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Big Picture Report: March 2022


Bernadette Wiltz-Lang, SUSTA

‘Tis the Season

A look at holidays around the world and how they drive export demand

Imagine Thanksgiving without turkey, or Easter without eggs. Indeed, holidays drive demand for certain products. As everyone in the business knows, that’s true even for packaged value-added food items. For example, what would Halloween be without candy? Or a 4th of July cookout without potato chips?

The same holiday effect is, of course, true for export demand too. Sometimes the seasonal patterns are similar to the U.S., and sometimes they are unique to a market. We asked our team of in-country consultants to highlight some holiday trends and opportunities. Below is their feedback offered to help you fine tune your export strategies.

Planning for the latter half of the year? Note that is the height of India’s festive season, starting with Ganesh Chaturthi in late Summer to early fall, and going through Diwali in the fourth quarter of the year. Gift giving is an important part of this season. Food gifts are no longer restricted to the traditional mithai, or sweets which now have been replaced with many other new and innovative products including chocolates, jams, cookies, juices, sauces, chips, nuts & dry fruits, confectionery, and bakery goods. Premium products and unique brands have earned increasing market share, including U.S products, which are considered high quality. The festive season is an opportune time to showcase these items. August and September are key months for shipments to leave the U.S., so marketing to customers needs to start in the beginning of the year.

In Central America, Christmas gift baskets commonly include some U.S. products – think candies, snacks, fruits, nuts, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Several Central American countries commemorate Mother’s Day – though the dates vary by Country. El Salvador has“Fiestas Agostinas” the first week of August, and Honduras celebrates “Semana Morazánica” in October. You can expect importers to place orders for these holidays from one to six months in advance, depending on international market conditions and the type of product. Though, there is a greater lead time for Christmas.The lead-time has increased due to global logistics and shipping delays, so it’s not too early to start marketing.

In Mexico, there are two significant periods to consider. During the Lenten period, 40 days before Easter, there is a reduction in meat and poultry consumption substituted by seafood. Then starting December 12, the Day of the Guadalupe Virgin, through January 6th, the “Día de Los Reyes” (Epiphany), there are major celebrations. In this period, there is a general increase of consumption, especially in alcoholic beverages, meat products, confectionary and dried fruit. Other traditional Mexican holidays are Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day and Independence Day, as well as Halloween, consuming pumpkins for decoration, and Thanksgiving in the northern states of the country with similar meals to the U.S.

In Europe, just as in the U.S., summertime sees a seasonal demand for summer-type food and beverage products like BBQ sauces and rubs and craft beers. Christmas is a time for specialty products.To meet your customers’ needs, a rule of thumb is to factor in approximately three weeks for ocean freight and an additional 10 days for customs clearance and in-land delivery.

Peak consumer shopping for specialty products in China is during the January-February Chinese New Year celebration and, uniquely, the “11.11” online shopping festival in late October-early November, which is the largest shopping event in the world. Purchasing decisions in China often take time to develop, and buyers will typically begin sourcing six to nine months prior. Its good to market your products even before that. Chinese New Year and Christmas is peak demand in Hong Kong with similar products in demand – snacks, confections, nuts, and baked goods. With fewer import and logistical restrictions, however, buyers in Hong Kong are more likely to make quicker purchasing decisions than their mainland counterparts.

Finally, Canada has somewhat of an “all of the above” holiday schedule. Halloween, Christmas and Hanukkah all are important for holiday demand. But with large immigrant communities across the country, there are opportunities for Diwali, Lunar New Year, Eid and Ramadan to explore with your customers and leads.

Understanding seasonal demand driven by holidays can be an important trend to get right to improve your export marketing strategy. I hope the feedback above provides some helpful insights on a market-by-market basis.Here’s wishing your export strategy “happy holidays!”