Trinidad and Tobago’s food service sector has grown exponentially over the past 5-10 years.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: CB1202
Food Service - Hotel Restaurant Institutional
Trinidad and Tobago Food Service Sector Report
Trinidad and Tobago’s food service sector has grown exponentially over the past 5-10 years. A strong economy,
a growing middle class, more women entering the workforce, and large investments in the sector have all led to
rapid growth in the number and variety of eateries and in the sector’s sales volumes. This in turn has helped
the United States achieve record levels of consumer-oriented and seafood exports to Trinidad and Tobago in
recent years. While the sustainability of such strong growth remains to be seen, opportunities for U.S. food
service suppliers remain strong for the time being.
SECTION I. MARKET SUMMARY
The two-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is the southernmost country in the Caribbean
archipelago, approximately seven miles off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. T&T has a total area of
5,128 square kilometers (1,980 square miles), slightly smaller than Delaware. T&T‟s 1.2 million people
share a common culture, but trace their ancestry back to Africa, India, Europe, China, the Middle East
and the Mediterranean. The majority of T&T‟s population lives on the island of Trinidad, a mixture of
bustling metropolis, mountainous tropical forests, and plains. Contrasting with Trinidad‟s robust
business sector, the island of Tobago is a small tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches and
Considered a high-income country (according to World Bank criteria), T&T is one of the wealthiest and
most developed countries in the Caribbean. GDP increased by over 2 percent in 2011, after having
contracted as a result of the world recession. Unlike most of its Caribbean neighbors, Trinidad has a
large industrial sector, which is primarily based on petroleum and natural gas production and processing.
Financial services and manufacturing are also important contributors to the economy. Tourism, mainly
concentrated on the island of Tobago, is a small yet growing sector which is being targeted for continued
Agricultural activity remains small (less than 1 percent of GDP), yet the Government of T&T is making
efforts to revitalize the sector in order to boost domestic food supplies. Given its limited agricultural
production, T&T must import most of its food needs. In 2010, T&T imported $760 million in farm
products, with approximately two thirds of these imports being consumer-oriented and seafood products.
The remaining one third of farm product imports are made up mostly of bulk and intermediate products,
which are utilized by over 300 processors to produce a variety of food and drink products, including
wheat flour, poultry, pork, beverages, snacks, sauces, condiments, and other products.
Source: Global Trade Atlas
Of the $461 million in consumer-oriented and seafood products imported into T&T (2010), an estimated
70 percent move through retail channels and 30 percent through the hotel, restaurant, and institutional
food service sector.
The hotel, restaurant, and institutional (HRI) food service sector is a vibrant area of commerce in T&T
driven by a strong economy, a growing middle class, and an increasing number of women in the
workforce. Over the past five years T&T‟s food service sales grew at an average annual rate of 7.75
percent in real terms, reaching an estimated US$771.6 million in 2011 (Euromonitor International).
There are an estimated 3,800 food service outlets in T&T, of which approximately three quarters are
street stalls and kiosks. The remainder is made up mostly of full service restaurants, cafés & bars, and
Notes: 1) Based on Food Service Value (Retail Sales Price); 2) Post estimates the percentage for fast
food is higher, possibly over 10 percent.
Source: Derived from data from Euromonitor International.
With a relatively robust economy and per capita GDP of $20,300 in 2011 (one of the highest in the
Caribbean), continued strong consumer spending is anticipated. However, given the HRI‟s food service
sector rapid expansion in recent years and overall market size limitations, more moderate growth levels
are anticipated in the coming years. Following are some of the main trends taking place in T&T‟s HRI
food service sector.
More and more food service establishments are entering the market. Over the past five years, the
number of food service outlets has increased by nine percent.
The variety of food service outlets has also increased dramatically over the past several years.
Independent restaurants featuring cuisine from different corners of the globe are quite common. There
has also been an explosion in the number of fast food outlets, particularly of U.S. chain restaurants.
There is a trend toward low fat and health foods, and to a lesser extent toward organic products.
