Top Tips on Exporting Food and Drink into Latin America

Latin America

Research Your Chosen Market

There are 20 countries in Latin America, each with different legal, tax, customs and regulatory frameworks, even different currencies. They also different in terms of consumer preferences, distribution channels and logistics. So it is important that you understand the market or markets you are targeting in detail.

Find Out Your Competition

Latin America has over 600 million people, so it is a vast market for food and drink. Also, it is one of the world’s strongest regions in terms of food production. Latin American food groups and retailers can be extremely powerful.

Competition from Latin American brands is high and there are food and drink manufacturers from all over the world present here, so you need to understand who you are competing against and you need to assess if you can actually compete here and how, before you invest precious resources pursuing this region.

Food and drink produced in the UK has an extra value to Latin American consumers, we value British products.

British brands that we consume in the region range from the obvious (Scottish whisky, Twining’s Tea, Walkers shortbread, Cadbury’s Chocolate, for example) to more niche brands. We have seen brands here like Mrs Crimble’s, Mackays Jams, Walkers Chocolates, Waitrose, Wykes Cheese, Fever Tree mixers, Tyrrells’s Crisps and so many others.

Explore Market Trends

  • Make sure your provenance is clear, try and focus on your British origin (a Union Jack helps!).
  • A good story always work.
  • If you can sell tradition, that works, too.
  • Regulations and bureaucracy can be a minefield, so rely on a local partner who does this every day for a living, especially a distributor and often a trusted customs broker.
  • The same trends that apply to you apply to us: health-foods, gluten-free, lactose-free- vegetarian, etc. Obesity is a big concern (country regulations regarding labelling has changed a lot in the last couple of years, particularly in Chile and more recently in Colombia and Uruguay, to name a few, to reflect this).
  • Our consumers are nowhere near as demanding of sustainability practices (free trade, packaging, organic, etc).
  • A hugely interesting market in Latin America is horeca, so if you can sell to food service, this can be a potentially lucrative area to explore.

Focus on a Specific Market

It takes time, a lot of time, so be patient.

Personal relationships are key, take your time to build them (more likely than not, you will have to come over for meetings).

Focus on a market (even if just a neighbourhood of a particular city, a place like Sao Paolo has 20 million people!).

Study your markets: can you really sell there at a profit? Why would consumers buy your products and not what’s there already?

Not many supermarkets buy direct, they often prefer buying via a distributor.

Ecommerce is not as developed as in the UK/US.

Social media is very powerful across Latin America.

Not everyone here speaks English, so you will need at least some materials (and probably some labelling) translated into Spanish or Portuguese (Brazil).

Think outside the box: how about free trade zones, duty free shops or how about sourcing ingredients from Latin America so that you have an extra story to tell? How about using a UK-based consolidator instead?

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss how we can help your business export food and drink to Latin America, please fill in the contact form and one of our team will come back to you.

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    We’d like to thank Gabriela Castro-Fontoura for providing these key insights in to Latin America. Gabriela and her team have been supporting British exporters in Latin America for nearly 10 years. From their base in Montevideo, Uruguay, they offer services such as market research, distributor recruitment, trade missions, soft-landing and other services to make it easier to do business across their region. For more information, visit Sunny Sky Solutions