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How to Sell Food in Europe: a Quickstart Guide for Food Exporters

How to Sell Food in Europe: a Quickstart Guide for Food Exporters

It’s not easy to be in the food business in your home country, much less selling food products in a foreign country.

In this article, we bring you through how you can start your export business, what you have to comply with, and where you can sell your food in Europe.

So, if you’re interested in selling food in Europe, here’s how you can get started.

This article at a glance

1. Can I export food into Europe?

Yes. You will be counted as a third country and will have to pass quality checks at EU customs.

2. Where can I sell food in Europe?

Working with local distributors can help get your exporting business on track. Take note that different rules apply for perishable and non-perishable food products.

3. Is it difficult to import food into the EU?

It is a considerably difficult process, seeing that Europe has numerous countries that follow different requirements.

4. Will I need different documents when selling in different EU countries?

Yes. Different countries follow distinct requirements, so always check before you proceed.

Where can you sell and distribute your food in Europe?

As a food importer, who can you sell food to in Europe? In general, non-perishable food products can be sold in supermarkets and stores through a distributor. This means you work with a local distributor to import your foreign products into the country and sell them to the public. However, an important thing to take note of is that it may be difficult to import fruits and vegetables due to their perishable nature. If you are a first-time importer, you may want to stay clear of perishable food products.

📍 Tip: Keep in mind that if you wish to sell food in the EU as a business, remember that you will need to register your business. This includes registering for corporate tax and getting a VAT number for your business.

To ensure your product reaches shelves in a proper manner, no matter through traditional channels or online distribution methods, work with food distributors. If you are lacking in experience, look for local qualified distributors who can take care of all import formalities, local food handling and storage.

To get your ball rolling, check out the European Catering Distributors, who aim to build partnerships with international suppliers to sell across Europe. Of course, if you do have contacts in other business sectors, you may ask around for reputable European distributors for a partnership as well.

What Should I Consider Before Selling Food in Europe?

1. Understand the regional laws and regulations: It’s important to be familiar with the specific legal requirements for selling food in Europe, as they vary by region. Different countries have different rules on labelling, health and safety regulations, permitted food ingredients, importing/exporting products, taxation and more. Make sure you research the relevant laws thoroughly before you begin doing business.

2. Choose an appropriate distribution method: Which type of distribution makes the most sense for your product — for example, direct to consumer (through online stores or market stalls) or through wholesalers? Consider costs and where you want your product to be distributed.

3. Know the target customer base: Whether it’s restaurants, supermarkets, retailers or private customers, it’s essential to understand who will buy your product before you start marketing it. Researching the market can help shape your strategy when considering packaging design and marketing materials to maximise reach with potential customers.

4. Think about pricing: Prices play a significant role in whether customers will buy or not so try to make sure that your prices are attractive enough while accounting for all the cost items involved in making a profit (such as taxes).

5. Choose reliable partners: Depending on the size of your business, locating reliable suppliers and partners is well worth pursuing before starting operations within Europe’s markets. This is particularly true given labour-reduction opportunities and import/export fees that may arise from working with overseas sources.

The Food Safety System in The EU

  1. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
  2. The EFSA does not carry regulatory or enforcement power. However, it acts as an advisor for all food safety issues, providing risk assessments for companies.
  3. Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)
  4. Just like a task force, the RASFF alerts the Member States, the government and the public whenever there is a food safety hazard, and takes actions to counter them.
  5. Food and Veterinary Office (FVO)
  6. The FVO are the ones conducting regular inspections on food products being distributed and circulated within the EU, whether locally produced or imported.

What Documents Do I Need to Prepare?

Europe is highly stringent with quality checks and imported food and feed products will have to meet certain quality requirements to pass customs checks. The good news is — you do not have to pay import duties if you wish to sell to different countries in the EU, you will only need to pay once when the product first enters EU customs.

Some of the basic documents you require are:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Import licenses
  • Proof of preferential origin provided there is an existing Trade Agreement

In order to facilitate your exporting process, here is a checklist to follow.

Certificate of Origin

The Certificate of Origin is a document which is used in trade relations between the EU and third-party countries. It serves the purpose of stating where your goods come from, in accordance with customs and commercial requirements. For more detailed information on export procedures of goods into the EU, Access2Markets provides country-by-country guides for export and import conditions.

Health, safety and technical certificates

You may have to show certificates to prove that your product complies with the respective country’s health and hygiene requirements. Different countries within the EU will require a specific certification and therefore is dependent on which country you are importing into. These requirements include documents regarding crop protection agents, genetically modified foods, and whether tests can be carried out by an accredited institution in the EU.

Food of animal origins to be imported into the EU must come from an EU-authorised establishment. For food of non-animal origin, it will be dependent on the country you are importing to.

Packaging and labelling requirements

Similarly, different countries require varying packaging and labelling requirements. Depending on the country, these requirements can be mandatory or voluntary. Information such as the product type, ingredients or the ‘use by' date should be labelled on the food packaging. To find out what exact requirements are needed for your product, do a search using My Trade Assistant. You will be able to see the exact tariffs, taxes and import requirements for your product.

How Big is The Food and Drink Industry in Europe?

You may ask — there are other countries where I can sell food, why Europe?

