This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 9/30/2019
In 2018, Canada was the largest export market for U.S. agricultural exports, totaling US$20.7 billion, and accounted for 14 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports. Consumer-oriented agricultural exports account for the largest share, at $16.1 billion and approximately 80 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports to Canada. Some of the top consumer-oriented export categories include prepared foods, fresh and processed vegetables, fresh and processed fruit, meat and meat products, snack foods, non-alcoholic beverages, chocolate and cocoa products, condiments and sauces, coffee, wine, beer, and pet food. In 2018, the United States imported US$23 billion worth of agricultural products from Canada.

By far, Canada is the largest destination for U.S. exports of high-value agricultural products, with nearly a 25 percent market share in 2018 and a value of US$16.1 billion. Consumer-oriented agricultural products are foods typically sold directly in supermarkets and used in restaurants. These high-value exports support tens of thousands of jobs in the United States, and many of the suppliers are small and medium-sized businesses.
Most U.S. agricultural products have entered Canada duty-free since 1989 under NAFTA (and the preceding U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement). Major exceptions are the supply managed sectors, including dairy, chicken, turkey, and eggs.

Canada: Total Agricultural Sector Production Data
Local Production*45,92047,84247,87548,000
Total Market Size36,13136,88136,60937,000
US$ millions
*Based on farm cash receipts for raw. BoC annual exchange rate for 2015-2017
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Leading Sub-Sectors
Consumer-oriented food products in Retail and Food Service

Trade with Canada is facilitated by proximity, common culture, language, similar lifestyle pursuits, and the ease of travel for business and pleasure. Canada's wide ethnic diversity and high level of consumer disposable income provide broad food marketing opportunities. Familiarity with and confidence in Canadian-based U.S. chains (hotels, restaurants, and fast food) have helped to increase the demand for high-value U.S. foods. Significant gains continue in the Canadian market for U.S. consumer-ready foods and food service foods.

Based on current market trends, the sectors below are considered the best prospects for U.S. exports of food and agricultural products to Canada. Although the strong U.S. dollar vis-à-vis the Canadian dollar will likely hinder growth to some extent, consumer-oriented product imports in the retail food and food service industries are projected to remain strong in 2019.

Retail food markets are a significant channel for the import of U.S. consumer-oriented products. The Canadian retail market amounts to US$ 85 billion, including alcoholic beverages sales. Grocery stores and supermarkets, mass merchandisers, and warehouse clubs are the primary recipients of these products.

Food service imports of consumer-oriented products are also an important channel. This sector falls into three categories: Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Institutional. Restaurants are the most significant of the three, generating 80 percent of food service sales and 4 percent of Canada’s GDP. Restaurants Canada, an association representing the restaurant and food service industry, reported the industry grew by 4.9 percent in 2018 with total sales for the year of US$65 billion in food sales and an additional $18 billion in alcohol sales, a total of $83 billion. By 2020 food sales are forecasted to grow by 3.9%. There are nearly 95,000 restaurants across Canada, with more than half located in Ontario and Quebec. As shown in the tables below, fresh fruit, processed fruit and vegetables, red meats (including processed meats), and fresh vegetables are key sectors for the Canadian food landscape, and more than half are imported from the United States.

