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Importing Candy into the U.S.

Importing candy into the US
Candy means big business in the U.S. Many of those sweet treats are produced abroad and craved by American taste buds. Importing candy to the U.S. starts with proper documentation to avoid shipments melting before arrival.
May 24, 2018
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Last Modified: January 19, 2024

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:

  1. Germany
  2. China
  3. Belgium
  4. Netherlands
  5. Mexico
  6. United States
  7. Spain
  8. Canada
  9. Turkey
  10. Poland

The import of candy and chocolate, like other food products, is regulated by several federal agencies.

Importing Candy into the U.S.

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 offers the the Automated Broker Interface of the Automated Commercial System (ABI/ACS) to submit the filing of prior under an existing agreement between the CBP and FDA.
  • If you cannot or choose not to file through the CBP’s system, you may file through the FDA’s Prior Notice System Interface  (PNSI). According to the FDA, PNSI may be used to submit filing for prior notice for shipments coming through international mail. Please visit the FDA’s Prior Oversight Notice and Background for additional information.

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:

  • A commercial invoice listing the cost of purchase, tariff classification of your imported items, and the product’s country of origin.
  • A detailed packing list.
  • A receipt or bill of lading listing the items imported.
  • An arrival notice from an U.S. agent or record.

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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.

Importing Chocolate 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:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • France
  • U.K.
  • Poland
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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:

  • Bittersweet chocolate
  • Buttermilk chocolate
  • Chocolate liquor
  • Milk chocolate
  • White chocolate
  • Mixed dairy product chocolate
  • Skim milk chocolate
  • Sweet chocolate

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.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Imported chocolate liqueur is subject to federal guidelines
Importing Chocolate Liqueur into the U.S.

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:

  • Where the alcohol was produced.
  • How long the alcohol has been aged.
  • The percentage of alcohol in the beverage.

It is important to note that the IRS charges excise tax on imported alcohol, including chocolate liqueur.

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Importing Candy into the U.S. for Personal Use for Travellers

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.

Taxes, Duties and Fees for Imported Candy

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.

Failure to declare Candy can result in fines
Importing Candy into the U.S. and Customs Bonds

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.

  • Single entry customs bonds can be complicated. The minimum amount of the bond you purchase is required to be worth at least the value of the goods, plus the taxes, duties and fees you will owe on them. Additionally, because candy imports must meet requirements of the FDA, the bond must be worth at least three times the value of the goods imported. For example, if you are importing $3,000 worth of candy that is subject to FDA regulations, you will need to purchase a bond worth at least $15,000. You might find the price of a single entry bond can vary by surety company. Additionally, you should have supplementary bond coverage for the Importer Security Filing (ISF) if you are shipping your imported candy by sea when using a single entry bond.
  • Continuous bonds can be simpler than single entry bonds. To obtain a continuous entry customs bond, you’ll need to pay for at least $50,000 in coverage. Though the cost of this bond can vary, it is often more economical to purchase a continuous bond if you plant to import more than three shipments in a calendar year. A continuous bond also covers ISF requirements, so no additional bond is required.

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.

How a Licensed Customs Broker Can Help Import Candy

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:

  • Arranging customs clearance for the shipment of imported goods at the port of entry.
  • Preparation for the release of goods.
  • Confirming that products and goods imported enter the country and working with CBP to make sure all government fees, taxes and duties are paid.
  • Determining which permits are required to import candy and helping you obtain these permits.
  • Providing advice through the entire import process, including navigating free-trade agreements, tax or duty deferment, and determining entry options for your goods.

Your Licensed Customs Broker works for you, putting their expertise and knowledge on your side to make importing candy into the U.S. simple.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

How to Pay for Imported Candy

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:

  • International wire transfer: This is a common payment method for small- and medium- sized transactions. In many cases, payments made via  international wire transfer are made in to the supplier before goods are delivered.
  • Open account: This is another common payment method. Generally speaking, an open account involves the seller offering a line of credit to the buyer until the products are received.
  • Documentary collection: This method of payment often works like cash on delivery (COD). When using documentary collection, the seller’s bank works with the buyer’s bank to collect payment after delivery.
  • Letter of credit: This method of payment is a payment advance. When a letter of credit is used, the buyer’s bank offers an official document stating how much credit is available for the purchase of goods. A letter of credit works like a bank guarantee. In this case, your bank will pay the candy supplier when the obligations outlined in the letter are met.
  • Online escrow: This method of payment is often considered less risky than other methods. Online escrow is often used for smaller transactions, usually less than $5,000. You will likely find that online importers and wholesalers prefer this payment method.

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.

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How to Ship Candy

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.

FDA recommends shipping candy as quickly as possible

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.

Restrictions on Importing Candy

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

  • Cuba.
  • Iran.
  • Lebanon.
  • Syria.
  • North Korea.
  • Libya.
  • Sudan.
  • Somalia.

These sanctions and restrictions are to protect the U.S.and its interests.

