Over the past year, the global food and beverage export industry has faced some unprecedented challenges. However, as things are returning to normal, opportunities are arising for food and beverage exporters from around the world. Exporters from the United States of America are no exception.
In this post, we’re going to discuss food and beverage exports from the United States. We will take a look at the industry as a whole before we review the top 15 food and beverage exports from the United States.
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The sector made up of food, agriculture, and related industries contributed to 5.2% of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.1 While 5% may seem insignificant at first glance, recognizing that this translates to a whopping $1.109 trillion shows the magnitude of this industry.
The food and beverage industry in the United States is quite unique. The country is spread over a significant amount of land with many Most food and beverage products are based on agriculture.
In addition to the regular circumstances of the industry, there are currently some other factors that have shaken things up. The pandemic has caused a slew of issues, and as things get better, new opportunities will continue to present themselves.
That said, let’s explore some of the current issues and opportunities in exporting food and beverages from the United States.
Throughout the pandemic, the way that many consumers purchase food has changed. Budgets have shifted from purchasing food at restaurants to purchasing food from grocery stores. The food industry has also seen shifts towards “healthier” products.2
Although wholesalers and exporters aren’t selling to consumers directly, consumer behavior controls the demand among retailers. Food exporters can take advantage of these shifts by making their products accessible to the grocery retailers that are trying to meet the consumers’ demands.
Most states throughout the U.S. have lifted COVID-19 restrictions, so most factories are free to operate as normal. Now that the vaccination is easily accessible, most factories don’t have to worry about shutting down in the event of an outbreak. This is a definite advantage over other countries that are still enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.
Something interesting about the food and beverage export industry in the United States is that it is propelled by genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Crops and animals are genetically manipulated and bred to create “better” products.
While GMOs help food manufacturers to optimize their production processes and create a larger supply, there is some skepticism on how healthy these foods are. Some scientists believe that there could be negative long-term effects of GMOs. Since GMOs have been around for a relatively short amount of time, there aren’t enough studies to support whether they are truly safe.
Some countries are against GMOs and are pushing to ban them. For example, 19 of the 27 countries in the European Union have voted against them.3 This limits the countries that U.S. exporters can sell to if they use GMOs in their products.
The United States is currently facing another unique challenge. Recent shifts in the labor market have caused operational disruptions for businesses that pay low wages. Unfortunately, factories and other parts of the food and beverage supply chain often fall into this category.
While this is not specific to the United States, another major challenge in this industry is the perishability of food. Since many types of food are perishable, they require special shipping conditions. Some foods require climate control so that they don’t spoil in transit, and others simply have a very short shelf life.
The United States produces a wide range of food exports, ranging from raw ingredients to processed materials. This variety is possible due to the diverse climates and landscapes throughout the country that make different types of agriculture possible.
That said, let’s take a look at the top 15 food and beverage exports from the United States.4
Soybeans are the largest food and beverage export from the United States. In fact, soybeans also fall into the United States’ top 10 exports across all industries.5
Soybeans are primarily grown in the upper mid-west states6, and they are used to creating a variety of food products.
Corn is another top export from the U.S., and the circumstances of the abundance of this crop are quite interesting.
Since 1995, the U.S. Government has subsidized over $116.6 billion worth of corn crops.7 Of course, corn is not the only crop that the government has subsidized, but it has caused some interesting trends in the food industry over the years.
For example, the surplus of corn over the years has led to a rise in the production of high fructose corn syrup. This, in turn, is used to produce sweets and “junk food,” like soda, cookies, candy, canned fruit, and more.
Corn is certainly exported in its natural state, but it is also very much present in many of the processed products that Americans consume and export, as well.
Nuts are a major agricultural export from the U.S. These include tree nuts, such as almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.
The United States actually dominates the global nut market and primarily exports nuts to Europe and Asia (India and China).8
Wheat is another one of the top exported goods from the United States. Wheat can be exported in its natural state, or it can be milled to make flour. Like corn, wheat is heavily subsidized.