More and more women are entering the workforce. According to Euromonitor International, the
number of women in the workforce has grown by an average of 2.75 percent over the past five years,
compared to 0.35 percent average annual growth for men. This growth in female employment and the
increasingly busy lifestyle of most Trinbagonians is translating into less time for home-prepared meals
and more eating out.
With limited agricultural production, Despite its domestic agricultural limitations, T&T posses a
T&T must import most of its food relatively vibrant food processing sector. U.S. suppliers will
needs. encounter competition from T&T suppliers of wheat flour,
poultry, pork, beverages, snacks, biscuits, sauces, and other
The United States supplies 38 Local importers/distributors already carry many major U.S.
percent of all imported food and brands. It may be difficult for new products to compete with
seafood products in T&T, more than these brands and to find an importer who does not carry
any other country. competing brands.
Exposure to U.S. media as well as The 2008 trade agreement between the Caribbean and the EU
language, cultural, and commercial has set the stage for increased competition from Europe. The
ties with the United States all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is also negotiating a free
contribute to consumers having a trade agreement with Canada. The expansion of the Panama
positive attitude toward U.S. Canal, which is expected to be completed in 2014, may also
products. pave the way for greater competition from Asia.
The regulatory environment at As a member of CARICOM, T&T offers duty-free access to
present is fairly open to U.S. other CARICOM-member countries. This has a positive impact
products. on the price-appeal of regional goods which can compete with
U.S. products in select categories.
Proximity is a big plus. US Although T&T is one of the largest markets in the Caribbean,
exporters, particularly south Florida individual orders tend to be relatively small and favor mixed
consolidators, service the market rather than full container loads.
very well and are in many ways
better positioned to supply T&T than
SECTION II. ROAD MAP FOR MARKET ENTRY
A. Entry Strategy
The best method for U.S. suppliers to enter the food service market in T&T is via local
importers/distributors that service many HRI accounts. Local importers/distributors have a wide access
to the food and beverage markets, possess large warehouse facilities, and carry a large inventory of
products. Thus, U.S. suppliers will be able to achieve maximum sales volume by working with local
importers. On average, food service operators buy approximately 75-80 percent of their food and
beverage products from local importers and the remaining 20-25 percent from local manufacturers and
growers. In cases where food service operators need specialty items not carried by local suppliers, they
will import those items directly. This is especially true of the larger hotels and restaurant chains, which
can import directly up to 25 percent of their needs. Even products that are not of U.S. origin are usually
shipped from the United States since U.S. suppliers carry a wide variety of specialty foods.
While importers prefer to respond to chefs‟ and food and beverage managers‟ requests, the first step for
new product introductions is to have product samples tested in hotels or restaurants. However,
importers are always interested in learning about high quality and good value products and take the
initiative to introduce products to their customers, given promotional incentives from the supplier. If
feasible, traveling to T&T to meet with potential customers and see the market first-hand offers the best
results. Local importers and food service representatives also travel to U.S. trade shows such as the
National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago and the America‟s Food and Beverage (AFB)
Show in Miami to meet face-to-face with product representatives. Good follow-up with prospective
clients after the trade show is essential in order to develop a successful business relationship.
B. Market Structure
Product Flow of Imported Products
The following chart illustrates the two main ways in which imported U.S. products reach T&T HRI
C. Sub-Sector Profiles
1. Hotels and Resorts
Unlike most Caribbean destinations where tourism is the backbone of the economy, tourism in T&T
represents only about 10 percent of GDP. Nevertheless, tourism in T&T is a growing industry. Most of
T&T‟s 431,000 visitors (2011) can be divided into two groups:
The first group is composed of business travelers visiting Trinidad. Many of the hotels in Trinidad cater
to the business traveler and host conferences for international businesses and regional organizations. In
addition to the year-round influx of business travelers, a large share of Trinidad‟s tourists arrive for
Carnival, the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the Caribbean. Although Carnival is a two-day
celebration (just prior to Ash Wednesday), it usually involves daily festivities in the weeks leading up to
The second group is made up of leisure travelers visiting the small island of Tobago. Thus, in Tobago
beach resorts and hotels are the norm. Tobago‟s tourism season, like that of other Caribbean islands, is
from Thanksgiving to Easter with a small increase for the Tobago Heritage Festival in July. Difficult
economic times in Europe, the main source of Tobago‟s international visitors, have diminished tourist
activity on the island to some degree.