Concerns About Imported Candy

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:

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk. This popular chocolate from the United Kingdom is said to be made with milk from the British Isles.
  • Nestle Smarties. Also from the U.K., Nestle Smarties are different from the candy most Americans know as Smarties. These candy-coated chocolate drops were once known as Chocolate Beans.
  • Ptasie Mleczko. The most popular candy in Poland is Ptasie Mleczko. It contains a sweet vanilla meringue center surrounded by a layer of chocolate glaze coating. Ptasie Mleczko translates into English as “bird’s milk,” which accompanies a story from a Slavic fairy tale. According to the legend, a princess puts her noble suitors to the test by asking them to fetch her bird’s milk. The legend makes the phrase “bird’s milk” refer to something rare and exquisite, like this delicious imported candy.
  • Haribo gummies. Most candy connoisseurs know Haribo for their popular gummy bears, but that isn’t all the German company offers to candy lovers. You can import crazy flavors like Hot Sticks and Wine Gummies from directly from Germany. Haribo gummies are the most popular candy in Denmark. According to online statistics, Danes eat as much as 18 pounds of gummy candy per year.
  • Milka Chocolate Bars. These German confections gross more than $730 million each year, making them one of the most popular (and delicious) chocolate bars in the world.
  • Kit Kat. Yes, you can find a Kit Kat in any supermarket checkout line in the U.S. But did you know this classic candy comes in other flavors from other international locations? Purple sweet potato, wasabi, and strawberry cheesecake Kit Kat candies are all available in Japan.
  • Lacta Bubbly. This Brazilian candy is injected with air for a bubbly texture. Other available flavors of Lacta Bubbly include white chocolate and Oreo.
  • White Rabbit. These creamy, chewy candies come from China. The wrapper is made from an edible, sticky rice paper that melts away in your mouth, adding to the candy’s experience.
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  • Elite. Elite brand chocolate dominates the Israeli candy market. This chocolate candy has a wafer center like an American Kit Kat. However, the wafer is surrounded by a layer of hazelnut cream. Elite chocolate is so popular that is has its own inspired ice cream flavors, too.
  • Prince Polo. Another Polish confection, Prince Polo is actually the most popular candy in Iceland. This dark chocolate confection is a dark chocolate coated cookie bar. According to online statistics, each resident of Iceland consumes about a pound of Prince Polo candy each year.
  • Australian Licorice. Licorice is one of the most popular candies exported from The Land Down Under. There are many brands of Australian licorice, many named after creatures you’ll only find in this continental nation. You’ll find all flavors of Australian licorice, too. Flavors include strawberry, traditional anise and more.
  • Galaxy. Many Americans favor Dove chocolate, but it’s branded as Galaxy chocolate in Saudi Arabia and very popular. Galaxy recently spent $60 million to open a chocolate factory in this Middle Eastern country. Plain chocolate is the most popular, but flavors like Cookie Crumble are in favor, too.
  • Cote d’Or. Belgium is one of the top exporters of candy. Belgium’s most popular chocolate is Cote d’Or, a sweet confection made of silky smooth milk chocolate. According to documents from the Belgium Department of Tourism, Belgians consume more than 600 million chocolates each year. Cote d’Or is the most popular, which adds up to a lot of sweet stuff! Cote d’Or also comes in a handful of flavors, including cranberry, marzipan and praline.
  • Lunch Bar. The British Cadbury Dairy Milk is a popular imported candy in South Africa. South Africa’s favorite variety of Dairy Milk is the Lunch Bar, a chocolate coated wafer that contains caramel, peanuts and crispy rice. Three hundred thousand Lunch Bar candies are sold each day in South Africa.
  • Dutch Chocolate Letters. A holiday tradition for many families in the Netherlands, Dutch Chocolate Letters are often brought by Sinterklaas for St. Nicholas Day. Many families of Dutch origin import these candies to the U.S. to keep the holiday tradition.
  • Daim. Popular in Sweden, Daim is can be considered a Scandinavian version of a Heath Bar. Like it’s American copycat, it has a toffee center surrounded by rich chocolate. The difference between the two is that Daim’s toffee is almond flavored.
  • Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate. When most people think of Japanese candy, chocolate dipped Pocky comes to mind. However, one of the most popular candies in Japan is the Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate bar. The candy contains more than 70 percent strawberry pulp, making each bite of this sweet treat berry-full.
  • Alpen Gold. Russia’s favorite candy is Alpen Gold, a rich chocolate bar. Flavors available include coffee bean, liqueur and hazelnut.
  • Ghana. Named after the African country where the cacao beans are sourced, Ghana is the most popular candy in South Korea. It’s creamy texture makes Ghana a hit across the Asian market.

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.

Ready to Get Started? Import Candy Today

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.

30 Minute Licensed Expert Consulting Will Personally Guide You
Have Questions About Importing Candy?

Talk to our candy importing specialists today. We’ll answer your questions and walk you through the entire process.

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6 comments on “Importing Candy into the U.S.”

  1. HI, my name is Raymond, I was looking into starting an Ecommerce business In Florida USA. I wanted to import American made candy that follows The EU regulations (no red dye 40 etc.) I was also thinking about importing American cereal n any other American products that’s made under EU regulations. Is this something that you can help me with? I found this company that ships to the USA, Candy Hero Ltd. There’re many others also, I just need to know laws n regulations. I’m register as a wholesale/retail company.

  2. Dear Sir/Madam,
    We are a new CN manufacture for candy with toy product. We noted the FDA and customs notice are required. I have a question. What about the label, outer carton requirement during import from China to USA. Thanks in advance.

  3. I’M very small importer. I’m planning to import Chocolate bars from India to USA. I would like to use air cargo.
    Do I need customs broker service? Please help.

  4. Dear Madame: We are opening a Chocokate shoppe, and small snack bar. We are French and A.erican a dcwould like yo import Chocokate Belg, French, Irish chocolates, as we have wholesalers. can we obtain customs permits plus chocolate liguers

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