A Guide to Exporting to the United States

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The US is the world’s largest food market with seemingly endless possibilities. On average, 20% of all foods and beverages are imported, in some categories, imports account for over 50% of the market. But exporting a new product or brand and building a sustainable business can be a challenge. Here are five of the most important issues to consider before you start your search for an importer.

Consider that:

  • The USA alone offers a total of 115 million households with over 320 million consumers eager to try innovative, new products.
  • Over 800,000 places that sell food, relatively low import tariffs, diverse trade channels and always hot emerging culinary trends.
  • Over 700,000 domestic and imported food products currently on the shelves
  • On average 47,000 products sold at an average grocery store

Welcome to the US marketplace! There’s a realistic chance that you can successfully build a sizable business here over the long term.

Or that you will fail. Because in this hyper-competitive marketplace,  your product will have to kick another out the shelves, if you want to succeed, and defend the space against all other competitors.

Let’s start with the main regulatory requirements: here’s what you need to know to get started with US market entry preparations:

  1. Packaged Food: FDA Food Facility Registration: you need to register your production facility with the FDA. The registration takes about 10 minutes and is free of charge. However, you must identify a so-called FDA US Agent in the registration. This is an individual who resides in the US and can be contacted 24/7 by the FDA in the case of an emergency. Most FDA US Agents willing and knowledgeable to take on this role will ask for a small annual fee for this service. Our company offers the FDA US AGENT service to all food exporters around the world. Contact info@cmaglobalpartners.com for more information.
  2. Meat: USDA Facility Registrations and Inspections: Foreign exporters of meat, poultry, egg products, plants, seeds and live animals are subject to the regulations of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), not the FDA. You need to obtain a certification and permits that may take months or years to obtain. The USDA only permits the import of certain animal and plant products from a given country.  Our company helps foreign meat and plant exporters to understand the intricate regulations; obtain facility certifications and label approvals for selected meat exporters from Europe; and assists importers with the USDA inspection process at the US border. Contact info@cmaglobalpartners.com for more information.
  3. FDA label compliance: your front and back labels must comply with standards and formats from the FDA (food and dietary supplements), USDA (meat), and Tax and Trade Bureau (alcoholic beverages).  This includes nutrition facts, ingredient statements, manufacturer or distributor contacts, country of origin etc. You need to know dozens of intricate rules about permitted ingredients, names, serving sizes, rounding formats and more. Our company assists food exporters and importers with final labeling reviews and tips how to customize mandatory label requirements for all package formats and sizes (across all categories). Contact info@cmaglobalpartners.com for more information.
  4. Customs and Tariffs: For most food products, finding the right harmonized tariff code is relatively easy. Check the official harmonized tariff system website in your country or the US and search for your product. But some new or innovative products require some careful thinking about tariff classification. Our company assists food exporters with identifying the correct tariffs or duties, submitting information for a binding customs rule and prepare for the effects of international trade disputes.
  5. FDA Prior Notice: You’ve found the right import partner, you got an order from a customer, now it’s time to get the first shipment on the way. One important requirement: you must let the FDA know between 2 weeks and 24 hours in advance what products will be exported, where the products will arrive, and who is the importer and transport company. The Prior Notice must be filed electronically and takes about 20-30 minutes. Our company helps first time exporters with this process, as needed.
  6. Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) and Food Safety Plan (FSMA): All foreign suppliers of food, beverages and dietary supplements must comply with the same safety procedures that are required  from US food manufacturer. These procedures must be documented in form of a Food Safety Plan. And all US importers must verify, validate this Plan and other documents and keep records in form of an FSVP. Our company sets up FSVPs for US importers, acts as FSVP Import Agent and assists foreign suppliers to understand FSMA Food Safety Plan requirements.

Fulfilling all regulatory requirements seems like a complex and cumbersome task. Yet, with the right advice and help, it’s not.

The real challenges to succeed in the US market place are marketing and sales. This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. Before you begin your search for an import partner or approach trade buyers, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Who is likely to buy and eat your product?
  2. Who is your competition?
  3. What is the best sales channel for your product?
  4. What will consumers have to pay for your product?
  5. How do you win over customers?
  6. Do you have the right product or should you create a new one just for the US?
  7. How will you inform, attract, and convince consumers to try and re-purchase your product?

Our company assists selected foreign exporter to find answers to all these questions. We help to innovate new products and services, prepare the market entry and build businesses for the long term.  That includes:

  • picking the right products for a chosen audience
  • understanding the full costs of reaching consumers
  • determining the right everyday and promotional price
  • finding the most suitable import partner
  • selling to distributors, retailers and restaurants
  • engaging with consumers
  • managing the process from order to payment.

Contact us at info@cmaglobalpartners.com for more information and to start the conversation.