According to T&T‟s Central Statistics Office there are approximately 297 hotels and guest houses in
T&T (2010). With the exception of large hotels, which may import up to 25 percent of their food and
beverage needs directly, most hotels rely on importers/distributors for most if not all of their needs. The
following lists provide information on some of T&T‟s most prominent hotels.
Name Location Number Purchasing Agent
Hyatt Regency Port of Spain, 428 With the exception of large hotels, which may
Trinidad Trinidad import up to 25 percent of their food and
Hilton Trinidad Port of Spain, 418 beverage needs directly, most hotels rely on
& Conference Trinidad importers/distributors for most if not all of their
Crowne Plaza Port of Spain, 243
The Carlton Port of Spain, 157
Courtyard by Port of Spain, 119
Cara Suites Pointe-a-Pierre, 100
Hotel & Trinidad
Holiday Inn Trincity, 82
Express Hotel Trinidad
Kapok Hotel St. Clair, 94
Cascadia Hotel St. Ann‟s 68
& Conference Valley,
Royal Hotel San Fernando, 60
Crews Inn Chaguaramas 46
Hotel and Bay, Trinidad
Tradewinds San Fernando, 41
* The above list is partial and should not be viewed as complete listing of Trinidad hotels.
Name Location Number Purchasing Agent
Magdalena Tobago 178 With the exception of large hotels which may
Grand Beach Plantations import up to 25 percent of their food and
Resort Estate, Tobago beverage needs directly, most hotels rely on
Coco Reef Scarborough, 135 importers/distributors for most if not all of their
Resort & Spa Tobago needs.
Mount Irvine Scarborough, 105
Bay Hotel & Tobago
Blue Haven Scarborough, 55
Tropikist Crown Point, 54
Beach Hotel & Tobago
Blue Waters Batteaux Bay, 38
* The above list is partial and should not be viewed as complete listing of Tobago hotels.
Most fine dining is found in the capital city of Port of Spain, Trinidad, and on the island of Tobago.
Within the fine dining establishments, most chefs are international, while in the casual eateries most
chefs tend to be local. T&T culinary professionals have a superb reputation within the region. In 2011
T&T‟s National Culinary Team captured the Gold Medal for „Caribbean Team of the Year‟ award at the
prestigious „Taste of the Caribbean‟ Chef competition. The team has won this distinction numerous
times in the past and team members have won numerous individual awards as well.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is the largest restaurant chain, followed by Subway and the locally-owned
Royal Castle. The majority of restaurants rely on importers/distributors for most of their food supplies
and to a lesser extent on local manufacturers and growers. Although percentages may vary depending
on several factors, on average restaurants buy approximately 75-80 percent of their food and beverage
products from local importers and the remaining 20-25 percent from local producers. In cases where
food service operators need specialty items not carried by local suppliers, they may import those items
directly. Popular cuisines include the following: Chinese, Caribbean and Creole, Indian, French, Italian,
Japanese, Thai, and American.
Following is a list of some of T&T‟s most prominent independent restaurants.
Name Number of Type Purchasing Agent
Prime 1, Port of Fine dining On average, food service operators buy
Spain (Steakhouse) approximately 75-80 percent of their food and
Waterfront 1, Port of Fine dining beverage products from local importers and the
Restaurant Spain (contemporary remaining 20-25 percent from local
Caribbean) manufacturers and growers. In cases where
Angelo‟s 1, Port of Fine dining food service operators need specialty items not
Italian Spain (Italian) carried by local suppliers, they will import
Restaurant those items directly.
Chaud 1, Port of Fine dining
Restaurant Spain (International,
Chaud 1, Port of Casual (T&T &
Creole Spain West Indian)
360 Degrees 1, Port of Fine dining
Restaurant Spain (Caribbean,
Mélange 1, Port of Fine dining
Veni Mangé 1, Port of Casual (West
Bois Cano 1, Port of Fine Dining
Solimar 1, Port of Casual
Magdalena 3, Tobago Fine, casual, and
Grand waterfront dining
Café Havana 1, Tobago Casual
El Pescador 1, Tobago Beachside
The Pasta 1, Tobago Casual (Italian)
The Seahorse 1, Tobago Beachside Casual
Restaurant & International)
* The above list is partial and should not be viewed as complete listing of T&T independent restaurants.