Processed Fruit and Vegetables
Processed fruit and vegetables are sold in a wide range of product formats such as mixed frozen vegetables, ready-to-heat, stir fry, and French fries. Canadian food manufacturers increasingly incorporate frozen fruits and vegetables in ready-to-serve meals including TV dinners, pizza, and other entrées. Consumer demand is growing for convenient products, and this factor will continue to drive the development of a wide range of ready-to-cook and -eat fruit and vegetable products that benefit U.S. sales. Canadian manufacturers are also highly dependent on fresh fruit and vegetable imports used in processing; growth in manufacturing will increase demand for these products as well. In 2018, the total market size increased by 7 percent compared to 2017, which is attributed to the increasing shift away from more heavily processed towards products with little processing. Frozen fruit witnessed the fastest growth in 2018, with a four percent increase in retail current value terms. The demand for processed fruit and vegetables is expected to remain strong in 2019 with two percent growth projected.
 2016201720182019: estimated
Local Production*5,3575,4825,99956,299
Total Market Size5,5115,5865,9796,123
US$ millions
*Based on Stats Can NAICS for fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing. BoC annual exchange rate for 2016-2018
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Fresh Fruit
U.S. exports are projected to remain steady because of growing demand and limited Canadian domestic fresh fruit production. More than 80 percent of the Canadian fresh fruit market is supplied through imports, of which the United States typically supplies nearly half. According to Nielsen Research, Canadians spend 20 percent more than Americans on fruit. Although, the United States continues to command a 79 percent share of market (SOM), off-shore competition has marginally eroded this SOM in recent years. U.S. sales are expected to remain robust, especially for strawberries, other berries, grapes, oranges, and apples, with the organic market continuing to be increasingly popular among consumers. Canada is by far the most important market for U.S. exports of fresh fruit, and Canada is heavily dependent on imports of fresh fruit to meet total market demand due to the Canadian climate’s limited growing season and limited variety of fruits. An aging Canadian population with health concerns, in combination with a general increased interest in healthy eating, has contributed to a growing demand for perceived healthy products. Major U.S. growers and shippers are members of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, an important advocate for the industry in Canada on food safety and trade issues and a key promoter of increased fresh fruit consumption among Canadians.
 2016201720182019: estimated
Local Production*814837879923
Total Market Size3,9574,1364,1874,308
US$ millions
*Based on farm cash receipts for raw. BoC annual exchange rate for 2016-2018
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Red Meats (including processed)
Canada is a major producer and exporter of red meat, but also an important destination for U.S. exports of fresh/chilled/frozen red meat. In 2018, U.S. exports of beef to Canada declined slightly to nearly $750 million, or 70 percent of the import market, and U.S exports of pork to Canada also declined slightly to $765 million, or 85 percent of the import market. The North American red meat market is heavily integrated, with trade flowing both ways between Canada and the United States. Typically, Canada exports large numbers of live animals and significant amounts of meat to the United States and imports a wide variety of meat products. The red meat sector in Canada has been relatively stable over the past several years, with small but steady increases in beef and pork production. Meat demand is gradually picking up, resulting in increased wholesale and retail prices that translate into improved export opportunities for the American red meat industry. In particular, beef demand in Canada continues to remain strong even as prices have increased in recent years indicating that Canadian consumer purchasing trends may be less strongly correlated to pricing in the current market.
 2016201720182019: estimated
Local Production*14,39315,18216,23417,000
Total Market Size12,14412,60213,47814,200
US$ millions
*Based on Stats Can NAICS for meat product manufacturing. BoC annual exchange rate for 2016-2018
**Based on GTA Beef and beef products and Pork and pork products
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Fresh Vegetables
Canada is by far the largest export market for U.S. fresh vegetables, absorbing close to 80 percent of U.S. exports in this product category. Per capita, Canada has one of the highest consumption rates of fresh vegetables in the world. Canadians spend close to 22 percent more than their U.S. counterparts. Demand for U.S. vegetables is supported by the short Canadian domestic growing season in the country’s northern climate. Despite the difficult climatic conditions, local growers supply about half of the market demand through extensive greenhouse production of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. U.S. exports of fresh vegetables are nonetheless increasing despite a reduction in market share as Canadian demand remains strong. Products such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers and pre-packaged salads have shown sales growth exceeding six percent. Under NAFTA, American fresh vegetable exports enter Canada duty-free. A sophisticated modern transportation and wholesale dealer network provides Canadian buyers with prompt delivery and relatively reduced spoilage.
 2016201720182019: estimated
Local Production*3,2193,3933,5133,689
Total Market Size42054,3404,3444418
US$ millions
*Based on farm cash receipts for raw. BoC annual exchange rate for 2016-2018
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Canada is heavily dependent on a wide range of consumer-oriented imports of U.S. agricultural products. The climate in Canada limits expansion of fruit and vegetable production, although the greenhouse industry is expanding. The best opportunity for export growth of U.S. agricultural products is in sales to the food service industry, consisting of restaurants, hotels, and institutions as well as grocery stores/supermarkets. The food service industry is projected to grow four percent in 2019 and is forecast to surpass US$75 billion by the year 2021. This expected expansion will increase opportunities for sales of U.S. agricultural products. The current value of the Canadian dollar may attract more international visitors, increasing the use of hotels, particularly in cities such as Montreal and Toronto, creating opportunities for U.S. food products in the Canadian food service sector.

There continues to be opportunities in the retail sector but due to the consolidation of the industry in Canada, market entry can at times be challenging. However, Canadian importers and buyers continue to seek innovative products offering health benefits to their customers.

Web Resources
Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
CFIA Acts and Regulations
Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

Food Labelling and Advertising Industry Labelling Tool

Meat and Poultry Inspection Regulations

Fish Import Program Policy

Global Affairs Canada

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Canadian Importers Database

Trade Data Online

Health Canada

Food and Drug Act

Nutrition Labelling

Natural Health Products

Food Allergen Labelling

Proposed Changes to Format Requirement on Nutrition

Novel Foods

Major Upcoming Events

Canadian Health Food Association and Show

Canadian Produce Marketing Association and Convention Show
SIAL Canada:
Restaurants Canada:

For further information and for assistance in marketing U.S. agricultural and food products in Canada, U.S. exporters should contact:

Office of Agricultural Affairs
U.S. Embassy, Canada
P.O. Box 5000
Ogdensburg, NY 13669-0430
Telephone: (613) 688-5267
Fax: (613) 688-3124

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

More Information

Canada Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion