Exporting food to the US

The US is the world’s largest food market, with a retail turnover of over $1.2 trillion, with more than 150,000 stores that sell primarily food, with a high degree of transparency, and with retail shelves stuffed to the brim.

Every product or brand has a chance to make it here … and an equal chance to fail. The difference between success and failure is marketing: product and packaging choices, positioning, pricing, and promotion are all equally important. Creativity is key.

Exporting to the United States is a strategic not a tactical decision. It requires substantial investments in time, energy and money.

Our team at German Foods North America assists exporters around the world with expert advice, cost saving market intelligence and a network of industry contacts. We provide online courses and one-to-one telephone conversations to train and guide new and experienced exporters from abroad. We can help you determining the optimal budget for a market entry and expansion.

Here is a check list of what to know, prior to looking for trade partners in the US and Canada, some category-specific facts, and sources of further information.

  1. Knowledge of the category, market segments and retail channels, respectively, is key. We conduct store checks in various channels, analyze competitive products, and assist you in choosing the right products for this market. This saves you a great amount of travel costs and hassles
  2. Check if your product requires any permit or is subject to any export restrictions (quotas, tariffs, licenses).
  3. Make sure your outer packaging (for transport from the factory to the store) is sturdy and withstands lots of handling and dusty warehouses. The distribution system in United States is vast and requires many intermittent distribution points.
  4. Create and produce a US-ready label, including ingredient statement, nutrition statement (may require laboratory analysis), country of origin statement etc. all with the right font size and space. We will assist you in this process
  5. Register your production and warehouse facilities at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) according to the Bioterrorism and Food Safety Modernization Acts. We offer the service of FDA US Agent for qualifying clients
  6. Finding the right importer is one of the hardest tasks in the process. This will require visiting various trade fairs and making a lot of calls. The choice of importer should be based on your choice of target consumers, retail channels, product positioning and revenue expectations. We can help with the search for the right trade partners
  7. Make sure that your first shipments are all correctly labeled and documented. Officials of the FDA and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can and will detain containers with products not properly labeled.
  8. According to the Food Safety Modernization Act, it is now required that you and the importer provide the FDA upon request with proof of the safety procedures during the production, specifically Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) procedures, recall plans and food defense procedures.
  9. Gaining retail distribution and retaining shelf space requires a continuous investment into consumer and trade communication. Do not underestimate this expense, which over the long term will become one of your biggest financial investments. We provide qualifying customers with comprehensive communication services, including advertising on our website, advertorials, public relations, media outreach, social media campaigns and more. Efficient and effective trade and consumer promotions are the key to stay in business in North America.

Category-specific facts:

  1. Currently, no meat products (beef, poultry or pork) may be imported from Germany, due to animal diseases. However, the import of life animals is possible.
  2. Eggs may not be imported due to the Avian flue virus.
  3. Milk and related products require a ‘Grade A’ permit which is almost impossible to obtain.
  4. There are only a small number of importers holding a license to import cheeses with low custom duties. Otherwise, a stringent cheese quota requires enormous customs duties on cheeses out-of-quota.
  5. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates fresh products (meat, vegetables, dairy etc) while the Food & Drug Administration regulates most package goods and cheeses.
  6. Low acid canned goods require a permit.
  7. Due to the equivalency agreement in 2012, organic seals from Europe are now accepted in North America, and vice versa
  8. Alcoholic beverages are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Labels must be approved by the Bureau prior to import.

Sources of Further Information

Food and Drug Administration
US Department of Agriculture
Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau