EU expansion presents new trade opportunities

With the European Union having upped its membership by 10 predominantly Eastern European nations, Western European ingredients suppliers are busy developing strategies to accommodate up-and-coming economies such as Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania.

?We are optimistic the changes will bring new opportunities,? said Stephan Vautravers, business development officer at Swiss-based ingredients supplier Emile Flachsmann. ?Eastern Europe is traditionally one of the most important areas for sourcing raw materials, and membership will make it easier for us to trade with them.?

?It?s very exciting and there are new markets for everyone,? noted Pedro Vieira, marketing manager of Portuguese-based Kemin Foods Europe. ?Look at countries like Poland with 40 million increasingly wealthy inhabitants.? But he warned: ?Just because there are 10 new members doesn?t mean it will be an instantly harmonised market. From our experience when Portugal joined in 1985, it takes time before harmonisation kicks in.?

Eastern European supplements markets defied stereotypes, according to Robin Ward, marketing manager at Swiss-based botanicals supplier Linnea.

?Because of Soviet-era regulations that often remain in place, most of the raw materials used in Eastern Europe are high quality, whereas many Western supplements manufacturers use cheaper ingredients sourced from regions like the Far East,? he said. ?The Eastern European market may well get flooded with cheap Western products.?

The other new member states are Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta.

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