Colombia - Country Commercial Guide
Processed Food and Beverages

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-11-24


The information below is extracted from the USDA FAS GAIN Report: “Colombian Market Continues Offering Opportunities to U.S. Exporters”

Colombia is the leading destination for U.S. agricultural exports in South America, followed by Brazil and Chile. In 2020, U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia were valued at USD 2.9 billion.

Colombia remains a net importer of many agricultural products and cannot domestically source the necessary raw materials and ingredients to meet the growing demand of the food and beverage processing industry.

U.S. exporters face new market conditions in Colombia, as well as new opportunities, resulting from changes to consumer habits and preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has altered the landscape for the retail, food industry, and food service sectors. Since 2020, the retail sector in Colombia has been undergoing a transformation due to the Covid-19 economic slowdown and quarantine measures.  Consumer habits have changed for the near term and may remain different even after the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products: Colombia’s total imports of consumer-oriented products declined 8.5 percent in 2020 to USD 1.9 billion, due to the COVID 19 pandemic and changing consumer habits.  The United States is Colombia’s top source of consumer-oriented products. In 2020 Colombian imports from the U.S. fell 21 percent to $632 million, followed by Chile ($241 million) and Mexico ($196 million). Consumer-oriented products account for 23 percent of U.S. food and agricultural exports to Colombia.

Food Processing Industry: The Colombian food and beverage industry represent 28 percent of the country´s total manufacturing production by value. The country is a net importer of many food ingredients. There is a growing domestic demand for higher quality and healthy confectionery products. The milling, bakery, and starch sectors have benefited from innovation in flavors and healthier ingredients. Food Processing Ingredients GAIN Report

Food Retail Industry: Colombia’s retail sector continues to reinvent itself through a difficult economic period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Discount stores, the main source of private label products, have increased market share and continue opening outlets throughout the country. Retail Food GAIN Report.

Food Service Industry: The Colombian food service industry is still rebuilding from the mandatory 6-month lockdown in 2020 when the Colombian GDP for lodging and restaurants declined by 37 percent. The sector is expected to recover at a slow pace, reaching pre-pandemic levels by 2023, mostly driven by the higher participation of women in the labor force, resulting in a stronger incentive to dine out and/or utilize delivery food services. Food Service GAIN Report

Healthy Snacks: Colombian consumers are increasingly aware of the need to adopt healthier eating habits. Manufacturers have responded to such demands by rapidly introducing healthier products that are low in sugar, high in protein, low in sodium, fat-free, or free from trans fats. Healthy snack bars are becoming increasingly popular. Innovations in sweet and savory snacks have increased protein, reduced chemicals, and utilized fewer additives and trans fats. 


Tea: The market for (hot) tea is increasing in Colombia due to augmented health consciousness and marketing efforts from the country’s tea distributors. This is expected to result in an increase in tea consumption over the coming years.

Soft Drinks/Water

The bottled water market in Colombia offers natural, carbonated, flavored water, energizing water, and functional water (added vitamins and/or minerals). This niche has proven to be successful as a result of the increasing demand for sophisticated products. This has been driven by the growing presence of value-added products in response to the increasingly sophisticated taste of consumers.

Alcoholic Drinks

Women are becoming an important niche market for alcoholic beverages, demanding more sophisticated drinks and flavors.  Beer is the most highly-demanded alcoholic beverage.  Per capita, beer consumption is about 44 liters per year (11.62 gallons). The extensive growth of wine sales in Colombia in recent years can be attributed to income shifts and urbanization. The main wine suppliers still are Chile and Argentina. Aguardiente is the national liquor preferred by Colombians and is only produced by monopolistic public/private ventures in specific regions of the country. The primary source of whisky is the United Kingdom, although consumer interest in U.S. whiskeys and bourbons is growing.

Table 1: Top 10 Main Consumer-Oriented Products Imported by Colombia





Dairy products




Soup & other food preparations




Fresh fruit




Pork & pork products




Bakery goods, cereals & pasta




Mfg. tobacco




Processed vegetables




Distilled spirits




Poultry meat & products (ex. eggs)




Wine & related products






Colombia is a fast-growing market for value-added food products.  Surveyed retailers and food importers feel there is significant potential for new products in all food categories. Healthy and ethnic food categories are especially new and fast growing.  Wines and gourmet products are penetrating the market with excellent results.  Organic food products are a new trend and retailers are searching for the best suppliers.

Based on the 2015-2019 Colombian import growth rates, the below chart provides information on major exp

ort opportunities for U.S. food products in Colombia. 2020 figures are not included in this chart, because the COVID-19 pandemic represents an unconventional shift in trends.

