From the Field: In-Market Representative Reports – March 2021

March 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 better your international exporting efforts. 


COVID-19 Update

Australia’s e-commerce sector is expected to maintain double-digit growth in the next few years due to the impact of Covid-19, according to GlobalData. As the effects of the pandemic continued, e-commerce sales in the country grew by an estimated 13.9% last year and are set to reach a compound annual growth rate of 10.3% through 2024.



Starting April 1, 2021, British Colombia will be charging provincial sales tax for carbonated beverages that contain sugar, natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners. It will also apply to all beverages being dispensed through soda fountains and vending machines.


COVID-19 Update

The cruise industry continues to struggle significantly due to COVID-19 impacts with many cruise lines now extending their service suspensions for longer periods of time. Recently further cancellations and new suspension updates were issued from the following companies: Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line. Looking forward to when cruises are able to run again, it likely that shorter sailing periods will be more popular than ever before. Royal Caribbean has announced new short getaways ranging from just three to five nights.


COVID-19 Update

Cold chain control measures expand across Southern China. On January 27, 2021 Guangzhou’s COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters released new requirements stating “’any imported frozen food destined to enter storage, production and processing, sales or catering sectors must go through mandatory inspection (testing) and disinfection of the outer packaging at a centralized warehouse in Guangzhou city before being released to commerce.”  Several other Chinese cities have implemented similar requirements including Shenzhen.

This duplicative testing and disinfection process adds both time and cost, reducing the margins, complicating logistics, and is likely the cause of the backlog that is starting to emerge at some ports.

The General Administration of China Customs (GACC) is doing some testing of frozen food imports at the port-of-entry. Products destined for use in a city with centralized supervision warehouse system, like Guangzhou or Shenzhen, then must pass another COVID test and disinfection at a designated facility within the city.

Seafood Update

A huge pile up of fish cargoes at a Chinese port risks impacting shipments of frozen food across the country and beyond. Hundreds of containers are being held up in Dalian, a major port for seafood imports, as local authorities test the fish for the coronavirus before allowing them to clear customs.  That’s leading to scant availability of electric outlets to keep refrigerated containers, known as reefers, cold. The shortage of plug points and dwindling space at the port have prompted shipping liners to cancel new reefer bookings into Dalian, and the congestion is now spreading to other refrigerated items like fruit and dumplings. It also means frozen containers are being diverted to other ports in China, leading to bottlenecks in Shanghai and Qingdao too.


The increased use of online sales channels during the lockdown boosted efforts of manufacturers to develop and grow their own online sales platforms to increase direct-to-consumer business. Previously this channel was mainly used by smaller start-up enterprises building their company concept around their own small-scale online shop.  The past year has made this segment more interesting for some of Europe’s market leaders. Most companies report that aside from an additional way to sell their goods, the direct interaction with consumers is most valuable as it provides unfiltered information and helps to adjust marketing efforts and product offers based on feedback gathered.

This is another example of how the retail landscape has changed recently and how it might look like in a decade from now. For foreign suppliers, these direct-to-consumer channels might also become more interesting as they only require a logistic center in Europe and minimize costs resulting from involving distributors and retailers.



Announced on January 26, 2021, Igloo Dessert Bar is launching Asia’s first animal-free ice cream made with real dairy proteins from a partnership with a U.S. fermentations dairy food tech company called Perfect Day. The ice cream is handcrafted with Perfect Day’s real dairy proteins that are molecularly identical to those found in milk, but are far more sustainable, cruelty-free and healthier than its traditional animal-based counterparts.

The animal-free ice cream is named ‘Ice Age!’ and will offer customers eight different lactose-free, hormone-free, and vegan-friendly flavors to choose from.



COVID-19 Update

In Japan in January 2021 sales in the restaurant industry declined 21% from the same month last year, as the second “state of emergency” declared in January took effect. Immediately following the emergency declaration, the number of customers at in-store restaurants plummeted and some restaurants simply closed causing overall restaurant sales to drop even further from the 15.5% decline in December.

Vaccinations in Japan have started for healthcare workers but it is not expected that the vaccine will be available for the general population until the end of April at the earliest.  According to the Japan Chain Stores Association, which includes supermarket operators, total foodstuff sales increased 6.2% in January vs the same month prior year. Sales of foods for in-home meals were boosted by the state of emergency declaration.



The South Korean government is now allowing companies to put the phrase “sugar-free” on labels. Prior to this Korea had not been allowing “sugar-free” claims on food labels, which conflicts with international Codex standards. The Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) announced recently that it will revise its labeling standards and allow “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” claims on product labels. MDFS said details of the “sugar-free” standards will be announced within the first half of the year.



The United Kingdom continues to favor fresh and chilled foods over frozen, however the pandemic has boosted all sector sales of frozen food, with one notable exception, that of ready meals. Preparing meals at home have risen due to the closure of restaurants and other outlets serving meals for consumption on the premises.

In addition, frozen food has an advantage over fresh and chilled due to its long-term storage advantage, which benefits shoppers not willing to make unnecessary excursions. The unforeseen growth of 13.8% increases the value of frozen food sold in UK stores to 7.21 billion pounds.