Better international business information through a clear understanding of the global food and beverage industry.

Entering a New Foreign Market is not a Four Letter Word


It’s normal to have hesitations when determining whether or not to export your food products. In fact, we would be slightly worried if companies had no concerns and proceeded to make the leap of entering into a new market without meticulous planning or research. Unfortunately, the more common reality is that we see companies lose out on safe opportunities to expand internationally due to a four letter word – FEAR.

When business owners think of exporting, the fear of the unknown sinks in and becomes a roadblock, which can lead to no action or movement on the topic. Don’t let your company fall victim to inaction. Below are three common export fears we hear, and tips for how to overcome them, so that your company can begin to leave shore and soar to new markets.

  • Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency

    Being acutely aware of your target market’s culture, values, beliefs, perceptions, and food preferences is important. However, don’t let not knowing a foreign language hold your company back from developing a good opportunity. Most distributors and importers are fluent in English and are there to help you navigate cultural customs.We recommend finding similar topics of interest with your new market customers. We live in the information age now, and as a result more similar interests exist between cultures. From the music we enjoy to the types of food we can’t get enough of, common ground does exist. For example, did you know millennials in Bangkok love American BBQ and ice cream? It is a fun factoid and according to TripAdvisor, the #4 best restaurant to eat at in Bangkok is an American BBQ placed called the Smokin Pug BBQ restaurant.¹
  • Shipping and Document Requirements

    Determining how to ship your food, beverage or nutrition products to a new market can be overwhelming. Although you don’t have to do the shipping and documentation alone. We always recommend working with a Freight Forwarder. They will help you determine how to ship your products via air, sea, rail or a combination of the three. Your Freight Forwarder will also help you determine what documents are required for the country to which you are exporting. Common documents required to export food products include; Certificate of Health, Certificate of Origin and Certificate of Free Sale. Remember, let the experts help with the shipping and the documentation.
  • Determining Export Product Pricing

    It is important to understand the price per unit of your food product for the end foreign consumer. Once you know this price, you can determine if your company can compete on the grocery store shelf. When determining the landed consumer price, you will evaluate your total manufacturing costs and the added importer expenses, such as tariffs and value added taxes. Determining the right price for your product does require strategic expertise. That is why we at Athena Marketing International have developed a proprietary formulation to help food companies quickly determine their custom export product price. Upon determining the right price for the product, further market research on competition and market demand can also be provided.

The overall theme in regards to fear of exporting boils down to a company’s lack of knowledge and expertise in new markets. International expansion does require a methodical strategic approach, but keep in mind that success can be achieved with appropriate planning and the assistance of those who have substantial international experience.

When seeking international expert assistance, be sure to ask that entity what their hands on experience is in garnering export sales in your target market. Choosing the right expert to work with is vital to your international success!


  1. “10 Best Restaurants in Bangkok.” TripAdvisor, 02 Sept. 2016,

Toosum Exhibits its Products at the 2015 ANUGA trade show in Cologne, Germany

Toosum - ANUGA (final) 10-13-15

Toosum is exhibiting at the ANUGA trade show in Cologne, Germany. ANUGA is the world’s largest food and beverage trade show and is being held from October 10th to October 14th. This event showcases products in the Food & Beverage, Bakery, Beverage & Confectionery industries. Over 7,000 exhibitors from 100 countries bring the largest trading platform of the international Food and Beverage industry to life.

Toosum set out to create a 100-calorie, gluten-free, satisfying snack that tastes great and gives you all the healthy benefits you expect from the good foods you put in your body. Say “hello” to your new favorite snack! Each of Toosum’s delicious 100-calorie gluten-free oatmeal  bars is made with nutrient-dense (and certified gluten-free!) rolled oats, chia seeds, and other delicious ingredients straight from nature, all with benefits that go way beyond their good taste.

Toosum develops and markets 100-calorie, Gluten-Free oatmeal bars made in the USA. Our healthy oatmeal bars are also Non-GMO, low sugar, low fat and delicious tasting! Flavors include Blueberry/Greek Yogurt, Cranberry/Acai, Coconut/Banana, and Cherry/Plum.  Our 100-calorie gluten-free oatmeal bars are packed with anti-oxidants and fiber, preventing hunger and promoting weight loss. Visit us at ANUGA in Hall 02.2 Stand # B017!