Table 2: Major Export Opportunities and Some Emerging Opportunities for U.S. Food Products

Product Category

2019 Import Value ($ million)

5-Yr.  Avg. Annual Import Growth

Key Constraints Over Market Development

Market Attractiveness for the United States

Poultry Meat & Products



Colombian poultry industry marketing campaign to increase local chicken consumption

Chicken per capita consumption increased from 18.3 kg/year in 2005 to 34.2 kg/year in 2020

Pork & Pork Products



Colombian pork industry marketing campaign to increase local pork consumption


The negative association of pork meat with human health

Pork per capita consumption increased from 3.3 kg/year in 2005 to 10.8 kg/year in 2019

Dog & Cat Food



Pet owners still feed pets with table scraps



Growing pet ownership rates


Increasing interest in pet food with nutritional benefits

Beef & Beef Products



Growing competition from Argentina and Uruguay


Lack of product knowledge

Willingness to pay higher prices for high-quality beef

Wine & Beer



Preference for Chilean and Argentine wines


Wine is mostly related to celebrations and the holiday season

Income shifts and urbanization benefit the growth of wine sales


Success Tips for Market Entry

Entry Strategy: Any U.S. exporter entering the Colombian market should understand customer needs as well as purchasing requirements and specifications. Additionally, they must understand Colombian standards and regulations to avoid clearance delays at ports of entry. Critical considerations for market entry include the following:

Competition is based on quality, price, and service.

  • Conducting market research to better understand competitors, consumers´ preferences, and the business environment is essential.
  • Build relationships with large importers and wholesalers/distributors
  • Innovative marketing strategies are imperative to penetrate the market.
  • U.S. suppliers should develop ways to meet the needs of the Colombian market through personal visits to better understand the market and identify the needs of buyers and consumer trends.
  • Consider consolidation when exporting small amounts of products.
  • Many Colombian companies’ representatives visit trade shows in the United States, such as Natural Products Expo West, which are great opportunities for U.S. exporters to meet and educate Colombian importers.
  • Establish direct contact with hotel and restaurant chains.
  • Develop Spanish marketing/communication materials.
  • Support the importer with promotional campaigns.
  • Work closely with local importers to comply with food import regulations to facilitate the registration and import of food products and minimize port of entry risks.

Table 3: Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Exporters



The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) expands opportunities and market potential for many agricultural products.

Colombia has trade agreements with many other countries increasing competition with U.S. products.

U.S. agricultural products have a reputation for high quality.

Colombian per capita consumption for processed and semi-processed products, such as bread, is low compared to other Latin American markets.

Colombia is the second largest food trade destination for U.S. food products in South America.

U.S. products will have to maintain a reputation of higher quality in order to be competitive with local food processing companies, guaranteeing a consistent and uniform supply of products year-round.

The growth of tourism and the hotel and restaurant sectors will require a greater array of raw materials and ingredients to make final products more appealing to foreigners and fast-changing domestic consumer tastes and preferences.

There is a cultural misperception that frozen products are unhealthy and lack quality.

The growing lower- and middle-income population, specifically the youth and working women of Colombia, are stimulating new food consumer trends and growth in processed foods.

Internal transportation costs from ports of entry are costly due to extremely poor infrastructure.

Market opportunities for health foods and organic products are expanding given growing obesity trends and GOC support for healthy living campaigns.

The cold chain is deficient in Colombia.

U.S. food suppliers and manufacturers have a positive reputation for food safety, availability, quality, and delivery.

Increasing consumer preference for local products especially dairy, fruits, vegetables, and meat as a result of government policies implemented in reaction to Covid-19.


Products Facing Significant Barriers:

The introduction of new U.S. processed meat products has been recently affected due to the decreasing number of U.S. states that can issue Certificates of Free Sale (COFS) for those products. Per Resolution 2674 of 2013, the Colombian food safety authority INVIMA (Colombian FDA equivalent), requires importers to submit a COFS when registering a new food product for sale in Colombia.

· Despite strong opposition by domestic and international food manufacturing industries, on November 9, 2020, Colombia’s Ministry of Health (MINHEALTH) issued Resolution 2013 to set maximum sodium content limits for 59 processed food categories. This regulation, as feared by food manufacturers, has a mandatory approach, and places a “de-facto ban” on food products that exceed MINHEALTH’s maximum sodium content limits. Local food safety authority INVIMA is tasked with the enforcement and surveillance of this regulation, for which it could issue sanctions, pursuant to Law 9 of 1979 and Law 1437 of 2011. Further, local producers and importers must submit certificates of conformity/self-declarations for their products to INVIMA before they enter Colombia. The implementation of this regulation will begin in November 2022. More information is available in the Colombia Issues New Sodium Regulation for Processed Foods GAIN report.

Regulations and Requirements

Product Registration: The best approach to enter the Colombian market is through distributors. In order to import and distribute beverage products into Colombia, products must be registered with the Colombian National Institute for Surveillance of Medicines and Food (INVIMA). It is necessary to obtain a Mandatory Sanitary Notification (Sanitary Registry). According to Decree 3075 of 1997, product registration is NOT required for:

  • Natural food products that have not been subject to any transformation process, such as grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, etc.
  • Animal-origin food products (chilled/frozen) that have not been subject to any transformation process.
  • Products used as raw materials by industry or the foodservice operators for food preparation.

A transformed product is defined by the Government of Colombia as one subject to processing, which results in a significant change to its internal structure.

