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One of the promotional products on the shelf: The price put many people off

Photo: dts news agency / IMAGO

Sales figures for the Penny discounter's “True Costs” campaign fell, but not as much as expected.

This is the result of a study by scientists from the Nuremberg University of Technology and the University of Greifswald.

At the end of July 2023, the discounter Penny collected "true prices" for nine selected products for one week - and by this meant the amount that would actually have to be charged when all environmental damage caused by production was taken into account.

As a result, products from cheese to Vienna sausages became up to 94 percent more expensive.

Organic products received lower markups.

According to its own statements, the retail chain wanted to create more awareness of the environmental impact of food production.

The farmers' association had criticized the campaign - Penny would otherwise have little interest in fair pricing.

Most people bought out of habit

For the scientific study of the campaign, 2,255 people were surveyed about their purchasing behavior before and after the campaign week.

The group was made up of around half a representative sample of the German population and half of Penny customers who shop there at least once a month.

Of customers who bought the products despite the price increase, 93 percent cited the reason for always buying these products.

86 percent said they were interested in sustainability and 83 percent said that the donation was a strong reason: Penny donated the additional income - topped up by a company donation of 50,000 euros - to a project for climate protection and the preservation of family-run farms in the Alpine region.

According to Penny, a total of more than 370,000 euros was raised.

The fact that sales fell less than expected was probably due to communication about the campaign and donations, according to the researchers.

For many people the prices were too expensive

According to the study, overall sales of the products have fallen throughout Germany.

Many customers didn't buy the products primarily because of the price: 85 percent of those who didn't buy the products thought they were too expensive. (Read more about how realistic the promotion's prices were here.)

In the new federal states, the decline in sales figures was particularly severe, at up to 70 percent.

In the west and south of Germany, sales of promotional products fell the least; in many places it was only up to 50 percent.

These regional differences could be attributed to various factors such as income or interest in sustainability, the scientists write.

According to the study, 64 percent of those surveyed were aware of the penny campaign.

After the campaign week, two thirds of those surveyed said their awareness of food prices had increased.

46 percent said the campaign was just marketing and had no positive impact.