The Valuable Role In-Market Representatives Play in Building Awareness and Sales for Northeast Seafood

Food Export's network of In-Market Representatives can be a huge asset for Northeast seafood suppliers. If you’re not familiar with how our IMRs operate, here is an overview of what they bring to the table.

Food Export’s long-term investment in building a network of In-Market Representatives (IMR) brings numerous benefits to U.S. suppliers. If you’re not familiar with how our IMRs operate and how they can help you, below is an overview of what they bring to the table.


Maintaining and Building Lasting Relationships

One of the primary roles that an IMR plays is to maintain and build relationships with the trade in their markets. According to Colleen Coyne, Seafood Program Coordinator for Food Export–Northeast, “Many of our IMRs have been with us for decades and have
long-standing in-market relationships. It’s that consistency that makes everything more efficient and effective. They truly have a pulse on the market. Having these long-standing relationships is a unique offering for Northeast suppliers.”  

In order to deliver the most accurate information to their markets about Northeast seafood, IMRs stay up to date on product details through webinars or learning sessions provided by Food Export–Northeast. Continuous education is key to maintaining existing relationships and to building new connections. Because so many IMRs have worked with Food Export for years, suppliers can trust the market intelligence IMRs offer to gain insight into the competitive landscape. 

Alexander Wever, the Seafood In-Market Representative for Northern and Eastern Europe, shares his strategy on maintaining trade contacts. “I try to visit with importers in person or meet with them at seafood fairs regularly,” Wever explained. “It’s important to maintain transparency and communicate so that importers and buyers can lean on me as a resource. We speak the same ‘seafood language,’ if you will. I lend them my knowledge and insights of Northeast U.S. seafood, which they deem very valuable and, the majority of the time, actionable.”

Providing Market Intelligence and Insight

As knowledgeable industry experts, In-Market Representatives can provide accurate market intelligence and key insight to suppliers so they can determine if their products are a good fit for the market. Additionally, IMRs leverage and maintain close relationships with the local office of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), also called the “Post.” If trade issues arise, they’re available to gather that information and bring it back to the larger organization so that efforts can be made to resolve them. For example, Wever works with the USDA/FAS Posts in Germany and Poland and, through these relationships, has been invited to present Northeast seafood at trade events promoting U.S. food and agricultural products they organize. The relationships that IMRs have with the FAS Posts in their markets expands opportunities for Northeast U.S. seafood to garner global attention.  

IMRs also play an important role in many Food Export-Northeast programs including: 

  • Lead Qualification, a program which allows suppliers to utilize IMRs to qualify international buyers with confidence. IMRs screen international buyer leads, providing suppliers with a background report  on the buyer’s operation.  This service helps suppliers to determine if a lead is worth pursuing. 
  • Virtual Consultation, a market entry service that allows suppliers to identify opportunities in international markets by tapping into IMRs expertise through one-on-one video calls. 
  • Market Builder, a service for exporters to gain valuable feedback about a specific product’s potential along with introduction to qualified buyers in the chosen market.  This program consists of two components: Market Scan and Rep Finder, which can be completed together or separately. Market Scan provides in-depth market research for a specific product, while Rep Finder allows for one-on-one meetings between a company and a select group of targeted importers. 

Nominating Qualified Purchasers for Buyers Missions & Focused Trade Missions

Participating in Food Export–Northeast’s Buyers Missions and Focused Trade Missions is a great way for overseas buyers to learn about Northeast seafood products. Part of an IMR’s role is to select the best buyers for these missions. The focus is on inviting buyers who are interested in products being showcased, and building connections that will eventually generate sales for suppliers.

In Wever’s case, “There is no standard waiting list, but rather a group of buyers from various markets with different product interests.” He notes, “When I invite them to one event, I ask them if they would be interested in future ones, so I always have a pool of interested buyers for upcoming missions. It’s a continuous process.” 


Boots on the Ground 

Because IMRs live and work in the markets they represent, they are the “boots on the ground” for Northeast seafood products. Through Food Export–Northeast’s program  Food Show PLUS!™,  IMRs can enhance your international tradeshow results with introductions to qualified buyers, in-market briefings, on-site assistance, self-guided retail tours and post-show lead qualifications. By leveraging the buyer relationships and local market expertise of our In-Market Representatives, you will gain a competitive edge over other exhibitors – resulting in getting more qualified leads from serious buyers. Key services include:

  • Introductions to Qualified Buyers
  • Retail Tour
  • Target Invitations to Buyers
  • On-site Assistance from IMRs
  • Market Briefing
  • Post-Show Lead Qualifications

IMRs also make time to visit other industry missions and trade shows that take place in their markets to help stay up to date on best practices and current trends. While they may not be exhibiting at these shows, they’re still working the room, networking, and examining potential competitors. 

Vetting Trade Leads 

Vetting trade leads for Northeast suppliers is another important role for IMRs. We asked Wever about his process. “Vetting trade leads involves identifying the specific seafood products, quantities and product specification that a potential importer is seeking.” Food Export takes these qualified leads, matches them with exporters of the product of interest, and disseminates trade leads to all active suppliers. From there, it is up to the importer and exporter to establish contact and pursue potential business opportunities.  Throughout the process, Wever maintains open communication with both parties to ensure a smooth and successful transaction.

Buyers Mission Thumbnail

The Bottom-line Benefits of IMRs

In-Market Representatives can provide seafood suppliers with a wealth of market knowledge and insight. Food Export’s IMRs are a unique network of trade marketing consultants from all over the world who are truly the connectors for suppliers and buyers. According to Coyne, “It’s a unique 360-degree relationship. Our IMRs know they have our support, so they continue to build those essential bridges for our suppliers.” 


About Food Export USANortheast 

With its extensive programs and educational offerings, Food Export USA–Northeast (Food Export–Northeast) is recognized as the preeminent expert and cost-effective resource for northeast seafood and agricultural suppliers looking to sell their products overseas. Founded in 1973, Food Export–Northeast is a non-profit organization that works collaboratively with its 10 member states’ agricultural promotion agencies from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, to facilitate trade between suppliers and worldwide importers and to promote the export of food, agricultural and seafood products from those states. The organization is funded through the Market Access Program (MAP), administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Learn more about us and what we do for the Northeast seafood industry here.  Contact us.