Concerning food exports to the United States, Spain ranks 19th and has a 1% market share. The Spanish food sector has increased its sales in the North American market in recent years, reaching a value of 2,650 million USD in 2021, according to data from the USITC (United States International Trade Commission).
This means 31% more than in 2020. This improvement takes on more significance considering the difficulties in the sector: trade barriers and high transport costs due to the effects of COVID-19 and litigation that caused the increase in US tariffs to the E.U. With the exception of the 35% tariff imposed specifically on black olives due to CAP subsidies to farmers, the rest of the conflicts that affected products such as olive oil, green olives and wine stem from a business dispute between the American Boeing and the Dutch Airbus, accusing each other of having committed unfair competition thanks to the help of their respective governments.
Among Spanish food products, which accounted for 14.25% of total exports to the United States, we highlight olive oil, wine, preserved such as olives, vegetable saps and mollusks, but we can also highlight confectionery items, cheeses , preparations of legumes, vegetables and food preparations.
Olive oil exports to the U.S., the star product among Americans
Undoubtedly, the most profitable food product in the North American market is olive oil. Only surpassed by Italy, Spain is the second leading country in exports to the US. Virgin olive oil stands out (with tariff code 150910) as the most exported product.
Considering the last olive campaign (approximately from October 2021 to March 2022), data from the Census Bureau of the United States Department of Commerce reveals record records: in this period sales were 65,996 tons and exceeded the almost 227 million dollars, a 63.17% increase over the previous olive campaign. This places Spain with a 39% market share compared to major competitors such as Italy, Tunisia or Portugal.
Specifically, the best-selling products were bottled oils, exporting 27,484 tons between October 2021 and March 2022, more than 401% compared to the previous campaign. This large increase is due in part to the elimination of the 25% tariff imposed on this product by the Trump administration, effective until June of last year. On the contrary, this tariff was not applied to bulk olive oil so, despite a smaller improvement, it was 10%.
Exporting companies such as Deoleo, Aceites Abril or Dcoop are some of those affected by these tariffs, according to the ITA (International Trade Administration). With the tariff crisis over and taking advantage of the drop in sales of European competitors such as Italy, Portugal and Tunisia, the Spanish olive oil industry has decided to reinforce the image of a product “from Spain”, often associated with Hispanic or Latin American products.
Spain is the sixth largest exporter of wine to the United States.
Spain is listed as the sixth largest exporter of wine to the United States. With a market share of 6%, and facing the triple presence of fierce competitors such as France and Italy, total exports in 2021 reached a value of 409 million USD (for the first time in its history) and a volume of 80 million of litres. This is a 31% increase in value compared to last year, according to studies of the wine market carried out by ICEX.
In terms of demand, the most consumed Spanish wines are red, specifically the Rioja and Ribera del Duero certificate of origin, followed by rosés, whites and, lastly, sparkling wines. Also noticeable are brands such as Bodegas Campo Viejo, Marqués de Riscal or Marqués de Cáceres. French and Italian wines still enjoy a higher value among Americans due to the identification of the Spanish for a wine, in general terms, of good price-quality relationship.
Analysis and trends indicate that the challenge for exporting SMEs is to sell their products as “exclusive”, as well as to reinforce the importance of the story behind the brands during commercialization. Experts in the wine sector such as Álvaro Giménez, from the consulting firm Gimenez & Sigwald Wine Associates, consider it favorable to carry out direct trade missions and take advantage of bureaucratic transparency, a stable legal and customs environment, and the great wine culture that exists in the United States.
Canned vegetables, the great unknown among Spanish products exported to the U.S.
In third place, stands out the preserved vegetables, whose sales in the United States reached 187 million USD in 2021. This group includes products such as peas, beans, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes or peppers. However, olives (tariff subheading 200570) have been the leader in sales, representing 83% of the total for this group.
Between 2020 and 2021, exports went from a value of USD 155 million (51,081 tons) to USD 154 million (49,908 tons), which shows a 2% less exported volume. Once again, the main reason was the tariffs imposed on black olives and green olives. Currently, the WTO and Asemesa (Asociación de Exportadores de Aceitunas de Mesa) continue striving for the North American Administration to eliminate these tariffs, favoring exporters such as Agro Sevilla Aceitunas, Aceitunas Karina or Aceitunas Guadalquivir.
Greece is our main competitor, whose value of exports went from 150 million USD to 166 million USD from 2020 to 2021. The good news is that the Spanish olive industry continues to exceed the volume exported to this region. Nothing insignificant is the importance of table olives, in which Spain is the second largest exporter in the world, whose sales grew around 3.41% in 2021.
Top exported Spanish food products to the USA
Subsequently, we must also highlight the following Spanish products most exported to the United States in 2021: vegetable sap (mucilage, agar, resins, etc.) with a 10% market share with respect to value, molluscs (specifically octopus) with 11%, confectionery items (chewing gum, white chocolate, candies, etc.) with 5%, food preparations with 1% and in 11th position worldwide, cheese with 7% and in 5th position and fats and vegetable oils (from plants such as flax, sesame or corn) with a share of 11% and in 3rd position. Spanish export products such as iberianboneless ham, tuna or frozen pork are also increasing sales considerably.
In conclusion, the Spanish food industry is determined to continue betting on the American public, recover markets, increase sales and distribution channels and not miss out on the opportunities offered by a safe and profitable environment. An example of good prospects has been the agreement between the European Union and the United States in which the suspension of tariffs for at least 5 years (which directly affect olive oil, wine and green olives) was announced in June 2021. with the aim of joining forces to mark ground for China. Regarding the problem of black olives, Asemesa and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism ask the EU to exert political and diplomatic pressure so that the US complies with the WTO resolution on January 14, 2023 since, Otherwise, this would allow the EU to take retaliatory measures.
Written by Manuel Alcocer Álvarez