The Brits have always had a fascination with US food, from fluffy breakfast pancakes to extraordinary and over the top burgers, it is, in one way or another, our go-to comfort food. And the market for US food in the UK is increasing, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms and Hershey bars, we can’t get enough.
In fact the US is the largest non EU country supplier to the UK, although EU technical barriers, market access can sometimes prove a challenge for US products so it could be argued that demand is actually bigger than the market. Nevertheless, in 2013 US agricultural exports to the UK totalled US$1.6 billion. In 2013, US exports of consumer oriented food products increased by 16% from the previous year to US$912 million. Top processed food exports to the UK include baked snack foods and chocolate based sweets.
I spoke to Ben Greenwood of US food importer American Soda where all your American food and drink cravings can be satisfied about our love of all things American and the problems that can arise setting up a food import business.
Why do you think US food is so popular over here, is there anything you think makes it particularly distinctive from British food?
I think a combination of popular culture and more travelling has made American food popular in the UK. You see the likes of Twinkies and Red Vines in films, popular TV shows and across the internet more and more and people want to try it. Also, people who holiday in the US discover new things and want to get it when they get home, as well as telling their friends about it, which increases the demand and popularity too.
What makes American food so distinctive from British food is the sheer range of flavours you get over there that aren’t made available here. Take Pop Tarts – here you get three or four flavours. In the US it’s more like 20, from Ice Creme Sundae to Red Velvet!
[Image: Alexander Kalser/Flickr]
What are your best sellers?
Traditionally soda has been our best seller – from A&W root beer through Mountain Dew to Coca Cola Vanilla, American sodas of all descriptions are in great demand. On the food side, Cheetos, Twinkies and Twizzlers are massively popular brands, with other potato chips almost as popular. Candy is also a big, big seller, but we have so many brands it would be impossible to list them all!
What are your personal favourites and why?
Personally I’m a big fan of strawberry and grape flavoured sodas – they’re sweet, but the fruit flavour really shines through. I could eat Peppermint Bark candy and Million Dollar bars all day long – they offer a unique flavour you don’t get with British sweets. My son loves his Lucky Charms as well!
What make US food so iconic in your opinion?
A lot of American food is iconic. Twinkies, thanks to Ghostbusters and Zombieland. Lucky Charms breakfast cereal too – we can’t get enough of that! Really anything that appears in pop culture more than a few times becomes iconic. And it’s more about the brand than the food itself. The brand crosses borders – Red Vines, Cheetos and Reese’s are all brands people know, even if they’ve never had them. You just know it.
What has been the most difficult part of setting up a US food importing business?
We’ve been in business over a decade importing the best US food to the UK and the challenges change early on. Shipping was difficult early on, as was finding reliable suppliers in America.
Now we’ve overcome those we’re faced with new challenges – not least EU legislation, which has meant we’ve had to drop some of our most popular products in recent years. A&W Root Beer, for example, we can no longer sell as EU legislation puts a limit on a certain ingredient which A&W contains too much of – so we’ve lost a hugely popular product and we now have to try and replace it with one or more similarly popular products.
What’s your favourite American import? Let us know in the comments!