Food Importers and Food Import Trends in the USA 2021

7 min read
Food Importers, Trends
7 min read

The USA has reached success as the largest economy in the world due to understanding the importance of international trade that keeps up with market dynamics and create one of the best business climates in the world. Moreover, to meet its massive and heterogeneous population of 328 million consumers demand, the USA relies heavily on food imports to maintain access to a variety of food and beverage products, at several price points, for every pocket.

As an innovation motor and the holder of one the highest household spending and purchasing power in the world, the USA is foreshadowed to continue its route towards growth, backed by a stable, transparent legal system, attractive taxes, favourable infrastructure and open trade climate, with a predicted annual growth of 1.56% CAGR between 2021 and 2025.

The USA food and beverage market attractiveness

Massive, diverse, and wealthy consumer base
Home to 328 million consumers, the United States offers the largest consumer market in the world, its consumers being generally wealthier than the rest of the world, with a nominal GDP per capita of 65,297 USD. Decades of migration to the nation has created a market avid for cultural diversity, namely international flavours. The US population is concentrated around urban centres, who according to their geographic setting, portray different cultural/local consumption norms and habits. Such large economic centres are represented by New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and Chicago. Long term forecast is positive, with the US continuing to grow in number, wealth and diversity.

Open trade & business climate
Backed by a stable democracy, regulatory policy, and openness, the US offers a business-friendly environment, where any company can compete and thrive. As the world’s largest economy, the US is constantly working on establishing favourable trade relations, especially since many countries around the world are aware of the US market influence. The US is currently operating under 14 trade agreements with 20 countries: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, Singapore, and South Korea.

Mature transportation & internet infrastructure 
Amongst the highest users of the internet in the world, Americans have leaned away from traditional media, making space for social media to take over the American lifestyle and greatly influence consumer choice. To keep up with the dynamic competition, market players are constantly working on their digital marketing strategy, focusing especially on mobile advertisements and food influencers.

Additional to social media, digital shopping has made food accessible anywhere at any time, turning e-commerce into a top sales channel for its convenience. Home to the biggest e-commerce company in the world (Amazon) as well as several other big players like eBay or Etsy,  in recent years, e-commerce has exploded and became the norm for the US market. At the same time, online shopping could not have been made possible without a well-developed network of transportation infrastructure facilitating rapid shipping to retailers and consumers.

The US consumer portrait & demand

The capacity for the United States to produce a wide variety of food products is real, but at the end of the day, it relies on massive food imports to be able to comply with its citizens’ food demand. When it comes to their grocery basket, Americans seek safety, quality, affordability, convenience and variety in their purchases, all available throughout the year.

With the vast umbrella of price points and products to choose from, many Americans seek bargains when shopping, but alternatively, the spirit of striving makes consumers, especially the younger generations to spend more on premium products or brands.

Prone to incorporate eating habits from many different cultures due to travelling and internet access, Millennials and Gen Zers are seeking pleasure and indulgence in new formats, textures, flavours and foreign food experiences.

Variety all year round
With its population growing more and more heterogeneous over time, Americans reflect today a heightened appetite for imported spices or ethnic, international-style goods. The thirst for non-native foods remains high as Americans are generally wealthier than the rest of the world, having higher disposable income to use on premium or gourmet imported foods. 

Climatic conditions and seasonality is also a metric influencing food demand in the US, creating space for imports of exotic fruits like kiwis or avocados, as well as cocoa or coffee.

Ready to eat foods
Despite the homelife spirit of cooking and eating together with the family, over the past three decades, home-cooked meals in American households have decreased, convenience becoming a major driver of food consumption in cities. For this reason, processed food takes about 60% of the average American diet, placing the US among the top exporters and importers of processed food in the world. Despite being linked to lifestyle-related health issues, the demand for ready to eat meals has been boosted b the Covid pandemic and is further fueled by the young adult consumer base who regularly consume frozen foods/chilled/canned foods based on meat, fish or vegetables, as well as frozen pizzas or filled pasta as an alternative to daily meals.

Healthy food frenzy
On the opposite side of the stick, opportunities for food imports can also be seen in the healthy food segment, increasingly growing among Americans, fueled by health awareness, retail development, product diversity or even sickness prevention due to the high cost of healthcare in America.

The modern food landscape is a place for healthier eating, where plant-based meals, as well as simple, natural and nutritional foods, are in high demand. The consumer base for healthy foods consists now not only of fitness enthusiasts but also recreational nutrition users and healthy eating everyday consumers. Best prospects to be imported into the US for this segment are free from products, high in fibre items, vitamin supplements, or healthy snacks.

Market entry tips

  • To import food into the United States, products must comply with regulations established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which apply to domestically produced food items as well. Regardless of its content, each shipment to the US must respect particular requirements to successfully pass into the country.
  • With 9.834 million km² land area at its disposal, when importing food to the USA, there`s a need for careful considerations regarding the location of the supply chains as well as the means to get to them. In general, major urban centres are well connected to the country transportation infrastructure, be it airports, railroads, highways or ports.
  • As one of the largest food markets in the world, the US food and beverage industry is massively complex, with multi‐tiered supply chains. The podium is taken by the retail sector, consisting of 1 million outlets throughout the country, including both domestic and foreign big players like Lidl (Germany), Ahold Delhaize (Belgian-Dutch) or Market basket (New England). Also popular are discounters who bring customers a good balance between quality and price to their grocery basket, while specialty stores bring unique food products to the table.
  • Also looking for imports of raw ingredients are the food processing and the foodservice sector in the USA, a sector that is home to major brands like Unilever, Danone or Heineken as well as numerous restaurants or fast food outlets.
  • An additional but hugely active sales channel are food trade shows, conferences and related events where tradespeople can network, learn about purchasing behaviour, trends, and innovations as well as showcase their products to customers. There are numerous events throughout the entire year, regardless of their size, food segment, or region they cater to, not to mention international scale shows.
  • American food importers and distributors are generally open to new opportunities and imperative to connect to when deciding to reach the baskets of US consumers. It is best to start introducing products locally to test the waters, especially since many importers already focus on buying products from a certain origin or country. 

3 Food importers from the USA:

KH International Inc.
Address:  1649 North Decatur Road, 30307, Atlanta

Phone:  001 4043719797

N.A. Trading
Address: 6021 South Malt Avenue, South Montebello, Commerce, California, Los Angeles County, 90040, United States

Phone:  001 3237296034

C Pacific Foods
Address: 13503 Pumice Street, Norwalk, California, Los Angeles County, 90650,United States
Phone: +1 562-802-3022

To get access to a list of more active food importers from the USA, you can access one of the BestFoodImporters databases.

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