How Can Food Export Help You With Sample Shipments?

Product samples are an important way to make connections with foreign buyers. Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast can help with your samples in a variety of ways, and most importantly with your shipment expenses!

By Molly Burns, Branded Program Manager, Food Export-Midwest, and Marija Cereskeviciute, International Program Associate, Food Export-Midwest

Product samples are an important way to make connections with foreign buyers. Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast can help with your samples in a variety of ways, and most importantly with your shipment expenses!

How to receive 50% reimbursement for freight to ship samples

  1. First, if you are not a current participant in our Branded Program, apply here. We accept applications on a rolling basis, pending available funding. You must apply before you pay for any eligible expenses.
  2. Ship your samples! Save your receipts and shipping documentation. If you need help with this step, see resources listed below.
  3. Submit a reimbursement claim on our website here. In the claim form, you’ll provide information about the freight cost, vendor, and dates.
  4. What documentation we need:

    • Invoice: We need to see the invoice to you from the vendor (ex. FedEx). This can be an invoice or receipt that shows the vendor name, shipment date, and cost. We also need to see where the shipment is going, either on the invoice or on another document from the vendor.
    • Proof of Payment: How did you pay for the freight cost? Credit card? Pull your statement showing the charge posted. Check? Pull a copy of the cancelled check. Wire transfer? Show us the confirmation.
  5. Our typical claim turnaround time is 30 days from when you submit a claim to when we mail you a check. We can also reimburse you via ACH if that’s of interest.
  6. Tips:
    • Claims for freight for sample shipments require less documentation and are much easier to reimburse than other claim types. If you are new to the Branded Program, start with these claims to learn the process and get some funding back quickly!
    • Review all your invoices from shipping vendors. Anytime you ship product samples internationally, claim that to Food Export. It doesn’t matter what country you ship it to – we can add new countries to your application if needed.
    • Sometimes you’ll ship your samples to a consolidator in the U.S., who sends it onto the foreign country. We can reimburse for this domestic shipping cost. In addition to the documentation listed above, you will need to provide the shipping information for the international shipment.
    • Are you shipping a pallet or more? We can reimburse for that too, but we’ll need extra confirmation that the shipment is for samples, not for purchased product.
    • Remember, we do not reimburse freight costs for your purchased product

    Many Branded Program participants take advantage of reimbursement for sample shipments each year, including Woeber Mustard Company in Springfield, Ohio.

    According to Wally Miller, Woeber’s Director of Sales,“Even though we are a small Ohio based company, Food Export – Midwest and Market Access Program (MAP) funding give us the opportunity to grow our business all around the world.”

    How we work with samples at our events

    Food Export offers three major types of activities to meet foreign buyers: Food Show Plus!TM, Buyers Missions, and Focused Trade Missions. Samples play an important role in meeting foreign buyers, whether meetings are happening in-person or virtually. Sample shipment policy might vary depending on the type of the event you are registering for.

    Virtual Events:

    • Food Show Plus!TM (Showcase) – we require companies to send samples. Company is represented by our In-Market Representatives and their staff. Thus, product samples play an important role to help a potential Buyer better understand the product and decide on the sale.
    • Virtual Trade Missions and Virtual Buyers Missions. For most of our Virtual Trade Missions we encourage suppliers to send samples after the event. We share sample shipping guidelines specific to the market that Virtual Trade Mission is taking place. We encourage suppliers to send samples after the event for Virtual Buyers Missions too.

    In-Person Events:

    • Both for Food Show Plus!TM and Focused Trade Missions we encourage suppliers to have samples for meetings with Buyers or showcase them at their booth. For each Focused Trade Mission our In-Market representative prepares instructions on how to ship samples to their market. If possible, suppliers can also bring samples themselves to the event. For Food Show Plus!TM companies work directly with the freight forwarder assigned by the trade show organizer.
    • As for Buyers Missions – these are one-on-one meetings that happen together with domestic Trade Shows. Companies bring their own samples. However, a Buyer might ask to send more samples after the meeting.

    If you are not sure how samples are being handled for the event you have registered, please contact your Activity Coordinator for more information and assistance.

    Where to get advice about shipping samples

    The rules for shipping product samples varies by country and by product. Here are some resources to assist you in shipping your product samples:

    • Get advice and immediate assistance through the Food Export Helpline.
    • For a more in-depth market overview, including help with sample shipments, check out our Advisor Program.
    • Watch this webinar, Tips and Tricks for Sample Shipments. You can access all our educational resources, most of which are free, here.
    • The US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Ag Service (FAS) puts together annual reports about international markets, some of which discuss sample shipments. You can search these reports here.
    • Take this Export Essentials course for instructions on searching these reports.
    • Check with your shipping company for advice on avoiding delays, properly documenting your shipment, and more.