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United States, an attractive market to export food products

The United States of America, a country with almost 314 million consumers, offers excellent opportunities for Latin American and Caribbean producers. In recent decades, the U.S. experienced a considerable increase in the consumption of food from abroad.

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Published by ConnectAmericas


  • “Baby Boomers”, around age 50, prefer healthy products
  • The “Millennial” generation, between ages 15 and 33, seeks exotic and non-traditional food products 
  • The Hispanic community maintains its traditions and chooses labels in Spanish

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), between 2002 and 2010 the amount of imported food products practically doubled, climbing from 4.4 million to 8.6 million imports. FDA reveals that 15% of total food products consumed in the U.S. are imported, with 80% corresponding to seafood, 50% to fresh fruit and 20% to fresh vegetables. 

Relevant segments 

According to Proexport, the most influential food product consumers in the U.S. are the “baby boomers”, comprised by citizens age 50 and older, who control 70% of the available income.  

The trend in this age group shows greater awareness on the importance of healthy eating habits. This is why Proexport recommends avoiding the marketing of food products containing high levels of fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial coloring and gluten, considering that 78% of these individuals read the labels and avoid these ingredients. 

The “Millennial” generation, comprised by youngsters between the ages of 15 and 33, is another sector with great potential because it is more willing to try new products such as tropical fruits, non-traditional grains and exotic food in general. When it comes to buying food they look for elements such as: organic certifications, recyclable packaging, products supporting sustainability and a fair price.  

Meanwhile, the Hispanic market in the United States is the fastest growing sector, affirms ProChile. This huge group maintains the roots and food customs of the original cultures and is an ideal target for food producers in Latin America and the Caribbean since there is little need to adapt the products or the packaging. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2001 there were 52 million Hispanics, becoming the largest ethnical or racial minority group. Also, according to ProChile, almost 70% of the Hispanic population prefers reading food and beverage labels in Spanish.

A good scenario for organic farmers

According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the U.S. organic food market shows an unprecedented growth rate. In 20 years, sales climbed from US$ 1 billion in 1990 to US$ 31.5 billion in 2011. ECLAC reports that the rapid growth in demand for organic products exceeded the domestic supply capacity. As a result, organic product traders are increasingly relying on imports. 

Data collected presents a favorable scenario for Latin American and Caribbean farmers. ECLAC indicates that one fourth of agricultural land under organic crops can be found in this region. In 2010, 8.4 million hectares were organically cultivated by over 270, 000 producers. 

Approximately half of organic land is found in one single country: Argentina; followed by Brazil with almost 1.8 million hectares; and Uruguay, with almost 0.9 million hectares.

Organic traceability

In 2011 organic product codes were introduced in the United States Harmonized Tariff System (HTS). ECLAC explains that this enabled monitoring organic product exports and collecting information on certain imports. There are currently 23 organic product codes that are useful for studying import volume and value trends.  

Data reveal the important role that the Latin America and Caribbean region plays in satisfying the organic product demand of the United States. ECLAC reports that in 2011, two thirds of organic product imports with HTS code came from the region, equivalent to approximately US$ 431 million dollars.

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