The Rise of China’s Middle Class & Its Impact on U.S. Food & Beverage Suppliers

p01l9jmd_640_360The Asia-Pacific region will account for two-thirds of the world’s middle class by 2030.  Chinese will be the majority of this massive consumption.  Today China’s urban middle-class population alone, if considered as a country, is larger than the total U.S. population.  Rapid economic growth and a huge migration to urban centers is creating a middle-class with huge spending power.  China’s middle class will consume US $3.4 trillion of goods and services by 2022, about one-quarter of China’s GDP. 1

These middle-class, urban consumers are more willing to pay a premium for quality products, have a high level of trust in well-known brands and are more likely to spend more of their income on discretionary products such as food and beverages.  They are more global in their outlook and receptive to – even eager for – international brands. As these consumers become more mainstream, China will bear a remarkably similar resemblance to other developed international markets.

Another factor contributing to opportunities for U.S. food and beverage suppliers is China’s middle-class consumers born after the mid-1980’s (now younger than 30 years old).  These consumers were probably the only child in their families due to China’s one-child policy.  They are now more confident than their parents, happier to try new products, and regard expensive (imported) products as better products.  By 2020, 35% of total consumption in China is expected to come from these young consumers.

Another trend impacting food and beverage imports in China is the growth of the internet.  The online share of retail in China is now 8%, higher than it is in the United States.2 Internet users in China spend five to six times more hours online per week than Americans do.3  Food and beverage products purchased online are often delivered to Chinese homes the same day.  These “e-tailers” often accept cash payment, since credit cards are used infrequently in China.

Nonetheless, for U.S. food and beverage suppliers operating in China, there are significant barriers to entry and challenges.  China has fierce competition not only from maturing domestic companies but also competitors from nearly every other developed market.  There is also an opaque supply chain and a complex, inconsistent and ever-changing regulatory environment.   Food safety issues caused by supply chain problems is a huge risk to foreign food and beverage suppliers.

However, doing your homework in terms of market research and understanding the regulatory environment, willing to invest, and being persistent, can yield excellent results.  From 2009 to 2011, supermarket sales value in China rose 32.3% while sales of food, beverage and tobacco retailers rose 61.8%.4  Both internet and brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to import directly from the U.S.  Some sales channels in China do not require labeling imported products in Chinese, so suppliers can sell the same packaged products they sell in the U.S.

Most small- to medium-sized food and beverage suppliers need a China strategy, not simply for China but for the global market, as well. Selling in the world’s largest consumer market provides U.S. food and beverage suppliers with profits to use developing other markets, keen market insight, credibility, and internal expertise.

  1. The Rise of the Middle Class in China and its Impact on the Chinese and World Economies, Chapter 7, Dominic Barton
  2. A Pocket Guide to Doing Business in China, Gordon Orr, McKinsey & Co., October 2014
  3. All You Need to Know About Business in China, Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel, McKinsey & Co., April 2014
  4. The Ever-Challenging Chinese Landscape for Food and Beverage Firms, Kreab & Gavin Anderson, Hong Kong

U.S. Processed Food Exports: Growth & Future Outlook

U.S. Processed Food Historical Export Growth

Processed food exports set another record in 2014 with a 2% growth rate and sales exceeding $46 billion.[1] It was the 5th straight year of record growth.  Some food categories grew very rapidly, such as prepared dairy products at 232% growth.[2]  Not only the processed food industry, but also companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index are getting more global.  Last year foreign sales grew faster than U.S. sales for these companies.[3]

While Canada and Mexico are the largest buyers of U.S. processed food, with $13.4 and $6.2 billion worth of imports in 2014, respectively, Japan was close behind with $6.2 billion.  China imports $2 billion of U.S. processed food, followed by Korea with $1.8 billion.

Although U.S. processed food exports are high and growing rapidly, the European Union (EU) is the world’s leading food exporter with sales of $91 billion, twice as high as the U.S.  In fact, U.S. market share of total processed food exports has declined in the past 10 years due to strong EU growth and new entrants to food exports such as China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Trends Contributing to Export Growth

The main factors responsible for the fast growth of processed food exports are several, namely:

  1. Higher global demand
  2. High commodity prices lead to increased value
  3. Urbanization
  4. Middle-class growth, particularly in emerging markets
  5. E-commerce

In developing economies the rapid urbanization of workers from rural areas has been a boon for processed food exporters.  China’s urbanized population, only 40% a decade ago, is now 52%.  Japan’s city-slickers are now a staggering 92%.  These urbanized middle class will continue to stimulate demand for premium imported processed foods.

