From the Field – In-Market Representative Report – July 2020

July 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.


Wholesalers continue with the strategy of directly selling to individual consumers that we mentioned in last month’s update blog. Several wholesalers that were targeting hotels and restaurants are currently selling to individual consumers using social media. 

More companies have jumped on the trend of putting together packages and combos that are attractive to individual consumers. Supermarkets that carry private labels are taking advantage of the shortage of some products and they are importing those products under their private labels.


Seafood Update

China’s appetite for salmon and other seafood has crashed this month, after a resurgence in COVID-19 infections in Beijing was traced to chopping boards for imported salmon in a wholesale food market in the capital. Alibaba’s Taobao and have cut imported salmon sales in Beijing, while food delivery giant Meituan Dianping said it has pulled all salmon products from its platform nationally., Alibaba’s food delivery arm, has also halted sales of all imported seafood in Beijing. Sushi and hotpot restaurants in Beijing that saw business pick up after virus-related curbs were eased in April are once again struggling amid the renewed worries.


Recently, the European Commission released a baseline program named “Farm to Fork” summing up the principles for a fair, transparent and traceable food system. The draft includes new requirements for manufacturers and traders and covers topics such as common nutrition profiles, an ethic codex for production standards, especially for animal-based food stuff, responsible marketing methods and  new sustainability labelling requirements. Altogether, the “Farm to Fork” concept includes 26 new measurements to better regulate and control the food industry and help consumers to easily identify “good” products.

Many in the food industry openly criticize the plan; farmers are especially concerned about certain demands listed in the program such as the reduction of pesticide usage by 50% until 2030. The food manufacturing industry is primarily concerned about the possibility of new labels for responsible and sustainable production.

The goal of the new strategy is to support the agenda of the “Green Deal” and help customers to choose eco-friendly goods. If these new regulations come into effect, that would also include foreign manufacturers and would require new labeling and certification for certain goods.

At this point, it is not clear if the proposals stated in the draft will be mandatory or voluntary and which product categories and industry segments will be affected. It will be something to keep an eye on in the next months. In November, Didier Reynders, Judiciary Commissioner of the EU, will present more details of the concept.


COVID-19 Update

Despite the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions, the number of new cases of coronavirus in Japan remains below 100/day.  Most people continue to wear face masks when going outside.  Restaurants have been reopening, but large-scale events continue to be discouraged.  The Japanese professional baseball league finally began its season on June 20th. However, games are played without spectators, relying on television instead.  Tokyo Disneyland announced it would be reopening with social guidelines in place effective July 1, 2020.

Hong Kong

Plant Based Products Update

Fast food giant KFC Hong Kong just launched its first meat-free offerings. Dubbed the “New Era” series, the new products include Alpha Foods’ plant-based nuggets and a burger made with Gardein. It comes shortly after KFC China’s announcement that they are adding Beyond Meat burgers and Cargill-made plant-based fried chicken to its menu. This latest move is yet another sign that the plant-based trend is hitting mainstream consumers in Hong Kong and across Asia.


ANTAD (Mexican Retailers Association) reported a drop of 22% in sales during April  and 19% in May in retail stores across the country.  According to ANTAD’s President, these are the worst results in history.

Online food purchasing increased significantly from 17% in July-Aug 2019, to 61% in March-April 2020. Snacks category is the one with largest growth in online sales after food in general increasing from 9% to 38%.  85% of Mexican consumers are looking for cheaper value brands in the pandemic.

Middle East

Online businesses are booming amid the pandemic. The e-commerce sector was issued the highest number of licenses (196) in May 2020 according to data from the National Economic Register reported by Emerites news agency WAM. The first five months of the year saw a 300% rise in consumer demand for e-commerce services.

South Korea

Leading Korean department store chains are reporting that sales of luxury brands generated strong growth during COVID. Shinsegae department store saw 37.8% sales growth in May compared to the same month last year. Korean consumers are seeking self-rewards or indulgent experiences by purchasing luxury products under pressure of COVID.

United Kingdom

Hard Seltzer is gathering pace as a trend, both in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland. Chicago based U.S. brand leader White Claw Hard Seltzer (first launched in the U.S. in 2016) has appointed an Irish distributor. The brand is also available in the U.K., where listings have been obtained in U.K. supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.