Some of T&T‟s chain restaurants are listed below.
Name Number of Type Purchasing Agent
KFC 55, Nationwide Fast food On average, food service operators buy
Subway 38, Nationwide Fast food approximately 75-80 percent of their food and
Royal Castle 27, Nationwide Fast food beverage products from local importers and
Church‟s 16, Nationwide Fast food the remaining 20-25 percent from local
Chicken manufacturers and growers. In cases where
Burger King 11, Trinidad Fast food food service operators need specialty items
(island-wide) not carried by local suppliers, they will import
Pizza Hut 7, Nationwide Fast food those items directly.
Popeye‟s 5, Trinidad (Port of Fast food
Louisiana Spain, Trincity,
Kitchen Chaguanas, Gulf
Domino‟s 3, Trinidad Fast food
Pizza (Woodbrook, West
T.G.I. 3, Trinidad (Port of Casual
Friday‟s Spain, Chaguanas, dining
Ruby 3, Trinidad (Port of Casual
Tuesday Spain, Chaguanas, dining
Wendy‟s 2, Trinidad (Port of Fast food
Spain & Gulf City)
Cinnabon 2, Trinidad Fast food
Pollo 1, Trinidad (Port of Fast food
McDonald‟s 1, Trinidad (Port of Fast food
Texas de 1, Trinidad (Port of Steakhouse
Benihana 1, Trinidad Japanese
* The above list is partial and should not be viewed as complete listing of T&T chain restaurants.
In addition to the hotel and restaurant market, institutional catering is an attractive market niche in
Trinidad and Tobago. This market segment consists of catering to the petrochemical industry, airlines,
yachts, hospitals, schools and prisons.
Petrochemical industry: Oil and natural gas operations demand a steady supply of a variety of food
products. Local catering businesses in Trinidad provide a full range of services for both land-based and
offshore oil and natural gas operations, which include supplying food products and cooking and
preparing meals. The majority of the catering companies purchase their products, including imported
products, from local importers. However, Classic Caterers, the largest offshore catering service in
Trinidad, has its own warehouse facility and also imports food and beverage products directly from U.S.
suppliers. The best method to enter this market is via direct contact with the catering companies
(sending product literature and samples, and traveling to Trinidad to do product presentations). If
interested in a particular product, caterers will contact the particular local importer/distributors from
which they purchase imported food and beverage products.
Airlines: Allied Caterers Ltd., which is part of a large regional import, distribution, and catering
conglomerate (Goddard Enterprises), is T&T‟s sole airline caterer. Allied provides in-flight meals to
T&T–based Caribbean Airlines, as well as to several other U.S. and international carriers. The company
enjoys using U.S. products because of their consistency and quality. Allied buys U.S. products from
local importers and wholesalers and also imports products from
U.S. suppliers through Goddard‟s Florida-based buying operations.
Yachts: Trinidad and Tobago is just south of the hurricane belt, making the two-island republic an ideal
spot for yachters (or „yachtees‟ as they are known locally) to keep their vessels during hurricane season.
There are seven marinas and ten ports of entry in the two-island nation. The Chaguaramas Peninsula in
Trinidad, and the Ports of Scarborough and Charlotteville on the island of Tobago, are the main areas of
yacht development in the two-island nation. Yachters obtain their food provisions by either calling
ahead and ordering from a supplier specializing in yacht provisioning, or by purchasing food provisions
from local retail outlets strategically located near the main marinas. Unfortunately, the number of
yachters visiting T&T in recent years has declined steadily. Among other factors, reported changes in
how insurance companies handle the risk of insuring yachts has diminished the need for yachters to
anchor their vessels outside the hurricane belt.
