Exporters must understand unique issues of EU buyers

Companies that are considering exporting to the European Union must first get to know their customers.

Although similar to Canadian consumers in many ways, there are significant differences among European consumers that could make or break a product in the sophisticated, mature European Union marketplace.

Alan Rownan, analyst at Euromonitor International, said European consumers continue to seek out clean label, non-artificial and “natural” products while also looking for more transparent, easier-to-digest labelling.

Genetic modification, in particular, is a “contentious and highly divisive issue in the EU,” said Rownan, noting that half of all EU member countries have already banned farmers from growing GM crops, although GM imports “have not been outlawed in the EU despite strong opposition.”

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Not surprisingly, Rownan said organic packaged food “remains steady, with the biggest players being the western markets,” including Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy.

However, in some markets, such as the U.K., “third party sustain-ability certifiers … appear to be attracting some organic consumers away toward other ethically conscious variants.”

At the same time, sustainability continues to be a key issue for EU governments, corporations and consumers, particularly the millennials, “leading to an increase in sustainably sourced product on the shelves,” said Rownan. “In the coming years, we’re expecting to see these trends reach new heights, particularly clean label and sustainable sourcing as transparency and traceability be-come increasingly important to consumers.”

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