Importing candy into the United States isn’t just a sweet idea, it’s big business. Global sales for candy and sweets add up to nearly $140 billion each year, with many of the top candy brands coming from international sources. A large percent of that candy is exported, creating lots of opportunity for importing candy into the U.S.
According to information from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversee the import of food products, including candy, into the country.
Importing candy into the U.S. requires the filing of prior notice with the FDA, which is required under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.
According to recent statistics, the top 10 exporters of candy are:
The import of candy and chocolate, like other food products, is regulated by several federal agencies.
The first step in importing candy into the U.S. is finding a supplier. You will find many international wholesalers and exporters to choose from. Your candy’s country of origin will likely depend on the kind of candy you choose to import. Europe is know for it’s fine chocolate. China is famous for its creamy White Rabbit candy. Japanese candy like Pocky is popular with the kawaii set. Regardless of what kind of candy you chose to import, you’ll need to follow a few rules and regulations.
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 states that all food imports are subject to FDA approval to protect the U.S. food supply. According to the FDA, you may file prior notice in one of two ways:
CBP will not release shipments of candy or food products without proof of filing prior notice. The prior notice satisfied number must be submitted to the CBP along with other entry documents. It is important that the prior notice number is clearly included with the other required documents at the port of entry, including:
Additionally, foreign manufactures and wholesalers of candy must register with the FDA before their products can be admitted to the U.S. If you are importing candy from a foreign manufacturer, it would be wise to check the registry before importing candy to the U.S. This could save time and hassle.
If your imported candy contains milk or eggs, additional documentation and inspection might be required. The USDA might require health certificates, permits and other special certifications from the county of origin accompany the shipment. Working with Your Licensed Customs Broker can help ensure you have all the proper documentation needed for importing candy into the U.S.
You can contact the FDA for additional information about importing candy into the U.S.
According to numbers from the USDA, the U.S. accounts for 18 percent of global market’s chocolate imports. This adds up to more than $1.4 billion in chocolate coming into the country each year, and this number is on the rise. The top importers of chocolate into the U.S. include:
Like with other candies, chocolate import is regulated by the FDA and USDA. The FDA identifies chocolate and chocolate products in several categories or types, including:
Each type of chocolate has FDA requirements regarding its formulation. These rules include guidelines on sugar and milk content and other ingredients added to the chocolate. There isn’t a category for dark chocolate. Sometimes this can cause confusion and import delays in some cases as dark chocolate must fit into one of the FDA categories in order to be labeled as chocolate.
Chocolate candy must also follow the same rules as other candy imports. Filing prior notice is required. USDA documentation might be required, too. Working with Your Licensed Customs Broker can help ensure you have all the proper documentation needed for importing chocolate candy into the U.S.
As an alternative to importing chocolate, many companies import cocoa beans and then process them into chocolate once they arrive. To learn more, check out our article How to Import Cocoa Beans.
Chocolate liqueur, also known as Creme d’Cocoa is a confectionary distilled spirit used in many cocktails. Chocolate liqueur shouldn’t be confused with chocolate liquor, which is a food ingredient containing cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Some aficionados relate chocolate liqueur to drinking a cocktail version of candy. Many brands of chocolate liqueur are imported. When importing this candy in cocktail form, you’ll need to follow a few additional rules. The USDA, FDA, CBP and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) all oversee the import of alcohol and alcohol products into the U.S.
There are several forms to complete before you can import chocolate liqueur into the U.S. In addition to filing for prior notice with the FDA, you’ll need to file for an importer’s permit from the TTB. You can apply for this permit online. To get the permit, you are required to have a business in the U.S. If you do not conduct business in the U.S., you must contract with a current licensed alcohol importer. Making a business arrangement with an existing licensed alcohol importer gets rid of the need to get an importer’s permit.
Imported chocolate liqueur is also subject to federal guidelines involving labeling. You must obtain a Certificate of Label Approval to import alcohol. This certificate is issued by the TTB. The COLA ensures the liqueur label states:
It is important to note that the IRS charges excise tax on imported alcohol, including chocolate liqueur.
If you have travelled abroad and fallen in love with a foreign sweet treat, you might want to bring some back to the U.S. with you. Individuals seeking to import candy for their own use have different rules to follow than those seeking to import candy for resale.
Candy and chocolate are generally admissible under CBP regulations when you're returning from a trip. Prior notification of candy you are bringing back with you from abroad is generally not required for travellers. However, you must declare all food products, including candy and chocolate, on a declarations form when returning to the U.S. Candy and chocolate you bring back with you must be in its original packaging and commercially labeled. CBP also requires the candy to be in its finished form.
According to CBP, failure to declare candy and other food products when bringing them into the U.S. can result in fines of up to $10,000.
It’s also important to know that importers are responsible for paying all duties and taxes when importing candy into the U.S. You can find the duty rates for candy in the U.S. International Trade Commission’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
The federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not charge excise tax on imported candy.
Customs bonds are a necessary part of importing candy into the U.S. CBP requires that you use a Customs Bond when importing goods subject to regulations from any federal agency or when the shipment is valued at more than $2,500. Because candy imports fall under FDA regulations, a customs bond is required.
A customs bond is essentially an insurance policy that covers the payment of taxes and duties to the U.S. government when importing goods. A customs bond makes sure that your taxes and duties will be satisfied even in extreme circumstances. These circumstances might include the closing of your business or your business filing for bankruptcy. Customs bonds are required for shipments arriving in the country by air and by sea. You might be subject to fines and delays if you do not have the proper customs bond when importing candy into the U.S.