Hospitals, Schools, and Prisons: The Regional Health Authority (RHA), the School Nutrition Program
and the Prisons Division, are the T&T government organizations responsible for purchasing food
products for the various district hospitals, schools, and prisons, respectively. Their purchases are
primarily focused on buying locally while using importers/wholesalers for all imported products.
SECTION III. COMPETITION
Source: Global Trade Atlas.
At 38 percent, the U.S. share of the T&T market for imported consumer-oriented products dwarfs that of
all other competitors. According to U.S. trade data, U.S. exports of both consumer-oriented and seafood
categories posted record numbers in 2011, reaching $161.2 and $4.4 million, respectively. Quality
products, competitive pricing, and proximity are among the key advantages enjoyed by U.S. suppliers.
Nevertheless, U.S. suppliers do face competition in T&T. New Zealand, the number two supplier of
imported products, is strong in dairy and lamb. Canada, which ranks third among all suppliers, has a
relatively strong presence in many branded products, seafood, potato products and pork. Europe also
competes in the market, particularly with branded products and dairy.
Competition from foreign countries will likely heat up in coming years. The 2008 trade agreement
between the Caribbean and the EU has effectively begun reducing tariffs for a large share of agricultural
goods from the EU over the next 25 years (see GAIN report C19001 - Caribbean Signs Trade Accord
with EC, 1/22/2009). The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which T&T is a member, is also
negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada.
U.S. suppliers also face competition from within T&T and from neighboring Caribbean islands. As
mentioned earlier, T&T has a rather well developed food processing industry and there are a large
number of consumer-oriented food and beverage products supplied locally. Barbadian and Jamaican
products are also popular in T&T. Local and regional suppliers are often more adept at catering to the
unique “Trini” palate, which has influences from a variety of ethnic groups in the market.
The following table illustrates the respective country market shares in different product categories:
Product Major Supply Strengths of Key Supply Advantages &
Category & Sources Countries Disadvantages of Local
Total (2010) Suppliers
Snack U.S.: 44.6% In most product categories the With strong cultural
Foods U.K.: 18.8% United States is either the leading influences from Asia,
($21.9 Barbados: 5% supplier or one of the top three Africa, Europe, and the
million) suppliers. Competitive pricing, Middle East, the “Trini”
Breakfast U.S.: 70.4% quality products and proximity are palate is quite unique.
Cereals & Mexico: 12.1% some of the key advantages of U.S. Local and regional
Pancake U.K.: 5.4% suppliers. Exposure to U.S. media suppliers are often more
Mix as well as language, cultural, and adept at catering to
($6.5 commercial ties with the United consumer tastes and
million) States all contribute to consumers adapting to preferences of
Red Meats, U.S.: 33.8% having a positive attitude toward the many ethnic groups.
FR/CH/FZ Australia: 21% U.S. products.
($40.6 New Zealand:
million) 17.2% In some of the larger import
Red Meats, U.S.: 57.3% categories (red meats and dairy)
Prep/Pres Brazil: 23.4% where the United States faces
($18.5 Canada: 12.6% competition from New Zealand,
million) Australia, Canada, and Europe,
Poultry U.S.: 93.8% competitive pricing is a key factor.
Meat Canada: 4.9%
($17.6 U.K.: 1.1%
Dairy New Zealand:
($74.5 Ireland: 19.7%
million) U.S.: 13.6%
Eggs & U.S.: 87.5%
Products France: 8.3%
($12.7 Canada: 3.0%
Fresh Fruit U.S.: 59.6%
($12.7 St. Vincent &
million) the Grenadines:
St. Lucia: 9.8%
($28.7 China: 24.6%
million) U.S.: 22.7%
Processed U.S.: 31.9%
Fruit & Netherlands:
($39.1 Canada: 10.9%
Fruit & U.S.: 47.9%
Vegetable Belize: 29.1%
Juices Thailand: 4.3%
Tree Nuts U.S.: 40%
($5.4 India: 39.2%
Wine & St. Lucia:
($7.9 France: 13.4%
Fish & Canada: 33.8%
Seafood U.S.: 14.1%
Source: Trade data from Global Trade Atlas.
