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: 2021-11-08

Overview

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

Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products: In 2020, Colombia’s imports of consumer-oriented products from all suppliers declined 8.5 percent to $1.9 billion, due to the pandemic and changing consumer habits. However,2021 consumer-oriented product levels are expected to return to their pre-pandemic levels and may even set a new annual export record. In 2020, Colombian imports from the United States 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.

Table 16: Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products, 2020

United States

33%

Chile

13%

Mexico

10%

Brazil

6%

Peru

4%

Other

34%

Food Processing Industry: Colombia is a net importer of many food products and ingredients. There is a growing domestic demand for higher quality confectionary products.  Additionally, the Colombian fats and oils sector imports unrefined soybean oil, sunflower oil, and other oils to meet industrial demand. The milling, bakery, and starches sectors have benefited from innovation in packaging, flavors, and healthier ingredients. Bread consumption has decreased due to low carbohydrate, “healthy eating” trends that have marginally changed food eating habits.

Food Retail Industry: Western style, large supermarkets are part of a noteworthy retail transformation in the last decade with major domestic and international grocery chains opening new stores across Colombia’s major cities. Discount stores have also increased market share and continue to open outlets throughout the country, offering wide private label portfolios cheaper than grocery chains. For more information, please see Retail GAIN Report.

Food Service Industry: COVID-19 has created challenges for retailers, food service, and the food industry as mandatory isolation policies impacted consumer purchasing patterns. Delivery services and online commerce have become the best option for consumers to buy  food and sanitary staples. The food industry has joined e-commerce initiatives to guarantee product supply. Restaurants have adapted toward offering easy-to-deliver menus and becoming more customer oriented. Colombians’ preferences for home delivery foods include roasted chickens, hamburgers, and pizzas. Restaurant chains are expected to perform better than independent, local restaurants. Applications, such as Rappi and Domicilios.com, provide opportunities for smaller restaurants to provide delivery options to consumers.

Colombia is a growing market for value-added, processed, and packaged food products. This growth is partly due to the expansion of mass grocery retailers with chilled and frozen storage facilities. Also, producers are set to benefit from further retail expansion beyond the largest four cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Barranquilla).

Middle-to-high-income consumers are showing a greater preference for convenience products. The prepared food market is increasingly being driven by health and wellness trends. With health consciousness on the rise, demand has increased for value-added and premium products. At the same time, the expansion of private labels offers significant growth opportunities for the low-income consumer segment.

Food Consumption: Although lower commodity prices will continue to weigh on the Colombian economy, robust growth in food consumption (retail sales of food and drink, excluding alcoholic drinks) is nonetheless expected in the coming years.

According to Business Monitor International (BMI), food sales are expected to grow to an average of 4 percent during the next five years (2021 to 2026).

Processed Food

Confectionary:  Sales of non-essential products such as chocolate have recorded some of the biggest increases in Colombia over the past few years, in line with rising disposable incomes. The confectionery sector benefits from the fact that over half of Colombia’s population is below the age of 30. As in other markets, confectionery sales in Colombia are influenced by health and wellness trends, which is reflected in new products that are marketed as low-sugar and fat-free alternatives to traditional confectionery. More multinational investment is expected in the sector over the coming years, which will also support volume sales through the introduction of new products.

Dairy: Domestic production is substantial, accounting for the bulk of local consumption. Currently, local producers account for around 97 percent of demand in Colombia, with this dominance expected to remain for the foreseeable future. Exports currently account for only a small proportion of total production. In addition, Colombia does not produce a wide variety of cheeses, and there is potential for imports from the U.S. as Colombians’ food preferences become more global.

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. 

Beverages

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 (hot) 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 increasing demand for sophisticated products. This increased demand has been driven by the growing presence of value-added products in response to a change in consumers’ taste.

Alcoholic Drinks: Women are becoming an important market for alcoholic beverages, demanding more variety for drinks and flavors. Per capita, beer is the most highly demanded alcoholic beverage with per capita consumption totaling about 44 liters per person 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 produced exclusively 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.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Imports of Consumer – Oriented Products (US billion): $1.9

Top 10 Main Consumer Oriented Retail Foods Imported by Colombia:

Description

2019

2020

Change

Dairy products

$244

$284

17%

Soup & other food preparations

$279

$224

-20%

Fresh fruit

$165

$162

-2%

Pork & pork products

$236

$158

-33%

Bakery goods, cereals & pasta

$118

$109

-8%

Mfg. tobacco

$84

$108

29%

Processed vegetables

$112

$107

-4%

Distilled spirits

$101

$95

-6%

Poultry meat & products (ex. eggs)

$114

$90

-21%

Wine & related products

$67

$71

6%

Units: USD million

Opportunities

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 increasing in popularity, and retailers are searching for the best suppliers.

The following product categories represent the major export opportunities and emerging opportunities for U.S. food products with zero duties  entering Colombia:

Table 18:

Consumer-Oriented

Mixes and doughs

Healthy food products

Infant foods

Uncooked pasta

Pork and pork products

Yogurt (up to quota)

Buttermilk (up to quota)

Turkey meat

Prepared tomato groups

Prepared bean products

Dried mushrooms

Fresh fruits

Wine

Vermouth

Beef and beef products

Nuts

Chewing gum

Cinnamon

Whiskey

Liqueurs and cordials

Success Tips for Market Entry

  • Competition is based on quality, price and service.
  • Innovative marketing strategies are imperative in order 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 needs of buyers and consumer trends.
  • Use consolidation when exporting small amounts of product.
  • Many Colombian companies’ representatives visit trade shows in the United States, such as Natural Products ExpoWest, 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 19: Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Exporters

Advantages

 Challenges

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 product in South America.

U.S. products will have to maintain the 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 a growth in processed foods.

Internal transportation costs from ports of entry are costly due 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 is deficient in Colombia.

U.S. exporters should build consumer confidence based on high quality supply chain.

Increasing consumer preference for local products especially dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat as a result of isolation policies implemented by GOC due to COVID-19.

Regulations and Requirements

Product Registration: In general, 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 (Product’s Sanitary Registration). 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 and 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
  • 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 apply for sanitary registration and is the registration holder.  Having the Colombian importer as the product registration’s holder will limit the exporter’s ability to update the product registration with INVIMA within the registration period.

The INVIMA registration is valid only for the product 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 product registration holder must request INVIMA for a registration update.

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. 

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.  This 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.” FAS-Bogota was able to have INVIMA provide an alternative way of meeting this new “sanitary requirement.” For non-animal derived products (of low, medium, or high risk), 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 delayed at ports, it does not have a regulatory basis. As such, FAS-Bogota hopes to have the Government of Colombia modify Decree 539 to formalize the agreement reached with INVIMA.

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

Email: arincon@spiamericas.com

Address: Calle 105 A N° 14 – 76

Phone: (57 1) 620-4920

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia


Ricardo Aristizabal Aristizabal and Rojas Abogados

Email: ricardo.aristizabal@aristizabal-law.com    

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

Phone:(57 1) 601-3999

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia

 

Triana Uribe & Michelsen  

Email: tum@tumnet.com 

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

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

Bogota, D.C. – Colombia

Please be advised that this is not an exhaustive list and this does not constitute an endorsement.

Labeling: Colombia requires country-of-origin labeling for processed food products. However, frozen vegetables are not classified as a 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.

Key Contacts

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

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. Embassy Bogota

Julio Acero

Processed Foods and Beverages Commercial Assistant

Julio.Acero@trade.gov 

+57 (601) 636-6772

https://www.trade.gov/colombia