If you decide to work with a Licensed Customs Broker for importing candy into the U.S., the broker’s customs bond can likely secure your transaction.
There are two general kinds of customs bonds: Continuous bonds and single entry bonds. The bond type you select likely depends on how often you plan to import candy or food products into the U.S. A continuous bond covers all import shipments during a calendar year. A single entry customs bond covers one shipment of goods into the U.S.
Your Licensed Customs Broker’s bond will likely cover your transaction. If you are handling the import of candy on your own, you can obtain the appropriate customs bond through a surety company licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. If you are purchasing a bond for yourself, you must consider that you are essentially buying an insurance policy for the taxes and duties on your imported goods. Costs will vary. If you are working with a Licensed Customs Broker, they will likely include the use of their bond with the cost of doing business.
Working with your Licensed Customs Broker is an essential part of the importing process for all goods, even for something as sweet as candy. Your Licensed Customs Broker will work with you to ensure your imported candy moves efficiently across borders and arrives at the port of entry on time. Your Licensed Customs Broker will also make sure that your shipment follows all customs rules and regulations. Customs Brokers work in the best interest of their clients to ensure the import process goes smoothly.
Your Licensed Customs Broker can arrange services including:
Your Licensed Customs Broker works for you, putting their expertise and knowledge on your side to make importing candy into the U.S. simple.
Purchasing candy to import from an international wholesaler or supplier isn’t like purchasing from a domestic seller. In many cases, different methods of payment are required. You’ll find a handful of common payment methods when importing candy. Common payment methods when working with international candy suppliers might include:
You might find that each of these methods of payment comes with its own unique pros and cons. The method of payment you chose might depend on how much candy you are importing and its country of origin. Also, you should be aware of fluctuating currency exchange rates when paying your candy supplier. Even if the your candy supplier gives you a quote in U.S dollars, the amount you pay might change based on current exchange rates.
Preparing candy for shipment is an important part of making sure it arrives on time. Some candies melt in warm conditions, others keep their composure more easily. The way you prepare candy for shipment depends on how long it will be in transit and the elements it will be exposed to.
Generally speaking, solid chocolate melts in temperatures above 85 degrees. The FDA suggests that chocolate candies arrive at their final destination at cold or at room temperatures. The FDA recommends using a cold source to protect perishable items like candies during shipment. A cold source might include dry ice or frozen gel packs.If you are shipping with dry ice, the shipping container should be marked “Contains Dry Ice.”
The FDA also recommends shipping food products as quickly as possible. Shipping by air is much quicker, and much more expensive, than shipping by sea. Your Licensed Customs Broker can guide you through the shipping process.
If you are buying imported candy in bulk as a wholesaler, sea freight might be an option. Cargo shipped overseas via sea freight is generally held in 20-by-40 foot cargo containers. A full cargo load holds approximately 2,400 cubic feet. A full cargo container has a payload capacity of approximately 61,000 pounds. A sea of candy can fit in a sea freight cargo container!
If the candy you are shipping is at least five pallets, you might want to choose full cargo load (FCL) shipping. If you are shipping less candy by sea, you might want to select loose cargo load shipping (LCL). This means your candy will share space with other kinds of cargo. You might share space with similar goods.
It’s important to note that many ocean carriers only have limited liability insurance for cargo damage. This limited insurance is generally just $500 per container of cargo. Because your bulk imported candy is likely valued at more, it might be wise to purchase additional cargo insurance.
Your your Licensed Customs Broker or business insurance company will likely help you navigate with the cargo insurance process.
Candy shipped by sea freight will arrive at a seaport. From there, it might be shipped on a train to a location closer to you. Then your imported candy might be shipped on a truck to your warehouse or retail location.
One of the most popular candies in the world, Kinder Surprises (also known as Kinder Eggs), are banned from import into the U.S. These German chocolate candies consist of a plastic egg containing a collectible toy wrapped in a rich chocolate and cookie shell. The plastic egg and toy are thought to be a choking hazard under U.S. safety regulations.
Other restrictions for importing candy include bans on candy from embargoed countries. Embargoed countries include
These sanctions and restrictions are to protect the U.S.and its interests.
In addition to federal restrictions regarding imported candy, some consumers have other safety concerns. According to a recent report from the University of California San Francisco, some imported candies were found to have unsafe levels of lead and other toxins.
Since 2006, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has mandated state testing on all imported candies. Forty two percent of all CDPH food contamination reports issued by the CDPH between 2001 and 2014 were for lead in imported candy. This finding creates concern for consumers of imported candy. Exposure to lead is known to cause developmental delays, learning difficulties, neurological problems, seizures and more. A majority of the contaminated candies came from India (20 percent), China (24 percent), and Mexico (32 percent). Because the food contamination reports were issued, the products were recalled from the market quickly.
To make sure your imported candy is safe, only import candy from reputable distributors and wholesalers. Follow all state regulations regarding candy imports, including testing when necessary.
No matter where you are in the world, someone has a sweet tooth. International candies can satisfy the urge for sweet and introduce consumers to new, rich flavors. Some of the most popular candies from around the world include:
You’ll find many of the candies on this list on the shelves at international supermarkets. Imported candies satisfy the sweet tooth of those seeking a unique treat.
Now that you’ve learned a little about importing candy into the U.S., you might be ready to get started or need more information. Working with USA Customs Clearance can make the import process simple and easy. Our team of Licensed Customs Brokers can help you navigate the candy import process and help manage your shipping and customs clearance needs.
Are you ready to get started or need more information? Schedule a consulting session with our team of licensed professionals to get the help you need.