SECTION IV. BEST PRODUCT PROSPECTS
Products Present in the Market Which Have Good Sales Potential
Market opportunities exist for virtually all high-value, consumer-oriented foods/beverages and seafood
products in T&T. Some of the most prominent growth categories are listed below. It should be noted
that local manufacturers are reportedly lobbying for higher import duties for select poultry products,
pork, and ice cream. Duties for most poultry and pork products could increase from 40 percent to 80
percent and duties for ice cream could increase from 20 percent to 60 percent. Until such increases take
place (which is not a certainty), export opportunities for these and practically all other product categories
Imports Annual Import Key
(2010, Import Tariff Constraints Market
Product Market millions Growth Rate Over Market Attractiveness
Category Size of US$) (%) (%) 1/ Development for USA
Breakfast n/a 6.5 9.3 0-20 Some local and T&T possesses
Cereals & regional one of the
Pancake competition strongest
Mix economies in the
Red Meats n/a 40.6 13.2 0-40 Possible Caribbean. Per
FR/CH/FZ increase in pork capita income
Red Meats n/a 18.5 18.0 0-20 duties; and disposable
Prep/Pres CARICOM income are
FTA with relatively high.
undermine U.S. The United
meat sales, States has
particularly for experienced
Poultry n/a 17.6 36.2 0-40 Local growth in its
Meat competition, consumer-
impending oriented and fish
increase in product exports
poultry duties to T&T in recent
Dairy n/a 74.5 8.8 0-40 Strong years.
from New T&T consumers
Zealand for have a strong
commodity preference for
cheese; some U.S. Products.
local and The United
regional States is the
competition; leading supplier
possible in practically all
increase in ice major product
cream duties categories.
Fresh Fruit n/a 12.7 11.0 15-40 n/a
Fresh n/a 28.7 5.7 0-40 n/a
1/ - Refers to CARICOM‟s Common External Tariff (CET), which is applied by Trinidad and Tobago.
Exemptions may apply to specific tariff lines, meaning that rates other than the CARICOM CET may be
applied for select products. For definitive information on actual applied rates, it is recommended that
U.S. exporters contact Trinidad and Tobago‟s Customs and Excise Division (see Section V for contact
Source: Trade data from Global Trade Atlas.
Products Not Present in Significant Quantities but that Have Good Sales Potential
• Healthy food products (i.e. low-fat foods, granola bars, organic products)
• Herbal products (i.e. tea)
• Non-Caribbean & specialty produce (i.e. raspberries, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, asparagus,
• Pickled products
• Ethnic food products and ingredients, particularly Halal products and sauces/condiments for Indian
Products Not Present Because They Face Significant Barriers
SECTION V. POST CONTACT AND FURTHER INFORMATION
A. FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Caribbean Basin Agricultural Trade Office (CBATO)
Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
909 SE 1st. Ave., Suite 720
Miami, FL 33131
Tel: (305) 536-5300
Fax: (305) 536-7577
Agricultural Marketing Specialist
Agricultural Marketing Assistant
B. OTHER U.S. GOVERNMENT SOURCES:
Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA
This site provides extensive information on FAS programs and services, trade statistics, market research,
trade shows and events, and much more.
U.S. Department of State
This site provides valuable information on travel & business in foreign countries, information on U.S.
Embassies and Consulates around the world, and country background notes.
Central Intelligence Agency
The CIA‟s on-line World Factbook provides useful and up-to-date guides for practically every country
in the world.
More information on marketing U.S. products and services is available in the Country Commercial
Guide for T&T.
C. NON-U.S. GOVERNMENT SOURCES:
Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association
c/o Trinidad & Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute
Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies
Tel: (868) 634-1174/75
Fax: (868) 634-1176
For information on import duties, contact:
Research & Policy Unit
Customs & Excise Division
Ministry of Finance
Nicholas Court, Abercromby Street
Port of Spain, Trinidad
Tel: 1 (868) 625-3311 to 19 ext. 260
Fax: 1 (868) 623-8557
D. LINKS TO OTHER USEFUL REPORTS:
Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) - T&T Country Report
Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) - T&T Export Certificate Report
Exporter Guide – Caribbean Basin