For starters, the food sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the European Union (EU), with big players including Italy, Germany, France and many more. In the year 2016, the food and drink sector saw a turnover of € 1,109 billion and was the largest food and drink exporter in the world.

For Asian entrepreneurs, there may be a slight advantage if you are exporting Asian food and drink brands into the EU, due to the fact that you are catering to a smaller but more targeted audience such as Asian Americans and Asian immigrants living in the EU.

Therefore, it does not matter if you’re a food trader looking to expand your business into the EU, or an entrepreneur searching for new opportunities, Europe may just be your road to success.

How Strict is The EU Towards Imported Food Standards?

Of course, as a general rule, food standards must be maintained at all times. Food safety has always been highly regulated in the EU after the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in the mid-1990s, more commonly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease'.

In the EU, legislative and crisis management tasks are split between the central European institutions and their Member States. To put it simply, food importers and operators will need to comply with two layers of regulations.

For example, the rules for selling food in Germany and France may differ, although both countries are under the EU. This is because the general food law covers certain aspects, but the Member States may implement different laws. Thus, the strictness of food standards would vary, depending on the country you plan to sell food.

How Should You Make Sure Your Product is Compliant?

Firstly, obtain a registration number. This would be your formal registration to kick off your business. It will also act as proof that you have gotten a permit to sell in the EU. Read Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 to find out more about the registration process.

Next, you will go through a series of checks. These include document, identity and physical checks. Therefore, prepare relevant documents on the products you are selling, and your identification documents. You should also be prepared for your physical checks on your goods.

Keep in mind that there are certain foods that are considered to be of higher risk to health, and they may or may not be subjected to additional checks. Usually, these foods are deemed to be a risk to public health, animal health or a threat to the environment. If you are unsure whether your food products fall under this category, prepare additional documentation during the checks, and give prior notification before the arrival of the products into the particular country.

What is the General Food Law in The EU?

There are two general food law requirements to take note of as well when importing foods into the EU.

Regulation 178/2002/EC

This legislation defines the meanings of safe and unsafe food, where food importers and distributors have the responsibility of ensuring that any food imported into the EU is compliant with the requirements of food law. It also states that if you are importing food from a country that has existing agreements with the EU, the agreed requirements have to be met.

For more detailed information on Regulation 178/2002/EC, refer to this guide.

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 ensures that all individuals who are working in the food handling sector must keep a high degree of personal hygiene and cleanliness. It also states that any person suffering from a disease that can be transmitted through food must not handle food products.

For more detailed information on Regulation 178/2002/EC, read here.

An Easier Way to Run Your Overseas Food Business

After reading our article on how to sell food in Europe, have you ever found it tough to enter the foreign market due to payment and accounting matters?

If you’re looking to make your banking processes streamlined and simple with low forex rates, Silverbird can help. And if you choose to sell to Europe, with Silverbird, you’ll be able to make international transfers at the cost, speed, and ease of local ones.

How to sell food in Europe FAQs

Can I sell food from my house UK?

In the UK, you can sell food from your home, but you must comply with certain rules and regulations to ensure that the food is safe and meets the necessary standards.

If you want to sell food from your home, you will need to register with your local council as a food business operator. Registration is free, and you can do it online. Once registered, you will need to follow certain food hygiene and safety requirements, such as ensuring that your kitchen is clean and that you have appropriate facilities for storing and preparing food.

In addition to registration, you will also need to follow the UK’s food labelling requirements, which include providing accurate and complete information about the food, its ingredients, and any allergens it contains.

It’s worth noting that some types of food require additional permits or licenses to sell, such as raw milk or meat products. You should check with your local council or the UK Food Standards Agency to ensure that you are complying with all relevant regulations before selling any food from your home.

How do I legally sell food in the UK?

To legally sell food in the UK, you need to follow a few key steps:

  1. Register as a food business: You must register with your local council as a food business operator at least 28 days before starting your business. This is a legal requirement and ensures that your business complies with food safety regulations.
  2. Follow food hygiene standards: You must follow food hygiene standards and ensure that your kitchen, equipment, and storage facilities are clean and in good condition. You may need to take a food hygiene course to understand the regulations fully.
  3. Label your food correctly: You must label your food correctly, including listing all ingredients, nutritional information, and any allergens present in the food. The labels must be clear, accurate, and not misleading.
  4. Keep records: You must keep records of your food safety procedures, including food temperatures and cleaning schedules.
  5. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on the type of food you are selling, you may need to obtain additional licenses or permits, such as a license to sell alcohol or a permit to sell meat.
  6. Consider liability insurance: It is recommended that you obtain liability insurance to protect yourself in case of any legal claims against your business.

By following these steps, you can legally sell food in the UK while ensuring that your food is safe and meets the necessary standards.

Do I need a food hygiene certificate to sell food from home?

Yes, if you plan to sell food from your home in the UK, you will need to have a food hygiene certificate. The certificate shows that you have completed a food hygiene course and have an understanding of the principles of food hygiene and safety.

The specific type of certificate you need will depend on the nature of your food business. If you are operating a low-risk food business from home, such as selling cakes or pre-packaged snacks, you may be able to complete a basic food hygiene course online.

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