Croatia`s great business potential stands in its continuous strive to achieve the lifestyle of the more developed Western European countries, including harmonized EU legislation, incentives for business activities, well-trained workforce and multilingual citizens. Although growth has been hampered by the global economic crisis, the importance of food import in Croatia has been growing significantly since the country gained its independence and liberalized of the import regime.
Situated strategically at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has progressed considerably in becoming a complex market, with a vital part in the economic and political stability of Southeast Europe. Due to its excellent geographical position, Croatia makes up for its small size with cultural diversity, while aided by its excellent infrastructure, stands as a hub for companies, being only a few hours away from key EU cities or the Adriatic coast.
Consumer behaviour & preference
Food consumption in Croatia seems to be influenced by habits, availability, health and traditions among others, but although Croatia is among the wealthiest countries in the Balkans, consumption behaviour is still motivated by affordability as consumers remain focused on spending consciously according to their income.
Many Croatians remain conservative when it comes to their food and prefer to buy local products, however, younger generations are adventurous and excited about experimenting with new flavours and innovations.
As a small, full in flavours country that is highly linked with tourism, the gastronomic offer in Croatia is of great importance, thus food establishments must follow food preferences to meet both the locals` requirements and the visitors` tastes. As nearly half of the country`s population doesn’t fancy fast foods, present food trends on the Croatian market stem from an increasing emphasis on the healthy food choices, under the Mediterranean diet.
Health-conscious consumers in Croatia are increasingly interested in healthy snacks, alternative sugars, or functional food. The organic category is also gaining popularity with the availability of imported organic food and ingredients on the market, as well as vegan and vegetarian products that gained momentum as a result of customers` high interest on health and animal health awareness.
Low self-sufficiency & tourism
Home to Slavonia, once the breadbasket of the region, unfortunately, Croatia is currently a net importer of several agricultural commodities. Despite the favourable climate and 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land potent for growing many varieties, the natural potential of Croatia is not enough to reach food self-sufficiency, in lieu of a clear long term vision and proper management of resources. Another issue that adds to the problem of inefficient agricultural production and low domestic stock is the unfavourable arrangement of the farms and the cultivated land, where parcel sizes are small (compared to the average size of the farms in many other EU countries), fragmented, and often apart from each other, not to mention the deserted rural areas.
Croatia is currently self-sufficient only in potatoes, poultry meat, eggs, corn, wine, sugar and wheat. As a consequence, Croatia remains a net importer of agricultural and food products due to lack of self-sufficiency in many segments as well as a result in demand for diversity and high-quality foods that grow alongside Croatia’s standard of living.
Croatia is not able to domestically produce enough fruit and will always rely on import when it comes to exotic fruits, be it fresh or dried. Croatia is an attractive market for exporters of fruit and vegetables as Croatians` average daily consumption of fruit and vegetables is above the EU average. The same case applies for rice, nuts, dairy products and meat, especially pork and beef.
Although Croatia is a net exporter of fish and seafood products, the country also imports a notable quantity of over $150 million in fish and seafood annually. The demand for fresh-water fish and seafood is forecasted to increase alongside the expanding of fish breeding and fish processing sector, the increasing popularity of Croatia as a popular tourist destination, as well as a desire for diversity and nutritional habits among consumers.
Croatia also relies on food import to supplement its supply for the flourishing tourism, who although is highly seasonal, remains a notable source of income in the country`s economy, accounting for up to 20% of Croatian GDP. Between 10 to 15 million visitors, often from Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia but also South Korea, Japan or Canada add up to Croatia`s population of 4 million every year. Moreover, food import in Croatia remains needed in the long term as consumers demand it once with the steady growing development of the urban lifestyle.
Distribution & Suppliers
In recent years, Croatia started to invest in improving its supply chain and meet consumer demands. The modern retail sector has developed from small grocery stores to supermarkets that are currently the standard and most visited by customers, especially as imports are mainly distributed through larger supermarkets in the urban area. E-commerce has also been growing since Croatia joined the EU in 2013 but has not reached maturity yet.
The main food supplying partners for the Croatian market come from the European Union: Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the neighbouring countries of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia.
Finding and dealing with food importers in Croatia
Producers who are looking to establish partnerships with Croatian food importers should start by reviewing their target customers, then create a marketing plan and promote their brand. For best result and minimum risks, participation in industry expos, conferences and fairs can be a good strategy to meet potential buyers, check the competition and get acquainted with existing food and business trends, especially since most importers speak English.
For companies with smaller budgets, research and direct marketing can prove to be a very useful method. In this regard, a time effective and complex solution is accessing one of the BestFoodImporters databases, gaining countless active food importers from Croatia.
3 Food Importers from Croatia:
Address: Maksimirska Cesta 33 Zagreb
Phone: +385 1 4655 733
Intercommerce D.o.o. Umag
Address: Ernesta Miloša 20 Umag, Istria
Phone: +385 52 703 400
Address: Brace Linardić 8 Krk, Primorsko-Goranska
Phone: +385 51 222 547