From the Field: In-Market Representative Report – April 2021

April 2021 monthly update from our global network of In-Market Representatives about what's going on in markets around the world.

Food Export – Midwest and Food Export – Northeast have developed a network of uniquely experienced 19 overseas In-Market Representatives around the globe.  These local marketing experts with food industry experience provide on-the-ground help in assisting Food Export – Midwest and Food Export – Northeast to implement our various programs and services.   

In addition, through regular trade servicing, these local representatives are aware of issues, trends and opportunities for international buyers to connect with suppliers of U.S. agricultural and food products.  Every month we will share with you some of the top market information from the trade servicing reports we receive to help you improve your international exporting efforts. 



Home sharing company AirBnB is partnering with the Caribbean Tourism Organization on a push to increase tourism in the region in 2021. The collaboration aims to help amplify the Caribbean’s recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting safe, responsible travel to the region.



African Swine Fever (ASF) is still considered to be a “major risk factor” for China’s pig production.  Recently the government has stepped up efforts to control a resurgence of the virus that affected China as well as neighboring countries.  The ASF re-emergence may threaten efforts to rebuild the national pig herd, raising questions about food security and the consumer inflation outlook. China has issued a new import ban and also cracked down harder on fake vaccines for ASF.  One such fake vaccine killed half of the nation’s pig population.

This week, China banned all imports of pigs, boars and related products from Malaysia after it detected its first-ever ASF outbreak last month. The five outbreaks across Malaysia have killed five boars and 303 pigs, as of February 26, according to the World Organization of Animal Health.  

Seafood Update

The Qingdao municipal government is investing $127.5 million in a brand new seafood trade and logistics center. Find out more about it in this article from Seafood Source.



In 2020, Brazilian consumers were looking for more natural products, with healthy appeal and functional ingredients. In 2014 the natural juice segment represented 5% of the sector of juices, and in 2020 this market share reached 30% in terms of revenue. With the pandemic, many people adopted healthier habits, fast-tracking the trend of replacing nectar or drinks containing refined sugar with 100% natural ready-to-drink juices. 

The pet shop chain Petz, which has 138 stores in Brazil, launched a platform for imported products in partnership with a Uruguayan startup Nocnoc. The delivery of products, coming from the U.S. and China, should take between 20-30 days. The startup will be responsible for the negotiation and importation of products, currency conversion, payment of taxes, and the logistical operation of delivery.



While the pandemic has slowed down much of the economy and global trade, it also impacted the food market and fueled new trends and developments.  Some of these offer opportunities for U.S. suppliers, while others could become a challenge.

Especially in the past three years, environmental concerns have become a strong concern that directly influences the consumption behavior of the younger generation. It is expected that these “climatarians” will gain even more influence on the market. As imported goods, products from the U.S. do not fall in the “no-mile” category, but with the right marketing strategy and company policy they could fit very well in the “good-mile” segment. Looking ahead, aspects like sustainability, a positive carbon footprint, environmental protection and a climate neutral production will be topics to address.



Before the pandemic, Hong Kong consumers still relied heavily on physical stores, while online shopping was not very common, as the city is very well-developed with sophisticated transportation networks. However, more people have switched to online shopping during the pandemic, due to the social distancing measures. HKTVmall, the largest e-commerce platform in Hong Kong, has recorded USD 73 million in sales in December 2020, which was an increase of 16.5% compared to the previous month, and a 110% increase on a year over year basis.

In the same month, the average daily order quantity reached 3 million, a year over year increase of 94.1%.  In 2020, the total sales reached USD $700 million, with more than 1 million customer bases, a 34.5% increase from around 823,000 in the previous year. The dramatic numbers demonstrated the rapid development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.

Seafood Update

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on Hong Kong’s seafood trade, but the city retains its pivotal  role in Asia in promoting more sustainable consumption of seafood. With the second-highest per capita seafood consumption levels in Asia, the city’s role as a free port and trading hub for the mainland Chinese market also makes it a prime location for changing purchasing habits in greater China. A report on how the city’s retailers and high-volume vendors of seafood have been faring on improving their sustainable and traceable products suggests retailers are moving in the right direction – slowly.



Though increasing slowly, demand from the foodservice sector remains below the level it was a year ago. According to the Japan Foodservice Association, sales by the Japan restaurant industry in February 2021 fell 22.3% versus the prior year. Sales of establishments serving alcohol were especially hard hit, falling 70% in February compared to the previous year. It was reported that supermarket sales decreased 11% in February compared to the same period last year at existing stores, the first decrease in 13 months at existing stores. Importers report delays in shipping of 1-3 months. Shipping delays from the U.S. tend to be the most severe though the EU and Oceania are also impacted.



Korea’s healthy and functional food (HFF) market is expanding at a rapid pace and is set to double its size in just five years. According to data from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the Korea’s HFF market is expected to grow from 2 billion in 2016 to 4 billion this year. Industry watchers attribute the sharp market expansion to a rapidly growing aging population and the COVID-19 pandemic. Another reason for the market expansion was the addition of various new products, such as probiotics, omega 3, milk thistles, etc. A survey conducted by the food and drug safety ministry also confirmed the growth spurt of the HFF market. In the 2020 survey on 1,500 people aged 19 or older, 68.9% said they were consuming health supplements, recording a steady rise from 50.2% in 2012. More than 70% of the respondents also said they consumed two or more types of HFF. Korea’s imports of healthy and functional foods increased by 16.1% in value in 2020.



Home delivery was one of the few sectors that benefitted from the lockdown due to COVID-19, with online sales taking a record 15.4% increase in February 2021 according to Kantar Worldpanel. However, in March 2021 online grocery growth slowed, signifying that shoppers are slowly starting to emerge. Households made 13 million additional trips to supermarkets, much of it driven by a growing confidence among older shoppers in particular, with 143,000 fewer over-65s placing digital orders in March. Now largely vaccinated, this age group increased its trips to brick-and-mortar outlets by 6.8% – more than double the national rate. Online sales were 89% higher than this time last year, which remains impressive, but the channel’s share of the market dropped back to 14.5% from February 2021’s 15.4%.  Grocery spending remains considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels as restrictions on dining out continue, the average household spent an extra 134 Pounds on take-home groceries compared with this period two years ago.