suffering, health and climate change," recalls Röben. His industry has exaggerated in recent years, animal welfare and climate protection have fallen by the ways, says Röben. It was foreseeable that factory farming would not be less because of the growing world population.
But the triumphant advance of the meatless diet is sometimes met with resistance. When Green politicians demanded a veggie day in 2013, there was talk of patronization. Only three years ago, the then Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU) demanded a ban on product names such as "vegetarian schnitzel" or "vegan Currywurst". His argument: The terms are "misleading and confuse consumers." In the meantime, the climate change debate is discussing a meat tax or a higher rate of VAT - to improve farming conditions and reduce CO2 emissions.
Whether with or without meat tax Rügenwalder vegetarian products gradually replace the classic sausages made from meat. Meat processing has fallen by an average of three percent over the last four years. For CEO Röben: Instead of preaching renunciation, he wants to offer customers alternatives. "Giving people what they should eat does not work."