In 2013, Chile joined China and the United Arab Emirates as one of the three top growing export destinations for the UK.  Although oil exports have a lot to do with it, food and drink exports also increased.

We know of one of the businesses that has something to do with this. Back in July 2013, we interviewed Nigel Roberts, then international growth manager at Waitrose, who told us why and how they were targeting the Chilean market, their no.1 priority in South America. And Chile has remained a priority for Waitrose as well as for other British brands that we see every time we cross the Andes and visit one of Chile’s famous supermarkets.

Waitrose products at Unimarc (during our visit in July 2013)

Waitrose products at Unimarc (during our visit in July 2013)

Early in September, I will be visiting Espacio Food Service, a food and drink show in Santiago. I’m curious to see what’s happening on the Chilean food & drink front. I want to know which brands are arriving, and I want to speak to importers and distributors and see what they’re looking for. Our clients appreciate that know-how and they want to be kept up-to-date with the very latest trends.

So why is Chile so attractive for UK food and drink exporters? In my opinion, the six main reasons are:

1-      Ease of importation.

Processes are clear, and import duties are low or even zero for EU-manufactured goods, thanks to a well-respected free trade agreement. Compare that to the high import duties in Brazil, Argentina or even Uruguay, and you have a neat advantage.

2-      Ease of doing business.

Don’t get me wrong, things take time, a lot of time, but you will probably find that doing business in Chile is easier, faster and less costly, for a number of reasons, than doing business in Mexico or Brazil.

3-      Small market.

If you’re going for volume, you need to look at Mexico, Brazil, even Colombia. But Chile, a small market of 18 million people (and heavily concentrated in two main cities) is an ideal test market.

 4-      Preference for British food and drink.

Chile even imports Marmite, have I said it all? A strong expat community combined with a strong preference for imported food does help.

5-      Chilean retailers go global.

If you make it into a Chilean supermarket (which isn’t easy, I admit) then it’s likely that they will place your goods in some of their stores in other countries (Colombia and Peru, for example), since Chilean retailers, including supermarkets, are expanding across  South America. Then your 18-million market quickly becomes 4 or 5 times larger…

 6-      Chile is a significant producer of food and drink.

If you supply goods and services to the food and drink industry (from machinery to ingredients, from packaging to consultancy), remember that the food and drink sector in Chile is itself very strong (think of all the fruit the country exports, for example, and the wine).


In my opinion, there is plenty of scope for UK food and drink exports to Chile to grow. The show we are visiting in September will hopefully give us some clues as to where the market’s going. If you’d like us to study the market in Chile for your specific food and drink products, do not hesitate to contact us, before or after the show. In the meantime, next time you  shop for Waitrose products, remember your potential partners in Chile are probably doing just the same…