Rising incomes in developing economies is the main reason that the population of “middle class” consumers will increase from 1.8 billion in 2010 to 3.2 billion by 2020.[4]  Of this projected growth, 85% will come from Asia.  While middle class households in developed countries such as the U.S. and Europe will grow 8% by 2020, they will grow 54% in developing markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.[5]

Future Outlook

The megatrends highlighted above will continue to propel U.S. exports of processed foods for decades.  In addition, modernization of distribution channels, enhanced supply chain capabilities (including fresh/perishable and frozen), and improved market access such as lower import taxes, will all be favorable to U.S. processed food exporters.  Finally, the emergence of e-commerce has created significant opportunities for cross-border trade of U.S. processed foods.  Of the 600 million Internet users in China, half of them purchase goods on-line.  Many Chinese “e-tailers,” such as T-Mall and Yihaodian, sell U.S. processed foods on their websites.  Similar e-grocery platforms exist in Japan, the U.K., Brazil and other markets, making it easier for smaller U.S. food processors to compete against multi-nationals.

Euromonitor estimates the retail value of packaged foods will increase from $2.3 to $2.6 trillion over the next five years.[6] Much of this $316 billion increase will come in cross-border trade, resulting in greater opportunities for U.S. food processors with innovative products offering high value.  Now is an ideal time to develop or assess your company’s strategic export plans.

1 Food Export, March/April 2015
2 USDA, International Agriculture Trade Report, May 2014
3 Seattle Times, March 15, 2015, D3
4 “The Emerging Middle Class in Developing Countries,” OECD, Working Paper no. 285, January 2010
5 IHS Global insight
6 “Packaged Food,” Euromonitor International, 2015

Peter Guyer’s Top Tips for Successfully Exporting your Product

Peter Guyer was recently interviewed by Anderson Partners Advertising where he provided 7 tips for successful food product exporting:

  1. Comply with packaging regulations: Research the country’s packaging requirements that you are targeting.
  2. Write ingredients in the appropriate foreign language.
  3. Comply with import regulations: Make sure there are no ingredients that are prohibited—a lot of preservatives used in the US are prohibited in foreign countries. For more information, read the recently revised country requirements from the USDA.
  4. Best selling products include mass market items: potato chips, snack foods and meat products—products that are well-known in foreign countries.
  5. Products that are novel, innovative and new do well: The markets are smaller, therefore sales are lower but the growth rate is high.
  6. Europe is hot: They are just getting out of a lengthy recession and their buying power is coming back to where it was five years ago.
  7. Attend/Exhibit major international trade shows: Particularly in Europe—ANUGA Cologne and SIAL Paris. Guyer said Gulfood in the Middle East is a trade show you can’t miss. And, Asia has many major trade shows, but they are more segmented by categories within food and beverage.

View the full article at the Anderson Partners Advertising Blog »

AMI Profiled in Northwest Gold Coast

AMI was recently profiled in Northwest Gold Coast:

Peter Guyer and Susan TestaLocated on the sixth floor of the venerable Fourth Avenue Building in Seattle’s historic business district is a high energy, contemporary office that is home to a local small business that helps other area small businesses succeed in international markets. Athena Marketing International (AMI) is a ten year old company that specializes in helping US based food producers and manufacturers expand into foreign markets. Working throughout the office are friendly young professionals who move with purpose and focus and on display in the office are samples of new and developing food products.

About the owner

After graduating from Pomona College in Southern California, Peter Guyer, founder and owner of AMI, went to work in Southeast Asia in international trade. Then he returned to California where instead of going to law school, as at first expected, he went on to earn an MBA from the University of Southern California. Next he accepted a position with Nestlé S.A. based in Switzerland where he coordinated export sales to Asia. There he saw how Nestle Swiss sold 98% of its products globally. In time he became concerned that, although there are many great US based food manufacturers with great products, most simply don’t know how to market outside the US. Given that only 5% of the world population is in the US, this means that these companies are missing 95% of the consumer market. So in 2003 Peter took the bold moves of returning to the US, moving to Seattle, and starting a business (Athena Marketing International) — three major life changes at once. Now ten years later, when asked if he has any regrets about not going to law school, he smiles broadly and says, “No regrets. I love what I’m doing!”

View the full profile at Northwest Gold Coast »