Colombia - 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: 2019-10-13

The information below is extracted from the USDA FAS GAIN Report: CO1903 (3/29/2019)- “Colombian Market Continues Offering Opportunities to U.S. Exporters”
Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products: Colombia’s total imports of consumer-oriented products grew 9.7 percent in 2018 to USD 1.89 billion.  The United States is Colombia’s top source for consumer-oriented products, with 2018 imports up 13.7 percent to USD 650 million. Colombia’s next largest sources for consumer-oriented products are Chile (USD 242 million) and Mexico (USD 213 million). Consumer-oriented products account for 22 percent of the distribution of U.S. agricultural trade to Colombia. 

Table 16: Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products, 2018

United States














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 increased market share and continue opening outlets throughout the country, offering wide private label portfolios cheaper than grocery chains. For more information, please see the Retail GAIN Report. Food Processing Industry: Colombia is a net importer of many food products and ingredients and trade opportunities abound. There is a growing domestic demand for higher quality confectionery products. 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 Service Industry: The restaurant and food service sector are expected to expand as a consequence of growing incomes, higher participation of women in the labor force, and more demands on household time, resulting in a stronger incentive to dine out or order home delivery food services. Colombians’ preferences for home delivery foods are roasted chicken, hamburgers, and pizza. Restaurant chains are expected to perform better than independent, local restaurants. For more information, please see the Food Service GAIN Report.

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 expa.nsion 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, generating an increased demand for value-added and premium products that are not generally regarded as essential. 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 set to rise by 5.6 percent in 2019, after an estimated growth of 11 percent in 2018. However, over the rest of the forecast period to 2023, BMI expects growth to return to stronger levels, averaging 7.4 percent a year.
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. However, with Colombia being the largest milk producer in the Andean region, there is strong export potential for the milk sector. 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.  

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 whiskey is the United Kingdom, although consumer interest in U.S. whiskeys and bourbons is growing. 2018 alcoholic beverages' performance was affected by a new tax structure for these products, affecting consumer decisions.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Table 17: Quick Facts CY 2018 






2018/2017 Change (%)

Chestnuts, fresh or dried, shelled




Prepared or preserved meat offal or blood of any animal








Mushrooms, fresh or chilled,




Beans, raw, cooked in boiling water, frozen




Meat, swine, hams, shoulders, bone-in, fresh or chilled




Tongues of bovine animals, edible, frozen




Vermouth/grape wine flavored with plants  




Nutmeg, neither crushed nor ground




Dried wood ear mushrooms, whole, cut, sliced, broken or in powder, but not further prepared






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.

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

Table 18:


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



Beef and beef products


Chewing gum



Liqueurs and cordials

Table 19: Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Exporters 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 the needs of buyers and consumer trends;
•    Use consolidation when exporting small amounts of the 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.




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.


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 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: 

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 of 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 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


Address: Calle 105 A N° 14 – 76

Phone: (57 1) 620-4920

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia

Ricardo Aristizabal Aristizabal and Rojas Abogados


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

Phone:(57 1) 601-3999

Bogota, D.C. - Colombia

Triana Uribe & Michelsen  


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 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, a number of units, instructions for storage and usage (when required), and expiration date.

Web Resources
U.S. Commercial Service Bogota contact: Commercial Assistant Julio Acero   
Tel: 57 1 275 2635 

Key Contacts 

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

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