Country Profile

Canada Country Profile

Discover more about the Canadian market including overviews about the retail, food service, and food processing sectors. Events, resources, and more are linked throughout the profile.

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Market Overview

First-Time Sale to a Market

of Canada's population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border

Market Access Program (MAP) Funding

$25 Billion
total of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada in 2021

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) Fund

$14 Billion
total U.S. processed food exports in 2021

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Ottawa, hereinafter referred to as “Post,” reports Canada was the top overseas market for U.S. high-value consumer-oriented exports in 2022, importing US$19.7 billion (70% more than consumer-oriented exports to Mexico), with the growth of 8% from that of 2021. Unparalleled regulatory cooperation, comparability and trustworthiness in food safety systems, sophisticated transportation logistics, and financial markets, geographic proximity, similar consumer preferences, and relatively affluent consumers are among the reasons why Canada continues to offer excellent export opportunities for new-to-export small- and medium-sized U.S. companies. 


In 2022, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada totaled US$28.3 billion, an increase of 12% from 2021. Canada accounts for about 23% of total U.S. food and agricultural product exports of US$196 billion. Canada is also the top market for U.S. processed food exports, totaling more than US$15.3 billion in 2022, a growth of 9.3% and 55% of its agricultural total.  The top U.S. processed food exports to Canada in 2022 included food preparations and ingredients, snack foods, non-alcoholic beverages, dog and cat food, dairy products, bakery goods, cereals, and pasta. 


As in previous years, it is important to understand Canada’s importance as a mature export market for U.S. agri-food products. Having US$28.3 billion in exports with an increase of 12% growth from 2021, along with having a 14.5% export market share and over $700 per capita in exports, Canada dwarfs all other mature export markets. Considering Canada has a population of less than 40 million people, Canada absorbed more U.S. agri-food exports in 2022 than the total of EU (European Union) countries plus Japan, which amounts to a total population of nearly 575 million people. The EU and Japan combined had just under US$27 billion U.S. exports which average to under $50 per capita in exports. 


The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force on July 1, 2020, and helped reduced uncertainty over trade between the U.S. and Canada. That said, Canada’s recent trade agreement with the European Union (EU), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), is an attempt to reorient more of its trade away from the U.S. and towards Europe. CETA eliminated 99% of tariffs on both sides and boosted bilateral trade by about 20%. In addition, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) continues to grow member countries, with Malaysia entering in November 2022, and will continue to lead towards increased trade competition for the U.S. as the collaboration between parties deepens.  

Market Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Food Exporters in Canada

Post reports there are country specific advantages and challenges for U.S. food exporters in the Canadian market.


  • Canadian consumers enjoy high disposable income, coupled with growing interest in premium, high-quality products, and global cuisine. 
  • Canada's ethnically diverse population provides opportunities for specialty products. Canadians are exposed to increasingly diverse flavors and cuisines. 
  • Strong demand for natural, organic, gourmet, and specialty food products. 
  • Per-capita produce consumption is higher than in the United States. Foodservice operators rely on imported fruits and vegetables year-round. 
  • Retailers are continually looking for innovative and new brands. 
  • Duty-free, tariff-free treatment for over 98% of U.S. products under USMCA.  
  • U.S. food products are generally aligned with Canadian tastes and are familiar to Canadian consumers. 
  • Private labels are much more prevalent and growing across categories. 
  • Canadian consumers rate U.S. quality and safety relatively high. 
  • Proximity to the U.S. means reduced shipping barriers.


  • Canada's population is dispersed, making marketing and distribution costs generally higher than in the United States. 
  • There is growing competition from other exporting countries offering produce at lower prices, such as Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and others. 
  • Retailers are continually looking to reduce prices, improve product quality, and extend their product range with new items. 
  • Established vendors are currently entrenched in the market. 
  • The stronger U.S. dollar makes competitive pricing challenging. 
  • Soaring inflation and rising interest rates in 2022 are beginning to take a toll on household finances and are predicted to lead to a renewed focus on purchasing quality products at value pricing with a potential reduction in impulse and premium purchases. 
  • Strong “buy local” movement across Canada. 
  • High-volume order requirements from retailers may be challenging for SMEs to fulfill

“All of Food Export's programs were a tremendous help getting us export ready, understanding the challenges that come with international business, and learning how to navigate them.

Katz Gluten Free

Food Export-Northeast Participant since 2018

Interested in importing from U.S. suppliers?
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Retail Sector

Food Export Virtual Activity Success

largest packaged food market in the world

Over $100k in New Export Sales

growth rate in the packaged food market since 2018

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) Fund

$71 Billion
forecasted growth of packaged food market by 2026

According to Euromonitor, retail sales in the packaged food market reached US$56.3 billion in 2022. That makes Canada the 11th largest packaged food market in the world, representing a growth rate of nearly 17.5%, or US$8.9 billion from 2017. High growth categories in the forecast include ready meals, pasta, secondary baking products, cheese, pet food, edible oils, dairy (i.e., cheese), sweet spreads, ice cream, and frozen desserts. 

