Despite the lingering income inequality and economic struggles, dollarization has brought stability for purchasing power and the appetite of Ecuadorians for imported foods. A growing demand in quality, quantity and diversity is pushing food importers in Ecuador to look for new partners.
Named for its proximity to the Earth’s equator, this small, middle-income nation remains one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, whose evolution depends on its open economy, making it an interesting target for food exporters from several sectors. Known for exporting Panama hats, Ecuador tops the eighth position in Latin America economies and is steadily increasing as a tourist destination. Despite the lingering income inequality and economic struggles, dollarization has brought stability for purchasing power as the appetite of Ecuadorians for imported foods continue to show a growing demand in quality, quantity and diversity.
Geographical location, irregular landscape, unfavorable for agricultural production, growing population and vulnerability to floods, droughts, earthquakes and even volcanic eruptions mark Ecuador as a country that is not self-sufficient in food.
To complete its limited inventory of bananas, fish, and tropical crops like cacao and coffee, excellent for the much-needed foreign exchange, Ecuador has joined the Andean Community, signing free trade agreements with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, as well as free trade policies with the EU, the UK, Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, and Mercosur countries.
Among the most important food products imported in Ecuador are fats and oils, animal feed, prepared cereal products, fruits and vegetables, sugar(local sugar prices are high) and elaborate confectionery, while the main countries from which Ecuador imports are Peru, the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Panama, and Brazil.
Trends & opportunities
Food import trends in Ecuador are influenced by trade policies and tariffs, as well as natural climatic struggles that can significantly impact domestic production. Additionally to the scarce food production capacity and besides food items that need to be imported as there is no equivalent in the country, consumer demand and behaviour are other key factors impacting food consumption.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic brought home seclusion, financial uncertainty and anxiety for many Ecuadorians. The health crisis highlighted, even more, the discrepancy between the poor and the wealthy: middle-class Ecuadorians choosing affordability and long shelf life, while the high earners are increasingly interested to invest in healthier diets. For the latter segment, there is a strong appetite for niche markets of imported, qualitative, value-added, functional foods, especially for traveled citizens who have adopted foreign tastes.
Some Ecuadorians are conscious about their spending habits, seeking cost-effective products, with longer shelf life and larger formats when it comes to food and beverages. Although high earners were careful about reducing meat intake with healthier alternatives, lower-income consumers still chose ham, bacon, sausages or other processed meats due to increased at home cooking. Rice, pasta and noodles are also perceived as lower-priced, side or main dish, especially since imported grains are cheaper and there`s a diet shift towards rice or wheat. Other favourite items that have been gaining momentum are sauces, dressings, condiments, and spreads for their versatile use during home cooking.
Healthier diets & snaking
Home to 17.37 million people, Ecuador is unfortunately faced with malnutrition, including iron and zinc deficiencies, as well as obesity among children due to low fruit and vegetable intake and high carbohydrates consumption. In this aspect, Ecuador is the ﬁrst Latin-American country to implement the traffic light system to identify products with high salt or sugar content. While the government is implementing regulatory food policies, many companies are working to develop their offer with healthier snack alternatives.
To further promote a healthier lifestyle and a nutritious, inclusive diet, nuts and seeds are taking the limelight as a snack option while breakfast cereals are promoted together with yoghurt or fruits. Consumers of breakfast cereals are also looking for products high in fibre and with more natural ingredients. Exporters of teas and infusions are also faced with a great opportunity, especially in the case of fruit and herbal tea who have been growing in popularity for their health-promoting properties.
Fast food & food processing sector
Contrasting with the healthy food trends, there`s also a growing preference for fast foods and processed meals, representative for Ecuadorians with large commute times. As many famous fast-food chains are present in the large cities in Ecuador, there is a great opportunity for exporters, as these franchises, as well as other food processors, prefer to supply from import their raw ingredients, sauces, condiments, frozen desserts and meat, depending on their needs.
Moreover, restaurants supply their stocks through local produce as well as imports, with increased demand during holidays and tourism season. Tourism has been on the rise since 2018 creating demand for meat, fish and seafood, truffles, cheese products, spices and other frozen foods.
Sales & distribution channels
Ecuador’s retail channels consist of supermarket chains, open markets, groceries stores, and convenience stores while food purchasing in local grocery stores and modern supermarkets is almost equally represented.
Supermarket chains can be found in larger cities like Quito, Guayaquil or Manta and are mostly dominated by citizens of middle-higher income. They represent the main channel for imported food, thanks to its diversity and availability as well as their offer of promotions and discounts.
Another channel to take into account is the online environment who is growing competition among retailers. Mobile e-commerce was the top growing channel in 2019 as internet consumption and smartphones utilization has lead to a rise in online purchasing options, especially among younger, tech-savvy Ecuadorians.
As Ecuadorian food importers prefer to be contacted directly by producers to negotiate the best sales margins, a reliable local business partner is the best advisor regarding customs, trends and business practices. A time-saving and effective solution can be accessed through one of BestFoodImporters databases, by gaining access to many active food importers from Ecuador.
3 Food Importers from Ecuador:
Address: Av. Domingo Comín 1200 Y Pío Jaramillo, Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador
Phone: +593 4-249-1536
Candy Planet S.a.
Address: Parque California 2 – Bloque C#18-19, Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador
Phone: +593 4-371-2710
Carlos Tapia Berzoza
Address: Pichincha 821 Y Colón., Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador
Phone: +593 4-251-7383