From the Field: In-Market Representative Reports – January 2024

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 retail landscapes across Hong Kong, South Korea, Brazil, and Colombia reflect diverse market trends, consumer behaviors, and economic shifts. Let’s delve into the latest developments in these regions, exploring retail sales, import surges, trade balances, and evolving consumer preferences. 

Brazil: Trade Balancing Act 

Brazil’s trade balance depicts a nuanced scenario with total exports slightly decreasing by 0.7% and imports significantly dropping by 20.9% compared to the previous year. Import declines in wheat, rye, and unground corn contrast with notable surges in purchases of live whole fish, non-oil fruits, soy, and preparations of cereals, flour, or fruit/vegetable starch. Notably, processed foodstuff imports from the U.S. constituted approximately 6% in value and 4.5% in volume of Brazil’s overall imports in this category, showcasing a significant market presence for American products. 

Colombia: Evolving Food and Beverage Trends 

Colombia’s food and beverage industry gears up for 2024, navigating consumer preferences leaning towards healthy, sustainable, and environmentally friendly products. As regulations emphasize proper labeling and address ultra-processed foods, the sector explores AI-driven flavor development and innovative functional products with exotic tastes like jasmine, rose, and eucalyptus. Alternative proteins and plant-based alternatives remain on an upward trajectory, reflecting evolving dietary preferences. 

Moreover, shopping habits are shifting in Colombia, with supermarkets witnessing a 12% shopping frequency compared to 5% at neighborhood stores, driven by effective strategies from major chains and hard-discount channels. The rise in essential goods’ prices influences consumer choices, fostering increased patronage at larger retail outlets. 

Hong Kong: Retail Resilience Amidst Recovery 

The Census and Statistics Department reported a notable provisional increase in retail sales, reaching $31.8 billion in September—a 13% year-on-year rise. Although slower than August’s growth, this surge, especially in food, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco, marks a consistent upward trajectory. The government expects the recovery of inbound tourism and private consumption to further bolster retail. With improving household income and government support measures, like the “Night Vibes Hong Kong” Campaign, the retail sector anticipates sustained growth. 

South Korea: Frozen Fruit’s Rising Relevance 

South Korea witnesses a surge in frozen fruit imports due to soaring domestic fruit prices caused by adverse weather conditions. With abnormal weather affecting harvests, domestic fruit prices rose steeply—22.9% year-on-year in November, escalating demand for imported frozen fruits.  

The hospitality sector, particularly cafes, is actively adopting frozen fruits to counter rising costs. The abnormal weather, marked by insufficient sunlight and pest outbreaks during harvests, is reshaping consumer preferences and driving increased reliance on imported alternatives.