Hamburg now a launching pad for new food start-ups

17 October 2023
Creative founders turning to Hamburg - city's history of culinary delights proves inspiring

When Vincenzo Andronaco moved from a 60-square-metre stand in Hamburg's wholesale market to a 5,000-square-metre space in Hamburg-Billbrook in 2000, he thought he had lost some goods. "We had planned 40 pallets to begin with, but they looked so lost in the hall that we had to count them several times," said the Sicilian. Meanwhile, the hall hosts perhaps the longest fresh food counter in Hamburg. Andronaco now sells no less than 300 types of Italian sausages and cheeses, 660 types of pasta, 200 oils and 180 types of vinegar  including a balsamic mojito or a balsamic spritz. The success story began in 1983, when the former "guest worker" arrived in Hamburg at the tender age of 18. His first forays into the food business saw him buy a small fruit and vegetable stall in Barmbek railway station with his hard-earned money from toiling on building sites all over Hamburg. This year, Vincenzo Andronaco is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Italian lifestyle in  Hamburg  

Meanwhile, the company has gone from a lone fruit stand to eleven "Grandi Mercati" in Germany, some of which include adjoining bistros run by a good 450 employees. In 2004, Vincenzo's son, Florian, added a catering service. Only products that have passed the Andronaco quality check are admitted into the range. "We get to the bottom of the products in terms of origin and production. I have looked 95 per cent of suppliers in the eye," said the founder.

Vincenzo Andronaco is proud of having brought Italian lifestyle to Hamburg. "We met with great interest right from the start, but there were also minor, cultural hurdles." It began years ago when the passionate gourmet tried to win over customers for honey with truffles or "when outraged customers brought back our Gorgonzola because it had gone mouldy".

Vincenzo Andronaco and his son, Florian, (right) and nephew Giovanni (left)

FIC 2023 Food Award

Shweta Pahuja, founder of the Just Nosh start-up, is unlikely to face such problems. Yet, this year's winner of the Food Innovation Camp's Food Awards is still trying to persuade Hamburg's natives to try Indian popcorn made of prickly waterlily or makhana. The edible seeds, called fox nuts or makhana, are eaten when dried all over Asia. In India, this hugely popular healthy, vegan, sugar-free snack contains 20 per cent less fat than ordinary popcorn. The company now hopes to make waves on the German market as the FIC Food Award prize also includes a listing in Rewe Nord's supermarkets.

Another award winner, Amjad Abu Hamid, who founded Mama's Falafel Teig or dough, has also pitched for a listing by the Chefs Culinar food wholesaler. This is ideal as the falafel croutons for bowls and salads are designed especially for the catering trade.

Chickpeace and Neni pitch jointly for FIC Food-Award

Food knows no borders: Social Business

Chickpeace and Neni won over judges with another oriental speciality at the FIC 2023 Food Awards in September. The restaurant chain, Neni, cooked up an oriental hummus variant with Chickpeace as catering partner. Emphasis is on both the culinary and social aspects as food knows no boundaries …like the women behind the brands. Haya Molcho, founder of Neni, hails from Israel, while Chickpeace, a pun on chickpeas and chicks or self-confident women and peace, is a Hamburg-based association of refugee women from all over the globe.

Begun as a cookery course to ease contacts, women from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan now cook for private clients, workshops and events. The award winners also scooped a chance to host a stand at the Food Innovation Camp 2024, a media package and a drop-in membership of foodlab to take their idea to the next level.

Restaurant Neni in 25h Hotel Hafenamt

Hamburg - ideal for foodies

Teablobs, yet another clever Hanseatic idea, recently caused a stir on Germany's version of the Dragons' Den show for founders which is broadcast on VOX TV. Drops of finely ground tea leaves are dissolved in hot water. No need for a strainer or tea bag. The founders, Sebastian Kadhim and Kai Stork, hope to save packaging waste, time and shelf space. Their pitch proved a hit and and the teablobs sold out shortly after the show aired in September. Commenting on the wealth and diversity of start-ups' ideas, Michael Otremba, Managing Director of Hamburg Tourismus GmbH, noted: "Hamburg is a city of foodies and does not have to hide behind cities like Copenhagen, Cape Town or Lima." His remarks come just after Hamburg's Open Mouth food festival attracted hosts, consumers and producers from all over the Hamburg  Metropolitan Region to focus on sustainability and healthy eating last month.


Food Harbour Hamburg and foodlab Hamburg

The Food Harbour Hamburg in Rothenburgsort backs all kind of novel products and strategies and assists  companies with the targeted development of prototypes, producing small batches efficiently or drafting finely-tuned go-to-market strategies. Its services also include consulting, talks, pitch training and networking events for start-ups. And on top of all that, Food Harbour Hamburg also hosts an accelerator scheme for start-ups with foodlab Hamburg. 

Meanwhile, Christin Siegemund, founder of foodlab Hamburg, has created a 1,200 square-metre space with kitchens, a co-working space and a pop-up restaurant for tasty new ideas and treats in Hafencity. There, chef Louis Larbi hopes to whet the appetites of Hamburg's natives for his African fusion cuisine featuring Afroburgers Akwaaba Rolls or Jollof Rice in October. Marcel Görke and his team serve regional, sustainable and seasonal dishes with Wurzelwerk by Heimatjuwel based on the motto of  "farm to table".

Cookiung for pop-up restaurant in foodlab

Key food dates in Hamburg 

Vincenzo Andronaco is reviving his wine and gourmet fair at the Andronaco Grande Mercato in Billbrook to mark the anniversary and to do good. Producers arriving especially from Italy will staff over 50 market stalls giving guests an opportunity to taste or buy more than 300 products from November 4-5, 2023. Andronaco will donate proceeds from the event and the tombola to the Hamburg Children's Cancer Centre Support Association (Fördergemeinschaft Kinderkrebs-Zentrum Hamburg e.V.)

The foodlab will host a Kitchen Party on November 10 during which guests can try out and rate food novelties served at various stations. The idea is to give chefs qualified feedback. Naturally, there will be tasty drinks, . music and plenty of networking opportunities. The 2nd foodlab Christmas Market follows on December 10 wiht over 20 stalls offering "fancy Christmassy cakes", mulled wine and seasonal cocktails.


Christmas peak catering season

Sources and further information

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