The United States remains by far the largest export destination for the Belgian food industry, representing a turnover of 700 million euros. Unfortunately, the growth in food and beverage exports has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and so, in a bid to resume an upward trend, a Belgian American Food&Drinks day is being held in New York as part of the royal mission led by Princess Astrid. Walloon food products, especially high quality, innovative products, clearly have a place on the US market, as American consumers are fond of sophisticated foreign dishes, even if it means paying a high price.
Belgian food and beverage exports to the U.S. increased from 459 million euros in 2014 to 764 million in 2019, a 66% increase in 5 years. Strong growth that is just waiting to pick up again after the health crisis. This is the aim of the charm offensive organised by Fevia, the Belgian food industry federation, and the three regional foreign trade agencies during this event dedicated to Belgian gastronomy in New York.
New York and its neighbouring states (New Jersey/Connecticut/Pennsylvania) are a hotbed of food importers and distributors for some 45 million consumers. The region has one of the highest population densities in the country, which allows for convenient transportation and delivery at a fairly reasonable cost in the cities. The ports of Baltimore and New York are major assets for transatlantic cargo. U.S. consumers who are big fans of luxury foods and speciality and health beverages also have strong purchasing power.
In the current environment, fluctuating transportation and container costs must be take into account, which may contribute to price increases. The Euro hit a five-year low of $1.035 in May 2022. On the futures markets, the USD is earning more than the Euro and therefore demand for the US currency is strong making it more expensive. For Belgian companies to remain competitive in this market, they must produce unique, high-quality speciality food products that will entice U.S. consumers to pay more. Consequently, these products are more likely to be found in the gourmet food category rather than in mass goods stores.
In addition to our biscuits and chocolates, U.S. consumers love our beers. The Brasserie de l'Abbaye de Val Dieu can attest to this, having just signed several agreements as part of this royal mission across the Atlantic. Our frozen vegetable and potato products are also experiencing a strong upward trend, from limited exports in 2017 to 87 million euros in 2021.
On the agenda for this Food&Drinks theme: a workshop for Belgian companies operating in the food and beverage sector and wishing to succeed in the "U.S. Northeast Corridor" market. Local experts and practitioners introduced them to practical aspects, examples and case studies.
A tasting also allowed Belgian producers to showcase their products to U.S. consumers.
Today, the 30 food companies accompanying the royal delegation are in Rhode Island, a state with a favourable ecosystem for international food companies, strategically located between New York and Boston. As a hub for America's heartlands, Rhode Island is a true business incubator, launching international brands onto the U.S. market.
Our companies will be welcomed by Governor Dan McKee and Jason Evans, Dean of the College of Food Innovation & Technology at Johnson & Wales University, who will provide an overview of local expertise in food innovation. Belgian food companies will also discover the potential of the U.S. retail trade and visit Hope & Main. This "food incubator" organises training courses, provides market advice and can connect companies with retail and distribution.
Our food companies will also attend the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York from 12 to 14 June. The 2022 Summer Fancy Food Show is organised by the Specialty Food Association and is the largest U.S. trade show dedicated exclusively to speciality foods and beverages. The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency will organise a group of eight Walloon companies.
The food industry is the undisputed leader in Belgian industry with almost 98,000 jobs and a turnover of 61 billion euros, including 30 billion euros in exports. Fevia represents 27 sub-sectors and over 700 members companies that account for approximately 90% of the employment and turnover in the Belgian food industry.