Switzerland is one of the world’s largest per capita food importers (ranked 4th in 2010).
Food and Drink sector in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the world’s largest per capita food importers (ranked 4th in 2010). It is a
small but very wealthy market and people are keen on high-quality products that are different to
what is available on the market.
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 companies set high standards but the rewards can also be high.
The total food imports into Switzerland were as high as 10.5bn Swiss Francs (£7.2bn) in 2011.
The UK share of this amount is currently 5% (525 million Swiss Francs). Food imports from the
UK have decreased in the last year. This is due to the large competition from the neighbouring
countries Germany, France and Italy, but also indicates large potential for the United Kingdom.
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 now have recovered from the repeated food scares in the UK (BSE, F&MD)
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.
Latest export opportunities – Food & Drink
Latest export opportunities - Switzerland
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 some 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 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 large number of those products are made in the United
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
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 considered important.
More about doing business in Switzerland
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
based overseas - or contact your local international trade team.
ξ Isabell Hofer, British Embassy Berne. Tel: +41 (0)31 359 77 27 or email:
ξ Florian Keller, British Embassy Berne. Tel: +41 (0)31 359 77 28 or email:
Contact your local international trade team
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.
Latest events – Food & Drink
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.
Next: October 2013
IGEHO – International Exhibition for Industrial and Institutional Catering, Hotels and
Restaurants, held every two years in Basel.
Next: 23 – 27 November 2013
SIAL – international food exhibition, held every two years in Paris, France.
Next: October 2014
GASTRONOMIA - International Exhibition for Industrial and Institutional Catering, Hotels and
Restaurants, held every two years in Basel.
Next: November 2014
More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters