From the Field: In-Market Representative Reports – February 2023

February 2023 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 19 uniquely experienced In-Market Representatives around the globe. These local marketing experts in the food industry provide Food Export with on-the-ground assistance to implement our various programs and services.    

In addition, through regular trade servicing, these local representatives report on local issues, trends, and opportunities for international buyers to connect with suppliers of U.S. agricultural and food products. Every month we share with you some of the top market insight from the trade servicing reports we receive in order to improve your international export efforts.  

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has issued a new alcohol guidance advising to reduce the intake of alcoholic drinks to two alcoholic drinks per week. According to their research, health concerns are low to negligible at this level, while there is already a moderate risk of developing certain cancers for those having between three to six standard-size drinks per week. The definition of a standard drink is a bottle of beer, glass of wine, single shot of spirit, or a bottle of cider. The CCSA is calling for health warning labels to be included on alcohol packaging. Health practitioners are also putting pressure on the government regarding the warning labels.

The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (or CAFTA-DR), which promotes reduced tariffs on processed food products, has stimulated U.S. agricultural exports to Latin America and created new markets for U.S. exports of snacks and confectionery. Over the past few years, U.S. snack food and confectionery exports to the CAFTA-DR countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic) have grown about 15% since 2015. Furthermore, population and economic growth rates in the CAFTA-DR countries and Panama are expected to drive continued expansion of snack product imports.

Veganuary, the annual challenge that encourages people to go vegan in January and beyond, broke all previous records this year, welcoming more participants than ever before in the European region. With around 700,000 enrolled participants (and probably even more participants who didn’t officially enroll). In Germany alone, more than 850 companies from the gastronomy and retail sectors supported the project by promoting plant-based products, offering vegan dishes, and mentioning Veganuary in their public communications. Among them were large corporations such as Aldi and Burger King, as well as small startups such as EverDrop. Plant-based diets have become easier to follow in recent years as more products are available in the European market due to increased consumer demand. The shift to meat alternatives is also reflected in the recent announcement from Lidl that they will reduce their meat offers in upcoming years, and instead, increase their portfolio of alternative proteins. As this trend cements itself in the market and its value and volume is continue growing, U.S. food manufacturers and producers should consider how to add plant-based products to their portfolios or further develop their marketing strategy for such products.

The lift of Covid restrictions across China has resumed the consumption of smuggled seafood in Hong Kong. Demand for exotic and endangered fish species collapsed in Hong Kong during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic but has returned following the abrupt move by the Chinese government in December 2022 to end restrictions on travel and trading policies. Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, a professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that the city’s authorities have done little to hinder the rekindling of illegal seafood trading following the two-year lull. Sadovy explained that there has been an increase of contraband supply by air, including the import of endangered hump head wrasse, a delicacy at high-end restaurants in Hong Kong and mainland China. The fish, also known as Napolean wrasse, require a CITES permit to be conducted legally. Although Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has signed on to use a facial recognition app to track illegal trade, the AFCD has not yet integrated the technology into their systems.

Donuts have become one of the most sought-after desserts in South Korea. The donut café, Café Knotted is leading the trend with the variety of their flavors and their signature smiley character designs. As consumers, particularly in the Millennial and Gen Z demographics continue their quest for innovation in familiar foods, the trend in donuts is expected to continue rising.

According to the Council of Agriculture in Taiwan, last year the nation’s exports of pet food rose by 44% from 2021 to a record of 1,922 tons. The value of dog and cat food exports reached US$17.66 million, showing an increase of 377% from 2016. Pet food is categorized into daily meals and nutritional supplements. Taiwan generally relies on imports to meet the demand for daily meals, but the supplement market is becoming a focus for domestic producers. Supplements include treats, dental bones, and functional foods for aging pets. Domestic producers make them out of animal byproducts, ensuring that nothing goes to waste. Supplements have become a successful export item and are in demand in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea.