Product range field of action

Mission: Our customers should be able to shop with us in good conscience. We are committed to minimising the use of raw materials and resources while simultaneously respecting and protecting people, animals and nature.

As a full-range retailer with up to 80,000 products, Real has a special responsibility that goes beyond providing impeccable quality and product safety. Aspects such as sustainable consumption, the conservation of resources, social labour conditions and animal welfare are playing an increasingly important role in Real’s product range composition. The following diverse activities relating to a sustainable product range demonstrate the comprehensive approach that Real pursues. For instance, Real adopted a CSR purchasing guideline with the aim of generating 30 per cent of its revenue from the sale of sustainable products by 2019.

As the potential and requirements of the individual product groups vary, as do the opportunities for procuring sustainable products, the objectives are adjusted for each segment, while all contributing to a common aim.

Product safety, quality and traceability

By implementing and complying with internationally recognised quality standards such as QS and IFS, Real ensures that the food items in its product range are impeccable and safe. The quality of the products is carefully checked by means of supplier audits, lab tests and warehouse controls. Real stipulates high standards throughout, from production through to selling, which frequently exceed the legal requirements.

Compliance with social standards

In addition to guaranteeing the quality and eco-friendliness of its products, Real places a particular focus on the consideration of social aspects in its sustainable product range composition. Real expects all of its business partners to adhere to minimum social standards. The company contractually obliges its suppliers to comply with the guidelines of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The strict prohibition of forced labour, child labour and any form of exploitation is a basic element of the agreements.

In addition, the suppliers of non-food own-brand products are contractually obliged to adhere to the social standards of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) in risk countries and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Real only accepts suppliers with good audit results on the basis of these guidelines. Both initiatives advocate a permanent improvement in labour conditions in third countries. In addition, Real has been a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles since 2015, which pursues similar goals.

ACCORD, picture credits: real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH (Grafik)
BSCI, picture credits: real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH (Grafik)
Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, picture credits: real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH (Grafik)

The company also constantly expands its range with the addition of products that meet the sustainability standards of organisations such as Fairtrade, GEPA and Naturland Fair, which advocate fair social conditions in the supply chain. Real wants to boost the revenue generated with fair-trade products by 100 per cent by 2020 compared with the reference year 2013/14. Sales already increased by 53.6 per cent in financial year 2015/16 compared with the reference year 2013/14.

“Acting responsibly” umbrella brand

Real aims to enable its customers to shop sustainably and to offer them optimum guidance in this effort. The company therefore groups products which are particularly environmentally or socially compatible and comply with the relevant standards under the umbrella label “Acting responsibly”. These include items in relation to which the company’s sustainability efforts considerably exceed those of comparable products. Real offers customers items from various product groups under this label, including textile products of the own brand real,- QUALITY, which are certified in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®.

Regional “Gutes aus der Heimat” (Prime local produce) product range

Gutes aus der Heimat (Foto)

In order to also offer its customers reliable guidance regarding regionality, Real labels regional products with the “Gutes aus der Heimat” logo. More than 21,000 items ranging from dairy products and tinned foods to fresh produce bear this logo. In particular, fruit and vegetables and sausage products are sourced within a radius of approximately 60 to 100 kilometres from the Real hypermarket in question.

Specifically in the area of fruit and vegetables, the issue has been forced by means of store campaigns and flyer advertising.

Products from permaculture

Permaculture (Foto)

Real aims to gradually change its standard selection of fruit and vegetables in favour of more produce sourced from organic farming and permaculture. Growing fruit and vegetables based on permaculture principles protects the environment and conserves resources, and is therefore considered particularly sustainable and future-oriented.


Permaculture is a form of ecological agriculture in which fruit and vegetables are grown in harmony with nature and on the basis of sound cycles. Its purpose is to avoid the negative influences of modern, conventional agriculture.


  • does without any chemical or synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides, thus going a step further than the ecological growing of food and EU organic products,
  • is free of treatment agents,
  • promotes the build-up of the humus layer in soil, which is an important source of CO2 and improves soil fertility,
  • contributes to the preservation of species diversity, nature and habitats due to mixed cropping methods and
  • uses water sparingly.

More: Permaculture Advisory Board

The three-member permaculture advisory board consisting of experts and representatives of NGOs employs its expertise to establish permaculture in the interest of the environment and the consumers, thus advancing sustainable agriculture, from which everyone benefits in equal measure.

