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How Can European Food Products Gain Mexican Market Share?

By Christophe Smitz - Wallonia Export-Investment Agency - AWEX
Commercial and Economic Counsellor


By Christophe Smitz | Economic and Commercial Counselor for the Walloon Region - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 14:00

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Belgium has iconic and world-famous food products, such as beers, waffles, and fries. The good news is that all these products can be found in Mexico and from March 7 to 9, you can find them all and their producers in one place: The Expo Antad in Guadalajara. 

As a European export agency in Mexico, it is sometimes difficult to find a market for finished products. The main reason, I would argue, is that strong local producers or international companies based in Mexico take the biggest shares. We have spent a long time looking for opportunities for our chocolate and beer producers in Mexico with little success. Supermarket chains want high rotation of goods and even though Belgian quality is hard to beat, Mexican consumers are mostly attracted by lower prices or locally produced brands. Consumption is also very culturally influenced; Mexicans drink low-alcoholic beers or waffles with toppings. After this short analysis, let’s see how Belgian/Walloon products can be a success in Mexico. 

Let’s start with beers. Mexico has a huge market but it is highly competitive. Some major Belgian brands already have a fair market share, not the least Stella Artois, even though it is locally produced. When you take out of the equation the two major Mexican producers (actually Belgian and Dutch producers), there is just 1% that is left for premium foreign beers and artisanal local producers. How then to position a product? The Chimay case is an interesting one.  

Chimay is an iconic brand in Belgium and in the world. It is the biggest of the five Belgian Trappist beers. To be able to be named Trappist, the beer needs to be part of the International Trappist Association (13 breweries around the world). 

These are the three criteria of the association:

  • All products must be made within the immediate surroundings of the abbey;

  • Production must be carried out under the supervision of the monks or nuns;

  • Profits should be intended for the needs of the monastic community, for purposes of solidarity within the Trappist Order, or for the development of projects and charitable works.

This tradition is the “blue ocean” of the brand in this saturated market. 

Mexican beer experts know the story well. To be present in a food expo in Mexico is a way to broaden the audience.

Waffles are another story. They are massively consumed and it’s less pricey to bring from Europe. Mexicans consume American waffles and pancakes. Belgian waffles come in two types: the most common here are the Brussels waffles, which are similar to the American waffles we can find in the supermarket, but they are usually a little bigger, lighter and crispier. 

The other is the Liège waffles  — an iconic product for the Belgians. We buy them from our local bakery or hot from small shops in the city centers. This chunky, tasty waffle is golden and slightly caramelized thanks to the partially melted pearl sugar. They are eaten, usually, without toppings but long sticks of chocolate or strawberries can be added. As mentioned, consumption is culturally influenced. The evolution we have identified is interesting in the case of the Liege waffle. First, some trends come from the US before coming to Mexico. Kellogg’s has launched a new Liege waffle product, for example. As an important waffle player in Mexico, this American company could open doors for new consumers in the future. Another company from the north, Starbucks, has also recently launched a Liege waffle. It’s good news to see this iconic Belgian product on every counter. At Expo Antad, we can count on the presence of a frozen Brussels waffles producer and a Liege waffles producer, both important companies from Wallonia. 

As we all know, French fries are from Belgium. That is the first meal I try to get when I’m back in Belgium: a nice cone of fries with my favorite sauce, the samurai. You will find “friteries (fish and chips shops without the fish)” everywhere in Belgium but frozen fries are also one of our major food exports worldwide. We have a few producers active in Mexico and two of them are going to participate in the Expo Antad with their own stand, proof of their success in Mexico. This product is much easier to sell than the previous ones because Mexico craves it. Our companies have quality, price, and distribution on their side to keep growing. Furthermore, once the modernization of the EU-Mexico trade agreement comes into force, the custom duties will be brought down to 0 (in seven years). But there is still market share to be taken in the food service industry and in the retail sector. Just as you want your pasta to come from Italy, your fries should come from Belgium. There are no local competitors. 

It may be a bit cliché but I believe the quality of a product is intensely linked to its origin. Belgium and especially Wallonia have developed a food industry thanks of course to its central location but also because of the richness of its soil. No wonder we are also exporting butter and malta as ingredients for the food industry in Mexico. But that is another story that will take us to the FoodTech Summit in Mexico City in September.

As an export agency, one of our main assets for our companies is the amount of information transiting our office. Over the years, we talk to the industry and we can eventually feel how the market is moving. Finished products in the food sector are a very small part of our exports but there is still market share to be taken in some circumstances. If the local competition is fierce, just a few brands with very distinctive features (Belgian beers) can succeed. Cultural trends in consumption can evolve and big companies can help develop new markets (waffles). Finally, if your products offer the solutions needed by the industry, there will always be a place for them (Belgian fries). 

Here are some of the companies that will be exhibiting at Expo Antad:


Mydibel https://www.mydibel.com/en 

Expo Antad: Stand 2562 Mydibel


Ecofrost is a younger company founded in 2003. https://www.ecofrost.be/en/about-ecofrost#profile 

Expo Antad: Stand 2011 Rancho San Luis/Ecofrost


Chimay http://www.chimay.com 


Dely Wafels https://www.dely.be/ 

Avieta https://www.avieta.com/es/ 

If you want to know more about Belgian food products, mexico@awex-wallonia.com 

Photo by:   Christophe Smitz

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