Tomatoes laid on table with Apples in the background
Switzerland is one of the world’s largest per capita food importers. There are lots of niches to be filled and within the food and drink sector there are many growing markets such as for ethnic food, high quality and regional specialities, convenience food, seafood, alcoholic beverages among others. The Swiss market offers excellent opportunities for producers and merchants of quality food and Swiss customers set high standards but the rewards can also be high.
Total food imports into Switzerland were as high as 10.5 billion Swiss Francs (GBP 7.2 billion) in 2012. The UK share of this is currently 5% (525 million Swiss Francs). The majority of imported food and drink products comes from Germany, France and Italy. UK companies should be encouraged by this and bring forward their high quality products!
A growing sector is the ethnic food sector. Although the Swiss are not considered to be adventurous towards new food, they are starting to love ethnic foods (ambient and fresh). More and more shelf space is devoted to ethnic foods such as Indian, Thai, for example. The meat sector has recovered from the repeated food scares in the UK (BSE, Foot & Mouth Disease) and importers are showing interest in high quality UK beef and lamb.
Despite the fact that Switzerland is a landlocked country, the demand for seafood has increased a lot over the last few years. Especially the demand for salmon – but also for other sea-fish and seafood and breaded fish for the food service – is still high. There are also opportunities for traditional and regional specialities, as well as for high quality whiskies. Both retailers and distributors also state high interest in innovative soft drinks.
Getting into the market
Important to know for UK companies who want to enter the Swiss market is that the product has to be innovative or make a difference in quality or price from established products.
The Swiss are very health conscious, which is evident in the increasing demand for organic foods, natural foods and environmentally friendly products and packaging. The per capita consumption of organic food is one of the highest in Europe.
The Swiss retail market is dominated by Migros and Coop, who together share about 75% of the market. Further high quality retail chains include Manor and Globus.
Great Britain is currently very much on peoples’ minds, with recent events that took place such as the Summer Olympics 2012 in London and the Queen’s Jubilee.
As a result of the arrival of low price chains Aldi and Lidl, the established retailers had to reconsider their strategies and the competition has increased. After having introduced a low price product line which is very successful, the two largest retailers, Migros and Coop, also introduced a high quality – high price line. A number of those products are made in the United Kingdom.
Despite the strong competition in the market, there is still demand for high quality products where the price is only secondary.
Key methods of doing business
It is important to know the fact that, even though Switzerland geographically is part of Western Europe, it is not a member of the European Union (EU). Currently Switzerland establishes its own standards, which whilst not designed for the European Community, invariably meet its requirements.
Switzerland is a multi-language country with three official languages. Although English is widely spoken in the business world it is important to have any documentation available in both German and French or Italian, depending in which part of the country the company is based.
If you wish to supply Swiss importers you must be prepared to satisfy the demands and requirements of their customers, provide evidence of flexibility and a high level of service. It is essential that products are supplied on schedule and in accordance with the contracted details. Ongoing communication and feedback between supplier and customer is important.
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.
Florian Keller, British Embassy Berne; Tel: +41 (0) 31 359 77 28; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Panakal, British Embassy Berne;Tel: +41 (0) 31 359 77 42; Emai: email@example.com
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.
Anuga – International food exhibition, held every two years in Cologne. Anuga is considered one of the major trade fairs for the food and drink sector in Switzerland.
Date: October 2013
Igeho – International Exhibition for Industrial and Institutional Catering, Hotels and Restaurants, held every two years in Basel.
Date: 23-27 November 2013
Sial – International food exhibition held every two years in Paris, France.
Date: October 2014
Gastronomia – International Exhibition for Industrial and Institutional Catering, Hotels and Restaurants, held every two years in Basel.