The advisory board members are:

  • Georg Abel, National Director, VERBRAUCHER INITIATIVE e. V.
  • Udo Gattenlöhner, Director, Global Nature Fund
  • Dr Immo Fiebrig, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, UK

Real’s portfolio has included products grown using permaculture practices since December 2014. Real started with a range consisting of pomegranates, kumquats, oranges and avocados bearing its own permaculture logo, and is steadily expanding this range. The primary countries of origin are Italy, Spain and Germany.

A close cooperative partner and an exclusive supplier for Real’s permaculture range is Lehmann Natur GmbH. The Mönchengladbach-based supplier of organic fruit and vegetables sources its permaculture products among other things from crop acreage in Spain belonging to the company founder Friedrich Lehmann.

To educate its staff, customers and the public about permaculture, Real not only introduces and expands its product range, but also employs communication measures. The company provides facts and background information on permaculture, the benefits for customers and the objectives that Real is pursuing with the expansion of its sustainable product range on its own website and in brochures, booklets, pocket guides and newspaper inserts.

This is also why the Permaculture Advisory Board was founded in 2016. It continues the internal and external communication with the various stakeholder groups in a targeted manner and gives advice regarding the approval of new suppliers and products on the basis of the established standards.

Expansion of the organic product range

Real took an important step in the direction of expanding its range of organic products in mid-October 2015 by changing its bananas, focusing since then on organic bananas. The conventional brand bananas were replaced with organic bananas grown on resource-saving and eco-friendly farms. Real’s product range comprises some 2,600 organic products. The company’s goal is to boost the sales of such products by 15 per cent by 2020. At the end of financial year 2015/16, Real had achieved an increase of 11.4 per cent in the sale of organic products compared with the reference year 2013/14.

Products with reduced fat, sugar and sodium content

For Real, putting together a sustainable product range also means offering healthy products. With the consumers’ health in mind, the company established purchasing guidelines that aim to reduce the fat, sugar and sodium content of approximately 150 own-brand products by 2017. The main focus is on food items for children and adolescents. For example, the company reduced the sugar content of its real,- QUALITY tomato ketchup by 30 per cent compared to the previous product recipe. In financial year 2015/16, no less than 81 products were modified in this way.

Sustainable fish purchasing

To make sure future generations can still enjoy eating fish and many people can maintain their livelihoods, concrete measures for the protection of fish and seafood must be taken. Together with suppliers and stakeholders, Real is developing a large number of measures along the entire value chain that will contribute to environmentally and socially compatible fishery. The sustainable fish purchasing policy defines how fresh fish, fish products and products with a fish component, such as animal food, are purchased. The company is thus gradually expanding its range of sustainable fish products in accordance with uniform, internationally recognised and sustainable standards and labels. These include certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild fish and seafood and from GLOBALG.A.P., organic logo and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for aquaculture products. Additionally, Real excludes products from illegal fishing and critically endangered fish species from its product range and promotes the use of eco-friendly fishing practices.

Real aims to increase the sale of sustainably caught fish by 10 per cent by 2020 compared to the reference year 2013/14. In financial year 2015/16, the company achieved a 2.3 per cent increase compared to the reference year 2013/14.

Cocoa from certified and sustainable farms

To permanently improve the living conditions of small-scale cocoa farmers and protect natural resources, Real applies sustainability criteria to its procurement of own-brand products containing cocoa. The company considers cocoa to have been sustainably produced if the certification criteria of one of the three internationally recognised standards Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified are met. Real already achieved some initial important success in financial year 2015/16: since the end of 2015, only cocoa that meets the three above-mentioned international standards and was procured in compliance with the Mass Balance supply chain option is used for all own-brand products. This means that only certified cocoa is purchased for producing the final product, but that certified and non-certified cocoa are blended in a controlled manner within the supply chain. Only a proportion of the cocoa used in the end product is therefore certified. As the target was met in 2015, the purchasing guideline was revised in 2016 and a new target was set: the use of certified cocoa is to be gradually switched to the “Segregation” or “Identity Preserved” models, as long as the market situation permits this. “Segregation” means that the certified cocoa of several plantations or cooperatives is consolidated and is traded separately from conventional flows of goods all along the supply chain. “Identity Preserved” represents the most demanding supply chain model. It allows for the complete traceability of the cocoa back to the plantation.

Sustainable palm oil

Thanks to its diverse uses for many different product groups and its high yield, palm (kernel) oil is currently the most important vegetable oil in the consumer goods segment. Ever greater global demand has led to large areas of tropical forests being deforested in order to create plantations, and thus to enormous negative impacts on the environment as well as the displacement of indigenous peoples. These vast monocultures also destroy the habitats of numerous animal and plant species and endanger biological diversity. However, palm oil is also a raw material that is hard to replace, and in many countries the palm oil industry offers smallholders a livelihood.

