A unique country located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is one of the world’s most advanced free-market economies. With a high GDP per capita, above US$70,000, the country tries to be self-sufficient when it comes to the agri-food sector, but imports of food and beverages still reach over $10 billion.
Imports of food and beverages, worth $10.07 billion, account for 6% of Switzerland’s total imports.
Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture compared to 35% in the EU and the Swiss government implemented various reforms with extensive policies and subsidies in place in order to promote domestic agricultural production of high quality, healthy foods.
The country has been able to produce almost 100% of its animal foodstuffs for years, yet has managed only about 40% self-sufficiency for plant-based foods, a rate that fluctuates year on year as harvests are highly weather-dependent.
Main Food Imports
Cereals – Imports include large quantities of staple foods such as rice and wheat. Imports are especially significant in years of poor grain or potato harvests. Suppliers are mainly from inside the EU, the top countries being Belgium, France and Germany.
Fruits – Imports have also increased, by 8% last year, reaching a value of US$ $1.26 billion in 2019. Fruits such as melons, oranges, apples are the most searched for. The leading supplier is Spain, with an import value of US$373.04 million, followed by Italy and Thailand.
Fish and Crustaceans – When it comes to fish, Switzerland cannot be self-sufficient, being a country surrounded by land from all parts. The demand for this category is also high. US$$587.77 million worth of fish stocks were imported in 2019. Leading suppliers are: Thailand, Vietnam, Belgium and the United States.
Other innovative, premium products or foods that are organic, with proven health benefits (superfoods) will be well received. The packaging is very important, as well as branding. As the Swiss are used to quality, they expect it from all their purchases so attention to detail is a must.
Doing Business in Switzerland
Switzerland is a very attractive market for a number of reasons:
- High per capita income and purchasing power
- Excellent infrastructure and close proximity to other European countries
- A legal system that makes doing business safe and easy
- Affinity for innovative, high-quality products
- Multicultural market
Its position in the heart of Europe also means that there are four national languages spoken in the country. Most business negotiations however can be held in English or German, as these are spoken by the majority of the population.
Dealing with Swiss food importers and distributors requires attention to detail and punctuality. Many of them are quite conservative, similar to Germans, and value a professional approach, but not taken to the extreme. Try to keep the conversation direct, honest and business-oriented. Also be patient, as the decision-making process can be slower than in other countries.
3 Food Importers from Switzerland:
- Ac Company Sagl
Address:Via V. Vicari 21, Lugano
Address: Chemin Du Pont-du-centenaire 140, Plan-les-Ouates
- Cetra Alimentari
Address: Via Cantonale 16, Mezzovico
To get access to a list of more active food importers from Switzerland, you can access one of the BestFoodImporters databases.