This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Chile has adopted a commercial policy to open and diversify markets for its agricultural and food products. Chile has 31 international trade agreements that cover 65 markets.
Chile’s main agricultural exports include wine, fresh fruit, dairy, salmon, pork, poultry, and forestry products. In 2021, the agriculture and related sectors represented 24.4 percent of total Chilean exports ($21.9 billion), 9 percent of total GDP ($24.2 billion), and employed around 10 percent of Chile’s labor force.
U.S. agricultural exports to Chile totaled $1.3 billion in 2021, a 29.5 percent increase over 2020. Chile is the second-largest market in South America for U.S. agricultural products, after Colombia. Chile is the largest market in South America for U.S. consumer-oriented agricultural products with $886 million worth of export sales in 2021. The top U.S. agricultural exports to Chile are beer, dairy products, pork, poultry, beef, and wheat.
Chile has a developed food processing industry that generates $23.3 billion annually and is forecast to grow by 35 percent by 2030. Healthy foods, gourmet foods, prepared foods, and ready-to-eat meals show large potential for growth in the Chilean market. Chilean consumers have an increasing concern for health-related issues while the food processing industry continues to adapt to the nutritional labeling law, higher labor costs, and sophisticated consumers, all of which present challenges, but also opportunities for U.S. high-value-added products and ingredients.
Chilean Processed Food Industry
In 2021, food and beverage processing represented 13.5 percent of Chile’s exports, at $12.8 billion. The food processing industry is the second largest economic export sector after mining. According to ProChile, the Chilean Export Promotion Agency, the food processing sector employs 368,316 workers. The United States maintained its position as the second largest supplier of consumer-oriented products to the Chilean market with a 14 percent market share after Brazil.
Chilean food processors sell their products nationally or internationally. The Foreign Investment Agency of Chile (InvestChile) reports that 54 percent of Chile’s total food production is destined for the domestic market, and 46 percent is exported to more than 190 countries worldwide.
The Chilean food and beverage processing industry consists of more than 98,890 food processing companies. Some large international companies use their production plants in Chile to serve other markets in Latin America. Chilean food processing companies sell 60 percent of all processed food products to supermarkets and hypermarkets. A smaller share, 38 percent, of packaged food is sold through smaller retailers such as mom-and-pop shops and food/drink specialists.
There are three main reasons for Chilean companies to import food products and ingredients: (1) If the products are not available domestically through local production (2) if it is cheaper to import rather than buy domestically; or (3) if imported products offer a higher quality than those available in the domestic market.
The Chilean Nutritional Composition of Foods law was implemented in 2016. The law requires labeling of food products high in sugar, saturated fat, calories, and sodium. The Chilean food industry constantly searches for formulas that avoid mandatory labeling associated with the law.
For further information on food processing ingredients please see Food Processing Ingredients GAIN report.
Retail Food Market
Chile has been one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies in the last decade, enabling the country to have a modern and dynamic food retail industry. Retail food sales totaled $25.6 billion in 2021, a 7.6 percent increase over 2020. Supermarket food sales totaled $14.4 billion and represented 56.3 percent of total retail food sales in 2021. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and intermittent quarantines increased online shopping, especially for groceries and consumer foodservice.
In 2021, consumers had higher available income than in 2020. The Government implemented COVID-19 stimulus legislation providing income support for workers and vulnerable families pushing consumption and retail growth in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many producers and wholesalers developed e-commerce and online platforms to reach consumers directly. E-commerce retailing grew by 18.6 percent in 2021 over 2020 and it is projected to grow by 8.4 percent annually from 2021 to 2026.
There are five main retail groups in Chile: Falabella, Cencosud, Walmart Chile, Ripley, and La Polar. Falabella and Cencosud have department stores, home centers, and supermarket/ hypermarkets. Chile has a modern, highly competitive supermarket sector.
Chilean supermarket chains use two systems to supply products in their stores: distribution through suppliers, where suppliers deliver products directly to each store, and centralized distribution where suppliers deliver products to a distribution center that supplies each store afterwards.
Imported food and beverage products for the food retail sector may enter Chile through the following channels:
- Direct imports: large supermarket chains import directly from foreign producers/exporters and own most of the wholesale supermarkets, which then redistribute to smaller stores as well. They operate large distribution centers that supply the entire country.