Post reports Canada’s retail market is mature and largely consolidated, with five retailers comprising more than 76% of the total retail grocery market. The remainder of the market is represented by smaller regional retail chains that include 6,800 independents and 27,000 small and independent convenience stores. Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia represent 75% of Canada’s retail market and are the provinces in which most of the convenience, drug, grocery, and mass merchandise stores are located.  

As consumers moved back to pre-COVID-19 norms, growth in monthly retail sales stabilized over the 2022 calendar year. Adaptation and flexibility will continue to be of the essence as the industry continues to manage supply chain, labor, and inflation challenges.   

Canadian consumers are expected to remain cautious in the near term, driving sales of private label products and tempering the pace of “premiumization” (i.e., consumers upgrading to more premium products).   

Top product prospects include bakery goods, cereals, and pasta (US$2.6 billion), fresh vegetables (US$2.1 billion), fresh fruits (US$1.7 billion), food preparations (US$1.3 billion), and non-alcoholic beverages excluding juice (US$1.3 billion). The pet foods category grew 14.6% in the past year (US$1.1 billion) and is expected to continue to grow by 13.9%, making this category one of the most opportunistic categories for U.S. suppliers.

Food Service Sector

First-Time Export Sale

$13.5 Billion
estimated increase in restaurant sales for 2021

Top Market for U.S. Agriculture Products

of consumers would like to include plant-based protein into their diets

Market Builder Program Success

$60 Billion
forecasted growth for commercial food service sales in 2022

It has been a long road to recovery for Canada’s foodservice industry. While sales are forecast to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, traffic to restaurants is still below 2019 levels. According to Post reports in 2021, Canadian food service sales amounted to US$47.7 billion, a decrease of 2.6% from the previous year. Euromonitor reports the road to recovery started for consumer foodservice in 2021, but sales across all segments had a mixed performance for the most part due to increased costs because of supply chain and labor shortages caused by COVID-19. Steady growth is expected, driven in part by the demand for healthy and authentic food. Consumers will be expected to gravitate towards restaurants that offer less expensive meal options due to economic uncertainty and contractions in spending power. 

The foodservice industry is comprised of two major segments: commercial and non-commercial subsectors. The commercial foodservice sub-sector includes quick-service restaurants, full-service restaurants, caterers, and drinking establishments, and represents 80% of total foodservice sales. In 2021, Restaurants Canada reported commercial sales amounted to US$48.8 billion. The non-commercial subsector, mainly driven by the tourism industry, which includes hotels and motels, health care facilities, universities, grocery retailers offering hot prepared foods to-go, and other foodservice operations, reached over US$8 billion in 2020. 

Post reports that as part of Canada's growing health consciousness, consumers are increasingly wary about the food and beverages they consume, particularly regarding the quality of ingredients and the incorporation of unwanted, unnatural, or artificial agents.  Moreover, consumers are more inclined to seek organic options as they are aware of the need for sustainably produced and packaged products. These two trends are particularly relevant to a younger demographic with increasing spending power. There is increased demand for more plant-based protein options in the quest for healthy eating.

Food-Processing Sector

Over $100k in New Export Sales

$91 Billion
sales from the Canadian food and beverage processing sector in 2020

First-Time Export Sale

of total manufacturing sales in Canada are from the food and beverage sector

Food Export Virtual Activity Success

approximate number of food and beverage processing establishments

Post reports despite the challenges COVID-19 posed to the Canadian food and beverage processing sector, it remains one of the largest manufacturing sectors, contributing more than US$93.4 billion in sales in 2021 (up 14.8% from 2020). Accounting for 20% of total manufacturing sales, the Canadian food and beverage processing sector is mature and stable, offering a steady source of demand for U.S. agricultural raw, semi-raw, and processed ingredients.

Canada’s food and beverage processing sector is vital to its economy and ranks as the second largest sector for Canada. It supplies approximately 70% of all processed food and beverage products available in Canada and is the largest buyer of agricultural production. Canada’s 2021 agri-food exports exceeded US$59.6 billion (a growth of 16.9 percent year over year), making it the fifth largest global exporter of agricultural products. In 2020, food and beverage processing sales reached US$91.7 billion, with food processing accounting for 90% of total sales and beverage processing accounting for the remaining 10%. The leading food manufacturing sectors were meat processing (US$22.9 billion) and dairy product manufacturing (US$13 billion). There are about 7,800 food and beverage processing establishments in Canada: 91% have less than 100 employees; 8% have between 100 and 500 employees; and only about 1% of establishments have more than 500 employees.

Post reports U.S. companies provided 57% of Canada’s total imports of consumer-oriented products in 2022. The top three consumer-oriented agricultural categories included prepared and processed foods, fresh and processed vegetables, and fresh and processed fruit. Although no data exists on the total value of imported inputs/ingredients destined for the Canadian food processing sector, export data indicate semi-raw products, selected fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and other products and processing inputs not readily grown in Canada are in high demand and continue to be largely imported from the U.S


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