The Colombian Ministry of Health, through Resolution 719 of 2015, set an official classification of food products for human consumption based on their risk to public health. Additionally, Resolution 2674 of 2013 establishes three types of product registrations based on the registered product risk to public health and sets the respective periods of validity:

  1. Product registrations for high-risk products are valid for five years.
  2. Product permits for intermediate-risk products are valid for seven years. 
  3. Product notifications for low-risk products are valid for 10 years.

It is highly recommended that the U.S. exporter applies for sanitary registration, otherwise, the importer will control the product in Colombia for the duration of the 10-year registration.

The INVIMA registration is valid only for the specifications included in the registration (e.g., product description and size). If another form or presentation of the same product is planned to be imported, the company needs to inform INVIMA in writing of the new product.

The INVIMA registration of processed foods requires: (1) completion of the registration form (2) Certificate of Legal Representation (3) a Certificate of Free Sale assuring that the products are authorized for human consumption in the United States. This certificate needs to be issued by a government (U.S. state, local or federal) public health authority. 

It should be noted that the Government of Colombia implemented The Hague Convention of October 5, 1961, with Law 455 of August 4, 1998, to facilitate import documentation. The above-listed required documents must carry an “apostille” stamp.  The “apostille” stamp is provided by different U.S. state authorities, including a notary or a State Secretary or Under Secretary.  This procedure replaced the notarization requirement formerly undertaken by the Colombian Embassy/Consulates in the United States and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogota.  A translator approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must translate these documents into Spanish.

Export Sanitary Certificates

Decree 539, issued by the MHSP in 2014, establishes food import requirements at ports of entry. This decree establishes that importers must submit a “sanitary certificate” for any batch or lot of “medium” or “high” risk food products imported into Colombia. This certificate must be issued by the food safety authority in the country of origin. For low risk products, this requirement is satisfied with certificates of free sale. On the other hand, products referred to as high risk such as meat, dairy, and fish/seafood must be accompanied by a sanitary certificate from USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), respectively. It should be noted that since May 1, 2017, ICA and INVIMA will only accept USDA-AMS sanitary certificates for dairy exports to Colombia.

Furthermore, Decree 539 of 2014 established that importers of processed and unprocessed food (except for unprocessed meat) classified as medium or high risk (Resolution 719 of 2015) must submit a “sanitary certificate” upon arrival in Colombia. This certificate must be issued by a competent food safety authority in the country of origin.

Resolution 719 of 2015 provided a list of over 160 food products and classified nearly 80 percent of them as medium or high risk, including canned fruits and vegetables, juices, frozen food, sodas, etc. This created multiple port delays and rejections in 2015 and 2016 since for most of these products there was no U.S. federal authority that could issue “sanitary certificates.”

Since May 1, 2017, dairy products produced in the United States and exported to Colombia must obtain a sanitary export certificate from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS). For dairy products imported into the United States and then exported to Colombia, exporters need to obtain “sanitary certificates” from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The following three firms are examples of companies with expertise in product registration:

SPI Americas


Address: Calle 105 A N° 14 – 76

Phone: (57 1) 620-4920

Bogotá, D.C. - Colombia


Ricardo Aristizabal Aristizabal and Rojas Abogados


Address: Carrera 11B No. 98-08 Oficina 202

Phone:(57 1) 601-3999

Bogotá, D.C. - Colombia

Triana Uribe & Michelsen  


Address: Calle 93B No. 12-48 P. 4

Phone: (+571) 601 96 60 - (+571) 621 58 10

Bogotá, D.C. - Colombia

Please be advised that this is not an exhaustive list, and this does not constitute a recommendation on our part of the mentioned firms.


Colombia requires country-of-origin labeling for processed food products. However, frozen vegetables are not classified as processed food and therefore, no country-of-origin labeling is required. Also, fresh fruit and vegetables do not require country of origin labeling. Product labeling information on imported processed products must be present at the point of retail sale. The responsibility for this labeling information rests with the importer, not the retailer. Many Colombian importers arrange for this information to be placed on the product by the exporting firm before it enters Colombia. Labels on processed food products must indicate the specific name of the product, ingredients in order of predominance, name, and address of manufacturer and importer, number of units, instructions for storage and usage (when required), and expiration date.

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the recent social unrest, motivated a rise in protectionism among Colombians, who seemed to be more willing to buy made-in Colombia products. Colombia Productiva (Productive Colombia), an entity from the Government, designed the strategy Compra Lo Nuestro (Buy Our Products) by developing a seal for local products.

The Colombian congress recently approved a law known as the “junk food law” to regulate front-of-pack nutritional labeling for food products. The law will be mandatory for local and imported products and its implementation will represent higher costs for producers and importers.

For additional information, including market analysis, trade events, and the products and services that the U.S. Commercial Service can provide to help you succeed in the Colombian market, please contact:

U.S. Embassy Bogotá
Julio Acero
Foods and Beverages Commercial Assistant
U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá contact:

+57 (313) 275-2635   

Key Contacts

USDA Foreign Agriculturas Service

National Institute for Food and Medicine Surveillance (Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos INVIMA)