Together with suppliers and stakeholders, Real is therefore committed to promoting sustainable oil palm farming. Real’s palm oil purchasing guideline constitutes an important basis for the purchasing of own-brand products containing palm oil or palm kernel oil.

The company has achieved an important milestone in this area too: since the end of 2015, either sustainable palm or palm kernel oil or alternative raw materials have been used in the production of own-brand food items, or the farming of sustainable palm oil is supported by means of certificate trading.

As Real achieved its goal in 2015, it has now set itself a new target: the use of 100 per cent palm oil or palm kernel oil according to the “Identity Preserved” or “Segregation” supply chain models for own-brand food items by 2025. In addition, the range of own-brand detergents and cleaning agents and also cosmetics products is to be switched to sustainable palm oil.

Sustainable wood and paper products

FSC Logo, picture credits: real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH (Grafik)

Increasing deforestation is responsible for about a fifth of global warming. To counter this development, Real is actively involved in the protection of the climate and the environment. Among other things, the company published a purchasing guideline for wood and paper products in April 2016. By the end of 2020, sustainable paper and wood are to be purchased for all own brands, customer service items and products for internal use if their wood or paper content accounts for at least 50 per cent of their weight. The Real purchasing guideline defines wood and paper products as sustainable if they are from sustainable forestry or are made of recycled material, and products as sustainable if they are not listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Customers can find a wide array of sustainable hygiene products, product packaging, stationery, toys, small furniture items and household appliances in Real hypermarkets. All of its garden furniture is already certified as sustainable. In its own back office, Real uses recycled and/or printing paper that meets the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®).

Commitment to the protection of animals

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Protection of animals (Foto)

Above and beyond the environmental and social compatibility of its product range, Real aims to market only products of animal origin made with animals which are reared and slaughtered in species-appropriate ways. To live up to this aspiration, the company defined and voluntarily committed itself to a purchasing guideline in 2016. Its criteria include the ongoing expansion of its product range with the addition of standards which help improve animal husbandry. Since mid-2016, for instance, customers have been offered animal products bearing the “Nature & Respect” logo. The animals are given feed which has not been genetically modified and live free-range for at least half of their lives. In addition, in about 90 hypermarkets, Real stocks products bearing the label “Für mehr Tierschutz” (For greater animal protection) of the German Animal Welfare Federation. The company is also a member of the Animal Welfare Initiative.

More: Improved animal husbandry

Real endeavours to improve the rearing conditions of dairy cattle and laying hens, and backs efforts to prevent the trimming of laying hens’ beaks. Ever since early 2015, Real has been selling the shell eggs of laying hens which have not had their beaks trimmed; since 2016, these eggs have also been sold under the own brand real,- QUALITY. Real has exclusively stocked the shell eggs of hens from alternative rearing systems and with certification of being from controlled alternative husbandry since 2009. In addition, all own-brand products with a relevant egg content of 1 per cent contain only eggs from alternative husbandry systems. On the basis of these endeavours, Real was distinguished with the Good Egg Award of the British animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming in 2009 and 2015.

The company also works with its suppliers in other areas in order to sustainably improve animal husbandry conditions. An important project is the improvement of rabbit husbandry. Since 2011, Real has only sold cage-free rabbits. Additional criteria have been developed which producers must meet when rearing and keeping rabbits. These criteria include detailed requirements concerning the stocking density, runs, toys, group housing and feeding of rabbits. In 2016, Real received the Good Rabbit Award from Compassion in World Farming for its exemplary efforts.

Vegan and vegetarian product range

Vegan and vegetarian product range (Foto)

For Real, being committed to animal welfare also means systematically expanding its range of vegan and vegetarian products. To this end, we are in close contact with the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, which advocates animal welfare and the further spread of the vegan lifestyle.

Real currently stocks approximately 2,000 vegan and vegetarian products, which are identifiable among other things thanks to shelf signs. Compared to the reference year 2013/14, the sale of vegan and vegetarian products climbed by 18.1 per cent. Thus the target of a 20 per cent sales increase by 2020 (reference year 2013/14) was already almost achieved in the financial year 2015/16.

Additionally, since March 2016 the company has stocked the first own-brand products bearing the “Ohne Gentechnik” (No genetic engineering) label. The German Association Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG) issues the product label on the basis of strict requirements.