The BestFoodImporters Food Export Guide – Top tips and tools to reach full export potential

7 min read
Food Importers
7 min read

If exporting food is your thing, you`ll love this food export guide, designed to reach your full export potential! Like every business with goals to achieve, food export companies look to gain access to foreign markets in order to develop long-term opportunities for growth and profit. Sales in foreign markets can help with seasonality, competition, risk diversification, saturated markets or economic conditions among others but companies willing to carry out export activities would require a bit of know-how, interpersonal skills, a plan and some motivation. 

Do you want to start exporting but are still wondering if you have what it takes to gain access to the profitable international market? Invest in your business and read on as we`ll try to make light on the essentials any producer who wants to expand to new markets need to set up.

Internal research. Audit your export readiness:

Any successful action plan starts with a motive, a deadline and the internal search for the can do-s and can`t do-s of one’s business. Research what are the requirements for export and check internally to see if you are able to make them come true.

1. Identify products to sell.

The export potential of your products can be examined by the success of your products on your domestic market, by examining your products` potential on your targeted foreign market or by taking into consideration the global market supply, demand and competition.

2. Learn about the legal, financial, logistical, and technological aspects.

Human resources: Your dream team should consist of a good lawyer, a knowledgeable accountant, a logistics expert, a tech whiz, each of whom should be fond of international trade. Depending on your size, plan or as things evolve, you might have to hire additional individuals to deal with other tasks.

Packaging & Labeling: Product packaging and labeling play a vital role when preparing your product for export as there are several differences in culture and language as well as business etiquette across countries. The product you design for export should be adapted to be appealing and to meet the requirements of your target market.

Transport, customs, taxes: Shipping is another aspect a food exporter must consider for his business strategy. Regardless of the transportation method (by truck/rail/air/ocean), exporters need to make note of the shipment costs, delivery schedule, customs, packaging, labeling and even insurance against damage, loss or delay of the cargo.

3. Identify costs & product pricing to determine future profitability.

As price determines revenue, your product prices must sustain a reasonable profit, yet still, be low enough to attract buyers, and remain competitive in export markets. When you tailor your product pricing, exporters take into account costs, market demand, competition, the company`s objectives as well as customs fees, VAT or currency variations carried by the importer. Other elements that can be taken into consideration are product uniqueness, quality, newness, or government policies.

External research. Check the pulse of the industry:

Once you have an idea about your company`s capabilities and needs that need to be nurtured, it’s time to step up the research to potential market(s) that can be beneficial for your business.

1. Educate yourself about the food industry.

Whether you have a single product or more, it is a great idea to start with taking the pulse of the food industry for the food categories that you are dealing with. Information about market trends, events, news can quickly signal problems or transform into opportunities. Additionally, an overall view of trade barriers or agreements, common practices, distribution and sales channels as well as the supply-demand status will help shortlist potential export markets and their overall long-term profitability.

2. Identify your export markets.

After understanding the big picture of your product industry, it is time to start auditing more selectively and shortlist potential export markets for your product(s). Identifying potentially suitable markets require research on various aspects, from market regulations, restrictions, incentives, market proximity, purchasing power, customer base or market stability, to business climate and etiquette, differences in culture and language, as well as present issues or opportunities. You can do this research by yourself or with the help of a third party, or even by partnering up with an importer in your target market.

Planning. Set goals and a long term strategy:

After putting in place your analysis on your export readiness and having shortlisted your export markets, it is time to come up with an export plan, to continue being organized and keep track of your success.

1. Set realistic goals & metrics to measure your plan`s efficiency.

This step shouldn`t really be complicated. You can start simply, by laying out relevant questions about what you want to achieve and how you intend to measure your objectives. It is a good practice to keep expectations realistic, according to your company`s assessed potential.

For example:

  • What is your company`s goal?
  • What is your company`s strategy of achieving the said goal?
  • Are the benefits worth the costs?
  • What are the milestones and the timeframe of the plan?
  • How will results be evaluated?
  • Who will be in charge of what?

2. Plan the sales&marketing strategy.

Because markets are volatile, it is important to start the journey with a sales and marketing strategy contoured, especially since businesses need to monitor and accommodate their offer according to market dynamics. A good starting point for a marketing plan is laying out your product characteristics or USP, deciding what promotional strategy to use to reach partners and customers, how to create a brand name and stimulate interest in your product. You can also consider participating in food trade events and other promotional occasions in your marketing strategy, to drive brand awareness and connect with like-minded industry peers.

Networking. Find clients and connections.

Food producers looking to export have a plethora of potential partners they can turn to when it comes to making business connections. Although it sounds great, the quantity it`s not what seals the deal, but quality, or rather the business chemistry between the two partners. 

Fortunately, the commodity circulation cycle is embedded with several market players a food producer can turn to:

  • Importers buy goods from abroad, then sell them on the domestic market, to other businesses, directly to consumers or re-exported to other countries/regions for sale.
  • Distributors act as middlemen who buy and resell products to retailers, sometimes using exclusivity for a said brand or region.
  • Wholesalers purchase products in bulk, then resell them to retailers, while retailers sell goods directly to final consumers.
  • Brokers, middlemen who deal with transactions between a buyer and a seller in exchange for a commission.

Let buyers find you

Invest in your brand image and present yourself to the digital community with an attractive website for your company and social media channels, to become visible to potential buyers in need of your products. A little bit of SEO, a few ads and a bit of networking won`t hurt.

Find buyers yourself

As offline methods, trade fairs and expos are top tools in the industry, while chambers of commerce or third-party agencies can become handy when looking for clients in foreign countries.

In a similar vein, the internet has made a lot of progress in bringing people together with one click, thus online scouting for clients and direct contact can be another approach. Fortunately, a cost and time-effective way, like the BestFoodImporters database, which includes details about more than 25.000 importers and distributors worldwide provides a continuous flow of complex data ready to use for effective prospecting in the long run. With a sales pipeline full at all times, you have no excuse to focus on what really matters!


For info on how to select and approach food importers from around the world, here is a recent article where we questioned food importers themselves about what they look for in a partner or product as well as their preferences in being approached.

To sum up, having a plan, being consistent, investing in the right tools and focusing on what matters is the way to keep any food export business on the road to success.

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