With a rich cultural heritage and international visitors all year round, Bulgaria is constantly full of colour while its 7 million citizens vie for new tastes and food experiences. Food import has gained a lot of momentum since Bulgarians have been migrating to urban areas in the last decades, a trend accompanied by increasing incomes, purchasing confidence and a more sophisticated food demand. In line with the trend following Bulgarians, retailers and food processors quickly adapt to consumer demand and market trends, looking constantly for new products to expand their portfolios.
Moreover, joining the European Union has brought Bulgaria many new perks, including considerable socio-economical growth, increased international recognition, and openness in foreign trade. Today, Bulgaria is a stable parliamentary democracy, EU, NATO and WTO member, with low tax rate and labour costs, as well as special incentives for investors. The all-year-round tourist destination is a vital driver of the nation`s economy and market, a true cornucopia for investors in the HoReCa sector.
Aligned with international European standards and customs regulations, Bulgaria has a beneficial trade climate, its main food imports being sourced from neighbour countries and EU members, while also having many free trade agreements with key countries, including China, Israel or Turkey, among others.
Furthermore, tucked strategically in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, the country is a key gateway for businesses interested in expansion to Europe, Russia, CIS countries, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Best prospects & opportunities
In the face of increasing availability and range of new products, price positioning and brand recognition are vital tools for producers and exporters interested in the Bulgarian market, especially for EU countries that already have preferential access.
Other factors influencing purchase behaviour are consumers’ age as well as their urban/rural location. Younger generations are usually high earners who prefer to buy premium foods, eat out and travel, while elders often stick to traditional basic food products.
Among the best prospects of imported products lie snacks and confectionery items, breakfast cereals, exotic juices and flavoured waters, as well as nuts, dried fruits. Also, an increasingly high consumption of fish, seafood and related products is creating demand for more imports.
Ingredients for the food processing sector:
Over the past years, the food processing industry in Bulgaria has been under rapid development, offering today many opportunities for food exporters that seek entrance into the Bulgarian market. Due to its constant demand for imported food ingredients, competition is high among food processors, as more than 5000 companies are seeking suppliers for their businesses, be it dairy, confectionery, meat, bakery items, or drinks, among others.
Premium & Healthy foods:
Although Bulgaria has a developed organic production, much of it is exported for added value. As a result, retailers seek imported organic foods and beverages for their variety and availability. Despite the higher prices, Bulgarians vie for bio foods, free from additives, while more and more Bulgarians are willing to pay for higher quality, healthier food and drinks options. Nutritional supplements, healthy snacks, nuts, bakery items and oils are a few examples of prospects with great potential in this category.
Comprehensive sales channels and infrastructure
The retail sector is modern, with increasing sales growth due to an efficient distribution network, and infrastructure, a consistent balance of income and consumer confidence, as well as great marketing strategies.
As Bulgarians like to shop in smaller volumes, leading market players in retail, Kaufland, Lidl, Billa and local retailer Fantastiko, have many outlets around the country, especially around the capital and other urban areas. Additionally, specialized stores have been recently emerging as a popular sales channel for food items, be it fruit&vegetables store, dairy and meat store, etc.
The Bulgarian food processing sector is importing their ingredients from both local and foreign producers, depending on the products and company size.
Although still sceptical about online commerce, food and beverage e-commerce has been gaining momentum once with the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on lifestyle and is forecasted to develop into a relevant sales channel in the next years.
Market entry strategy
Doing business in Bulgaria stands on a less formal climate than other European countries, but one thing to consider is that Bulgarians do value their time. To reduce cost and improve time management, Bulgarian food importers have recently shifted towards a direct approach when looking for suppliers, meaning they prefer to be contacted directly.
Before closing a deal, exporters should note that in the price-sensitive Bulgarian market, product catalogues, price lists, discounts, and samples are common and essential sales tools, that offer an advantage and a more memorable experience in the eyes of Bulgarian food importers.
Moreover, participating in trade shows, food fairs, and other related events also represent a great way of networking and promoting your business. Among the popular food events in Bulgaria, you can find Interfood & Drink Sofia, Foodtech Plovdiv or Sofia Dessert Fest among many others.
3 Food Importers from Bulgaria:
Address: Bul. Vasil Levski №136, Sofia, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 2 958 6592
Genic Coffee Solutions Ltd.
Address: 195 Suhodolska Street, Sofia, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 700 30 130
Bulgarian Nuts Ltd.
Address: 9 Aheloy Str., Okorsh, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 88 631 7378
To get access to a list of more active food importers from Bulgaria, you can access one of the BestFoodImporters databases.