10 reasons to start selling in the B2B food export industry

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The pandemic has disrupted many industries. The B2B food export industry has experienced many ups and downs due to different supply chain shortages, global lockdowns, and other COVID-related issues.

Now that the world is settling into a “new normal,” many new opportunities are emerging in the B2B food industry. The rapid digitalization of B2B trade has made it easier for food wholesalers to reach buyers from around the world.

In this article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about B2B food exporting through and after the pandemic. We will talk about some challenges and uncertainties the B2B food export industry faced over the past year before we dive into some business opportunities in the industry.

Then, we will discuss the benefits of selling on a B2B eCommerce platform and how Alibaba.com supports B2B food exporters.

Uncertainties in the food industry

The COVID-19 pandemic sent the world into a spiral between the end of 2019 and 2020. Many people believed that this virus could be contained within a couple of months, but it lasted well over a year.

This pandemic has created significant uncertainties in the food industry, including:

  • Different regions continue to go in and out of lockdowns intended to contain the virus
  • Many regions saw significant decreases in food and beverage exports in 20201
  • Some types of food saw an unexpected increase in demand during the pandemic2
  • Employees’ health became a major concern in the food and beverage industry
  • The pandemic caused consumers to spend more money on groceries than dining and food services3
  • Many retail grocery stores had trouble keeping up with the global demand for food at the beginning of the pandemic when people began to panic buy

These trends were quite unprecedented, but fortunately, things seem to be leveling out as the effects of the pandemic subside.

Challenges B2B food export faced during the pandemic

The uncertainties caused by the pandemic have created significant challenges in the wholesale food industry. Since the spread of COVID-19 caused shutdowns, both buyers and sellers experienced disruptions in their normal operations.

Here are a few of the most notable challenges that SMEs in the B2B food export industry faced as a result of the pandemic.

Factory shutdowns

Many factories have shut down for different periods of time over the course of the pandemic. Some of these shutdowns were related to factory-wide COVID-19 outbreaks, and some were mandated by local authorities.

When factories are shut down, it makes it impossible for food production to carry on as normal, which contributes to shortages.

Supply chain shortages

Since factories shut down and other operations related to food production halted, there have been food supply chain shortages throughout the pandemic. These supply chain shortages came on at different times over the course of the past year since different regions produce different types of food.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was unclear whether COVID-19 could be spread through food, so food safety precautions had to be seriously assessed.4 This also contributed to supply chain shortages for a short time period.

Fortunately, the pandemic did not cause any major food security issues that left people hungry on a global scale. Even though most parts of the world are getting back to normal, there are still some isolated supply chain shortages.

Restaurant shutdowns

Restaurants shut down or shifted to takeout only in many parts of the world. These altered operations lasted for different amounts of time in different areas since most followed local mandates.

These shifts and shutdowns affected the demand for different food products and altered the way that consumers buy food.5 Although this directly affects the B2C market rather than the B2B market, it all comes back to food wholesalers.

With grocery stores becoming busier and restaurants taking a major hit, B2B food suppliers saw a shift in their clientele.6

Shipping disruptions

There were some abnormalities with shipping throughout the pandemic. Both air freight and ocean freight encountered supply issues and other disruptions.

Ocean freight saw a spike in demand which caused issues since there was a finite supply of ships. There was a heightened demand on trade routes going from Asia to North America, and ships could not get back quickly enough to take their next load of cargo.

Airfreight, on the other hand, faced similar issues. There was not enough air cargo space to meet the shipping demands of global trade. Travel restrictions greatly reduced the number of commercial flights at different points throughout the pandemic. Since most air freight is carried on passenger planes, these government rules and interventions affected more than just the tourism industry.

Price increases

The laws of supply and demand tell us that when the supply dips and the demand remains the same, prices go up. With scarcity and decreases in the supply of food products throughout the pandemic, prices have increased.7

Opportunities in B2B food supplying after the pandemic

Thanks to the hard work of scientists and medical professionals, major breakthroughs have been made for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and treating people who are affected by the virus. This is allowing the world to return to some sense of normal.

As restaurants open back up at normal capacity and the foodservice industry begins to flourish once again, new opportunities are presenting themselves for food wholesalers.

If you are interested in becoming a B2B food supplier, it is important to find food exports that can be easily produced in your region.

Top countries and regions for different food exports

Almost all food comes from some sort of agriculture. Even if it is processed and manufactured, ingredients from plants and animals are almost always involved.

Since different parts of the world have unique environments, climates, and eco-systems, different regions produce and export foods that were farmed on their land.

Let’s take a look at some of the top countries and regions for different food exports.

Wine

Wine is among the most popular beverages in the world. It is a staple in many cuisines in different cultures. Winemaking requires an appropriate climate for both growing grapes and fermenting and aging the wine. The ideal winemaking climate is temperate, not too hot, and not too cold.

The top wine producers in the world are France, Italy, Spain, and the United States.8 In fact, these four countries make up about half of the wine production in the entire world.

Coffee

Coffee is another one of the world’s most popular beverage products in many cuisines. Coffee plants require a very specific climate to grow. Moderate sunlight and an ample amount of water are a must, and these plants die if there is frost.

Parts of South America, North Africa, and Southeast Asia have the ideal climates for growing coffee. That’s why Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia are the top coffee producers in the world.9

Seafood

In the past, seafood production was limited to regions with access to large water sources. However, fish farming is now more prevalent than ever.

Asia is the largest seafood exporting region in the world in terms of both capture and aquaculture. The top countries for seafood production include China, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam. China leads the way by a significant margin, producing nearly four times the amount of Indonesia, which clocks in at number two in seafood production.10

Seafood is one of the top agricultural items in the Middle East. Middle Eastern countries, including UAE, Turkey, and Israel, are all known for their fish production.11

Produce

Produce, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, is grown all around the world. Different regions have different specialties since each type of product requires different growing conditions.

For example, Ecuador and other South American countries lead in banana exporting12, and the Netherlands and France lead in potato exporting.13

Some other top exporters of produce include:

  • China and Chile lead in grape exports14
  • Costa Rica exports 44.4% of pineapples15
  • Mexico leads in tomato exporting16
  • Spain is the top producer of citrus fruits17
  • China and the Netherlands lead in onion exporting18
  • Poland leads in mushroom exporting19
  • China produces over 70% of the garlic in the world20
  • China and New Zealand are the world’s top kiwi producers21

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