- Indirect imports: distributors and wholesalers import products to distribute to retail stores.
Most of the independent stores get their products at discount prices from wholesalers. They act as an intermediary because smaller stores do not have the logistics capacity to import.
Important factors for Chilean consumers’ purchasing decisions are store location, price, and promotional activities. Chilean consumers are well-informed, they compare prices, and look for promotions and variety before making a purchase. A determining aspect that is driving consumers’ behavior is innovation and adoption of new technologies. Chile has widespread internet access and vast access to technology, pushing Chilean consumers to online shopping.
The family size has gradually decreased in Chilean cities. Large families are less frequent, and single-person households are more common. These trends are shaping the way Chileans buy groceries and demand food services. Smaller households with less storage space make frequent purchases from grocery stores located near their homes or jobs.
For more information on the retail market see Retail Foods GAIN report.
Hotel, Restaurant and Tourist Industry
The Chilean food service industry is closely linked to the hospitality and tourism sector and has grown consistently in the last decade. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the Chilean hotel and restaurant industry (HRI) as international travel to Chile and sanitary restrictions forced the temporary and permanent closure of many HRI businesses.
Since November 2021, the HRI sector has gradually reopened under new COVID-19 protocols. The sector was badly hit in 2020-2021 as health restrictions shuttered hotels, restaurants, and many institutions. The sector is now rebounding as the Government of Chile relaxes restrictions.
Despite the general negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chile still offers excellent opportunities for U.S. food and beverage exports, especially for those U.S. companies seeking to initiate or expand exports to Chile’s retail and HRI sectors. Chilean consumers appreciate U.S. food and beverage products as they are considered high quality.
For further information on food services please see Food Service - Food, Hotels and Restaurants GAIN report.
Business Recommendations and Import Procedures
For details on how to export to Chile, exporters should refer to Chile’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports: Chile: Exporter Guide, Chile: FAIRS Export Certificate Report and Chile: FAIRS Country Report.
The Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) Santiago recommends U.S. exporters exhibit or attend Chilean trade shows, particularly the U.S. Pavilion at the Espacio Food & Service show. The show is recognized as the most important annual gathering in the Chilean food industry and provides the opportunity to connect with over 28,000 Chilean and international buyers.
Potential exporters should conduct market research, including the identification of appropriate business contacts and
Chilean import regulations to successfully seize market opportunities and overcome market challenges.
Potential exporters should contact the FAS office in Santiago, Chile for inquiries or requests of assistance to export agricultural products to Chile. U.S. companies seeking to export food products to Chile are advised to conduct exploratory research to understand the Chilean market. FAS GAIN reports are a good source of country specific information. Exporters work closely with FAS to promote U.S. food products through SaborUSA Facebook and Instagram accounts and to strengthen the U.S. food lovers’ community on social media.
A trade show can help companies contact local distributors/sales agents, buyers, and businesspersons, and become familiar with local competition. In the case of new-to-market companies, exporters should be prepared to provide support for in-store and media promotions to familiarize consumers with their products. Another option for exporters is to participate in state/regionally organized trade missions.
Exporters should adjust their product to local preferences and, if possible, prepare promotional materials in Spanish, and assign a specific budget to promote their product locally. Exporters should develop an appropriate marketing campaign that informs the consumer about the origin of the brand. Slogans and marketing materials should be understood in Spanish.
While regulations are relatively transparent, changes are not widely advertised. Hence, the exporter or his/her representative must monitor the official journal (Diario Oficial), where periodical changes are published. The websites of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health are additional resources U.S. exporters may consult. Spanish labeling is mandatory for all products.
- Bakery goods, cereals, and pasta
- Beef and beef products
- Dairy products (premium cheeses and ice creams)
- Tree nuts
- Pork and pork products
- Poultry and poultry products
- Craft beer
- Eggs and products
- Flours and starches
- Processed fruit and vegetables
- Chocolate and cocoa products
- Soup and other food preparations
- Sauces, dressings, and condiments
- Edible oils
- Snack foods
- Sauces, condiments, and seasonings
For further information regarding the Agricultural and Food sectors, contact the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service.