Colombia - Country Commercial Guide
Processed Food and Beverages
Last published date:

*Data and information pulled from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s public Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports


Colombia is South America’s leading destination for U.S. agricultural exports, followed by Chile and Peru. In 2021, U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia were valued at $3.4 billion, which secured its position as Colombia’s top supplier of food and agricultural products with a 47 percent import market share. Colombia remains a net importer of many agricultural products. It 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. In November 2022, food-price inflation increased 27 percent from the prior year, the highest recorded year on year inflation in nearly two decades. As such, consumers are very sensitive to price, presenting challenges for the rebound of the food service sector. 

Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products: In 2021, consumer-oriented product imports from all suppliers increased 24 percent to USD 2.4 billion due to a strong economic rebound. In 2021, Colombian imports from the United States grew 30 percent to USD 788 million, followed by

Chile (USD 279 million) and Mexico (USD 231 million). Consumer-oriented products account for 26 percent of U.S. food and agricultural exports to Colombia.

Food Processing Industry: The Colombian food and beverage industry represents 28 percent of the country´s total manufacturing production by value. Colombia 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: Although formal retailers account for 60 percent of food distribution, traditional retail outlets are still the most common shopping format in Colombia. Hard discounters that offer good-quality products at reasonable prices have benefited by responding to consumer trends. E-commerce is also prevalent in this sector thanks to rapid digital adoption among Colombians. Food Retail Industry GAIN Report

Food Service Industry: The Colombian food service industry is still rebuilding from the mandatory 6-month lockdown in 2020 which resulted in a 37 percent decline in the Colombian GDP for lodging and restaurants. The sector is expected to recover at a slow pace, reaching pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, mostly driven by the higher participation of women in the labor force, resulting in a stronger incentive to dine out and/or utilize food delivery 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. Please see second bullet under Trade Barriers section below for information on Colombia’s sodium and sugar tax to promote healthy eating habits. 


Hot Tea: Although coffee is still the dominant hot beverage, 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 both hot and cold 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 successful because of the increasing demand for elaborate products. This has been driven by the growing presence of value-added products in response to the taste of consumers.

Alcoholic Drinks: Women are becoming an important niche market for alcoholic beverages, demanding more sophisticated drinks and flavors.  Beer is the highest-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 are still 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




Pork & pork products




Soup & other food preparations




Distilled spirits




Processed vegetables




Fresh fruit




Bakery goods, cereals & pasta




Mfg. tobacco




Dog & Cat Food




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.

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

Products Present in the Market which have Good Sales Potential: dog and cat food; distilled spirits; beef and beef products; fresh and processed vegetables; and dairy products.

Top Consumer-Oriented Products Imported from the World: dairy products; pork and pork products; soup and other food preparations; distilled spirits; and processed vegetables.

Top Consumer-Oriented Products Imported from the United States: pork and pork products; dairy products; poultry meat and products; dog and cat food; and food preparations.

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 all Colombian standards and regulations to avoid clearance delays at ports of entry.

U.S. competitors for raw materials include MERCOSUR, Canada, and the European Union. These countries/markets also have free trade agreements with Colombia. The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) entered into force in May 2012. This comprehensive trade agreement eliminated tariffs and other barriers to goods and services. Although over 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia are classified as duty-free, the CTPA provides a duty-free tariff-rate-quota (TRQ) on certain goods that operate on a first come/first serve basis.

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 2: Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Exporters



The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) 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 to compete with local food processing companies, guaranteeing a consistent and uniform supply of products year-round.

The growth of tourism 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.

Cold chain logistics 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.

Trade Barriers for Food Products

On November 9, 2020, Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MINHEALTH) set mandatory maximum sodium content limits for 59 processed food categories ranging from snacks to processed meats and dairy products. Resolution 2013 introduces a new conformity certificate requirement and reduction goals that went into effect in November 2022. More information is available at Update on Colombia Sodium Resolution 2013 of 2020 for Processed Foods GAIN Report

On June 16, 2021, MINHEALTH established the technical regulation for nutrition and front-of-pack labeling requirements for packaged food for human consumption. This regulation was updated on December 12, 2022, and entered into force in June, 2023. On July 30, 2021, the Colombian Congress enacted Law 2120 of 2021, widely known in the country as the “Junk Food” Bill. This legislation is expected to lead to further changes to current labeling requirements for food products in Colombia. More information is available at Colombia Issues Nutrition and Front of Pack Labeling Requirements for Processed Foods GAIN Report. See also Colombia Issues New Resolution on Nutrition and Front of Pack Labeling Requirements for Processed Foods_Bogota_Colombia_CO2022-0026 (2).pdf

On December 13, 2022, the Colombian Congress enacted Law 2277 of 2022, by which it set healthy taxes to sugar drinks and some processed food depending on their content of sodium, added sugar or fat, such as candies, bakery products, sausages, among others. Healthy taxes will start to apply to processed food on November 1st, 2023, with a rate of 10%, and they will increase to 15% in 2024 and 20% in 2025. In the case of sugar drinks, healthy taxes will start to apply on November 1st, 2023, with a fix value depending on the content of sugar, which will increase in 2024 and 2025.

According to Colombian Resolution 2674 of 2013, exporters of retail-ready processed meat products must submit a Certificate of Free Sale issued by a national authority when registering their products for export, despite many U.S. states no longer issuing this type of documentation.

More information on Colombia’s policy issues affecting U.S. product competitiveness is available at FAIRS.

Regulations and Requirements

Product Registration: The best approach to enter the Colombian market is through distributors. 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 food service 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:
  • Product registrations for high-risk products are valid for five years.
  • Product permits for intermediate-risk products are valid for seven years. 
  • 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) 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 2478 of 2018, issued by the MHSP in 2018, establishes food import requirements at ports of entry. This decree establishes that importers must submit a “sanitary certificate” for any batch or lot of “high” risk food products imported into Colombia. This certificate must be issued by the food safety authority in the country of origin. For “medium” and  “low” risk products, a form defined by INVIMA must be filled out at the moment to request the Sanitary Inspection Certificate, registering the information that allows the traceability of the products.  . 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.

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 as “high” risk products  dairy products, meat and meat products, seafood/fish, egg products, and some fruits and vegetables and sauces, 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. For non-animal derived products, INVIMA may consider, in the absence of a U.S. competent authority that could issue a sanitary certificate, a state-issued certificate of free sale and a letter from the manufacturer describing the shipment (lot numbers, expiration dates, production dates, and other traceability information). Although this informal agreement with INVIMA has resulted in fewer shipments being delayed at ports, it does not have a regulatory basis.

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) 601-620-4920

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia

Ricardo Aristizabal Aristizabal and Rojas Abogados


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

Phone:(57) 601-601-3999

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia

Triana Uribe & Michelsen  


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

Phone: (+57) 601-601 96 60 - (+57) 601-621 58 10

Bogota, 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.

Labeling: 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. Please, refer to FAIRS and 

Key Contacts

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

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. Commercial Service Bogota contact:

Commercial Assistant Julio Acero  

Email: Julio.Acero@trade. gov

Tel: 57 1 275 2635