The annual Summer Fancy Food show, in New York, has come around again. It is a great opportunity for both old and new food and drink manufacturers to explore the North American market.
The show draws 46,000 trade professionals featuring 2,550 exhibitors. It is America’s largest speciality food and beverage show. As with all exhibitions for the first time it is always best to walk the show and see the lie of the land; what is new, who your competitors are; talk to some distributors. With America being such a large market many agents and distributors do not venture overseas: you have to go to them. For instance if you are in the confectionery business then it is unlikely they will even visit your stand at ISM in Cologne (the world largest sweet and snack show).
The Opportunity / Tastes
The benefits of doing business in USA are unassailable: it is still probably the world’s largest market, accounting for almost 30% of the world’s consumer purchases. It has the largest private sector and low regulatory barriers. For European exporters the business culture if often similar to their own.
Nevertheless it is not without challenges not least there are significant regional differences between the 50 states. For instance on the East Coast palates are more European centric where was on the West Coast there is a very significant Asian influence. In The Taste Signature® Revealed by Roberts and Mustard an interesting picture is presented where the authors observe the youth of Europe, US and Australasia as moving closer together in terms of taste. Yet the taste palate is changing and the rate of change is increasing.
What is key is ensuring that there is a market for the taste of your product. For manufacturers new to international markets few have the wherewithal to modify a product to fit a local taste. Try to gain feedback from as many people in the trade as possible.
According to a UK website the best opportunities in the USA are for exporters of organic, natural and gluten-free foods as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Trends recently cited on Speciality Food’s website (owner of the exhibition) include veggies replacing pasta, RTD coffee and breakfast on the go. You can keep up to date with the latest trends and the highlights of new product launches through their quarterly Speciality Food Magazine.
Labelling / Regulation
Export is not without its regulatory challenges. The US FDA recently introduced the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) and manufacturers should be aware of its implication. A useful introduction to the act can be read here: Are European Exporters to the US prepared for FSMA?
Not surprisingly food labelling is required for most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, drinks, etc. Food Labelling USA
For information on alcoholic products see Alcohol Labelling. Likewise there are separate regulations for dietary supplements.
Seek specialist advice. Ashbury Labelling’s US regulatory and labelling advisors are able to provide specific advice to food manufacturers and retailers to help them to ensure that their product labels are compliant with US labelling requirements: Ashbury Labelling
According to Mintel up 40% of all food and drink sold in American supermarket aisles is kosher certified. Having your product kosher certified before leaving your country is something to consider. At KLBD we have been certifying product from around the world for the USA market for many years including, amongst many others, products from, Twinings, Jordans & Ryvita, Productos Churruca, Rude Health and Luxardo. We always have a representative on hand at the exhibition to provide support to clients and those new to the market.
Those companies that go down the kosher certification route can explore further opportunities at Kosherfest. This exhibition takes place each autumn in New Jersey and is the annual trade exhibition for manufacturers and traders of kosher certified products.
Most governments run export support programs – see examples UK, Ireland,
Ireland , France , Germany and Philippines . However, the level of advice and number of services offered varies by country. Some countries are certainly more adept at exporting witness the large numbers of exhibitors from Italy and Spain.
Many of the advisors have run their own business and know the direct challenges of exporting. It is also important that they are able to put you in touch with others that have successfully exported to the USA. An alternative way to meet those that have already made the journey is through a relevant trade association
Agents and Distributors
For a company new to the USA it often makes practical sense to use the services of an agent or distributor. Agents can be actively involved in introducing new products to their clients. In such a large market different agents may be best, for certain states, territories or regions.
Talk to as many agents / distributors as is practical and seek advice from your export support agency.
USA here we come.