There are different types of wheat grown throughout the United States. Each type of wheat has a different growing season, so the different types of wheat can be grown in different regions throughout the country.9
Pork is one of the top meats produced in the U.S., and in 2019, nearly a third of pork produced in the country was exported.10 It is estimated that the pork industry contributes around $23.4 billion to the U.S. GDP.11
The United States is known as one of the top poultry and egg producers in the world. This includes chickens, turkeys, and broilers.12
The U.S. is known for producing large chickens, and many suspect that this has to do with the use of antibiotics and hormones. However, more and more regulations are being developed to steer farms away from using antibiotics on their flocks.13
Food oils are a huge export from the United States. The top food oil that is produced in the U.S. is soybean oil. Most people don’t recognize the name “soybean oil” since it is most commonly labeled as “vegetable oil.”
Beef is another major meat export in the United States. Farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri raise the most beef cattle in the entire country.14
Cereal grains are huge cash crops in the United States. Some of the top cereal grains include sorghum, barley, and oats. These grains are sometimes sold in their raw state, or they are milled to create a variety of other products.
Dairy is another major export in the United States. Typically, this refers to cow milk products, but sometimes, eggs fall into the dairy category, as well. Over the course of the last year, dairy production in the U.S. has been booming, which was a pleasant surprise considering disruptions caused by COVID-19.15
Every year, the United States exports half of the rice that it produces.16 The rice industry in the United States is known to create jobs throughout many rural areas, which is definitely a bonus if this is the sort of food export business that you are looking to create.
Different vegetables are grown throughout the U.S. and are exported around the world. Some of the top vegetable exports in the United States include tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and carrots.17
Fruits are another major cash crop in the U.S. Some of the top fruits produced in the U.S. include grapes, kiwi, strawberries, peaches, and nectarines.18
Fish and shellfish are very important exports from the United States.
More than half of the states are landlocked, so seafood production is limited to those who have access to the ocean or another great body of water. Fish farming is also a possibility, but most fish farms in the U.S. are actually located in states with ocean access.19
Seafood producers also have to consider geography and climate. For example, cold water lobster can only be caught in northern states, whereas warm water lobsters can only be found in southern states.
Baked goods, like bread and other processed treats, are major exports from the United States. This is a bit different from many of the other exports we’ve discussed since there is a little bit more flexibility on where these can be manufactured.
Of course, you’ll need access to some agricultural goods, but baked goods manufacturers can set up shop wherever they would like. Climate and geography are less of an issue, so you have some flexibility on where you set up your headquarters.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the U.S. Government organization that regulates the food and beverage industry. It determines what foods can and cannot be sold in the United States.
Compared to other food regulations and organizations throughout the world, such as the EU’s General Food Law, the FDA is really quite lenient. There is a shortlist of food additives that the FDA bans, and it can be found on their website.20
When it comes to exporting, the FDA’s guidance is simple. It says “If you export food, it is your responsibility to: Follow U.S. laws and regulations [and] follow the requirements of the countries to which you export.”21
Some international buyers may request an Export Certificate from the FDA. This type of certificate simply states that the product meets the current requirements set in place.
We’ve taken a broad look at the food and beverage export industry in the United States, but you likely have a few additional questions.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about the U.S. food and beverage industry.
The largest trade partner of the United States is Canada. China, Mexico, the European Union (EU), and Japan are also among the top five trade partners.22
California exports the most food in the United States. Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota are also top food exporters.23
Yes, the U.S. government does subsidize agriculture.24 If you are considering getting into farming and food production in the United States, it is a good idea to look into grants and subsidies available to kick-start your business.
Of all the states, Alaska exports the most fish. Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Maine are also top producers.25
Opportunities are arising in the U.S. food and beverage export industry. If you are looking to start a business in the industry, you’d benefit from the support of a B2B eCommerce marketplace, like Alibaba.com.
Alibaba.com offers all the tools that exporters need to grow and scale their businesses. These tools include smart product listing, demand forecasting, platform analytics, communication management, auto-translation, and more.
Another major feature of Alibaba.com is Trade Assurance. This program guarantees that buyers will receive the products that they ordered within a predetermined time frame. If something goes wrong with the order, Alibaba.com will issue a full refund. Programs like this make Alibaba.com the preferred platform for many, and with over 17 million active buyers, you’ll never fall short on leads.
Ready to kick-start or grow your food exporting business? Sign up for Alibaba.com today, and start selling in no time.