Complete Table of FY2015 Colombian Food Product Rankings by Country of Import from Best Products Section of Colombia - Processed Food and Beverages
Last Published: 7/31/2017
Table 8: Colombia Processed Food and Beverages Import Data, 2015-2016
CountryRankingImport Value FY2015
(million dollars)
Import Value FY2016
(million dollars)
Total 1,7501,746-0.30%
United States1590512-13.18%
Other countries 603577-3.36%
Source: Global Trade Atlas  

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 their chilled and frozen storage facilities. Also, producers are set to benefit from further retail expansion beyond the largest four cities (Bogotá, 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 petroleum and 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, between 2017 and 2021 food sales will increase by an annual growth rate of 7.4 percent. Increasing stability in the country is likely to bolster consumer confidence and therefore private expenditures as well as increase the amount and variety of food offered by firms on the market.

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 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 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, with most wine being supplied by 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 whisky is the United Kingdom, although consumer interest in U.S. whiskeys and bourbons is growing.

Source: GAIN Report-Colombia-Exporter Guide 12/22/2016

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. Imports of wine in Colombia have almost doubled since 2008, reaching USD 63.81 million in 2016. Over half of these imports come from Chile and Argentina, followed by France, Spain, and Italy. California wines have a favorable and growing reputation with Colombian consumers and the key for U.S. exporters is to match price points offered by Chilean and Argentine producers.
The following product categories represent the major export opportunities, and emerging opportunities, for U.S. food products with zero duties entering Colombia:
  • Beef and beef products
  • Buttermilk (up to quota)
  • Chewing gum
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Fresh fruits
  • Healthy food products
  • Infant foods
  • Liqueurs and cordials
  • Mixes and doughs
  • Nuts
  • Pork and pork products
  • Prepared bean products
  • Prepared tomato groups
  • Turkey meat
  • Uncooked pasta
  • Vermouth
  • Whiskey
  • Wine
  • Yogurt (up to quota)
 Market Entry Success Tips
  • Competition is based on quality, price and service
  • Innovative marketing strategies are imperative in order to penetrate the market;
  • Social marketing techniques continue to be very strong, using sales to generate funding for social programs;
  • U.S. suppliers should develop ways to meet the needs of the Colombian market through personal visits to better understand the market and identify needs of buyers and consumer trends;
  • Use consolidation when exporting small amounts of product;
  • Many Colombian companies’ representatives visit trade shows in the United States, such as Natural Products Expowest and Fancy Food Show, which are great opportunities for U.S. exporters to meet and educate Colombian importers;
  • Use consolidation when exporting small amounts of product;
  • Establish direct contact with hotel and restaurant chains;
  • Develop, to the extent possible, Spanish marketing/communication materials;
  • 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;
  • Support the importer with promotional campaigns.
Table 9: Colombia Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Processed Food and Beverages Exporters
Advantages Challenges
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 is low, such as bread, compared to other Latin American markets.
Colombia is the second largest food trade destination for U.S. food product in South America.U.S. products will have to maintain the 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 a growth in processed foods.Internal transportation costs from ports of entry are costly due extremely poor infrastructure.
Market opportunities for health foods and organic products are expanding given growing obesity trends and GOC support for healthy living campaigns.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 National Institute for Food and Medicine Vigilance (Invima). It is necessary to obtain a Mandatory Sanitary Notification (Sanitary Registry). According to Decree 3075 of 1997, product registration is NOT required for:
  • Animal-origin food products (chilled/frozen) that have not been subject to any transformation process.
  • Natural food products that have not been subject to any transformation process, such as grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc.
  • Products used as raw materials by industry or the foodservice operators for food preparation.
A transformed product is defined by the GOC as one subject to processing, which results in a significant change of 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 5 years;
  2. Product permits for intermediate risk products are valid for 7 years; 
  3. Product notifications for low risk products are valid for 10 years.
It is highly recommended that the U.S. exporter apply 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 or 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 GOC 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 Bogotá.  A translator approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must translate these documents into Spanish.
The following three firms are examples of firms with expertise in product registration:

SPI Americas
Calle 105 A N° 14 – 76
Bogotá D.C, Colombia
Phone: 571-620-4920

Ricardo Aristizabal Aristizabal & Rojas Abogados
Carrera 11B No. 98-08 Oficina 202
Bogotá, D.C. - Colombia  
Phone: 571-060-13999

Triana Uribe & Michelsen  
Calle 93B No. 12-48 P. 4
Bogotá D.C. – Colombia
Phone: 571-601-9660 | 571-621-5810

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

Trade Events
ALIMENTEC (International Food and Hospitality Trade Show)
June 5 -8, 2018
Bogotá, Colombia

Web Resources
Paola Lugari 
U.S. Commercial Service Bogotá
Phone: 57 1-275-2796

Key Contacts
Colombian National Tax and Customs Directorate (DIAN)
Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification (ICONTEC)
National Industries Association (ANDI)
National Institute for Food and Medicine Vigilance (Invima)
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service – Global Agricultral Information Network (GAIN)

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Food and Beverage Trade Development and Promotion