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Tip the Scales in Your Favor: What To Look for In a Food Import Expert: A & A Importing Food Insider Tips

Insider Tips to Importing Food: A & A Experts Weigh In

We recently shared with you the tearjerker, but essential reading on when to break up with your customs brokers. Due to popular demand, we’re bringing you top tips from our team on what your customs broker should know.

We’ve already broken down the “by the book” requirements for importing food into the US and into Canada. We called on the regulations stipulated by both the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and the CBP (US Customs and Border Protection).

It’s crucial to follow the letter of the law, and we always do. It’s also helpful to know of some tips, tricks and import hacks that our A & A expert customs brokers have learned along the way, in their many decades of experience.

Our experts make life easier for food importers and are nimble, agile and forge lasting relationshipsThey also have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience across a number of different food categories and knowledge on updates to rules and regulations between importing food into Canada and the USA. Our team has compiled lists of what to ask your broker, and what to look for when choosing a trusted customs broker for your food importing needs. Read on!

What to look for in a food import broker:

Your broker should make your life easier. In finding your ideal customs broker for importing food, we’ve identified ways a great customs broker can make life easier for companies reliant on food importing.

Here are the top questions and concerns from food importers that our experts are frequently asked about:

  • Shipments being held
  • Shipment delays
  • Material and/or information needed to enter new markets
  • Trade regulations and/or wars changing duties

A & A is accountable and proactive with communication. We treat your business like our business, and will address any delays while keeping you informed. Our tenured experience means that we’ve seen it all, and know how to handle agents on either side of the border.

Your broker should be:

  • Knowledgeable, understand the ins and outs of the food category
  • Great, relevant, proactive communications
  • Help minimize complexity, particularly if a company is both importing and exporting a product
  • Make you aware of food licenses and permits you need
  • Make processing times faster and less expensive by using EDI

What we’ve identified above are GREAT, but also, standard things that your customs brokers should know and execute flawlessly.

Here are some “Red Flags” our A & A experts want to warn you about, in case these issues keep happening with your current broker:

  • FDA needs the Manufacturer of the product (and their FDA number) not where it’s shipping from
  • Labeling – With FDA labeling specifically, neither the FDA or customs broker can assist with labeling
  • Basic due diligence – For example, knowing the duty amount and what is needed before importing
  • Not having a food safe license
  • Incomplete details on the invoice (this can be client and vendor) -Information submitted to border agents must be complete, accurate, and properly classified. You are responsible for all that you are importing
  • Ignoring communication from government agencies related to your importing

We know that relationships with your customs brokers often go back many years – in fact, the bulk of our food import clients have been with us for at least 5 years. These relationships are far-reaching and often intertwined with many aspects of your business, so choosing to leave one broker for another is a big deal. But – it’s an important relationship to assess from time to time, particularly as costs of importing increase, consumers get more varied in their palates and demands, and increasing opportunities as various free trade agreements become available.

There’s often much complexity in food importing, and the ability to interface with other customs brokers along the way and cooperate with moving parts is vital. Proper EDI (electronic data interchange) reduces the time to prepare and submit an entry to the CBSA. NRIs (Non Resident Importers) can be easily set up, however domestic importers with multiple vendors are challenging and often only a very small handful (if any) vendors can be wholly set up on EDI.

So, without tooting our own horn too much, here are some reasons, shared with us by our food import clients on why working with A & A has been pivotal in their business’ success.

Reasons our A & A experts are so sought out in the importing & exporting industry:

  • Breadth of knowledge across a number of different food categories
  • Experience with food importers – our team has experts with 20+ years of experience
  • Focus on speed and ease with paperwork by leveraging electronic (versus paper) tools like
  • EDI and our proprietary tool – Zipments (more on what that is in the next segment)
  • Our customers stay with us – we have had the privilege of supporting Reser’s since 1980
  • We have a diverse and portfolio of lengthy partnerships in food importing, so our experiences are broad and always evolving as the industry does
  • High visibility into your shipments with our PARS tracker, so you’re never left wondering
  • A & A is structured to be nimble – we spend the time to monitor and make sure everything is communicated and with great service to boot
  • A & A prides itself on having the highest values when it comes to reliability, accountability, professionalism, clear communication, and solution-finding.

Do you feel like your current broker offers you all of this? Stay with us for our next article, where we get direct quotes from our most senior A & A customs broker experts who work the closest with our food importing clients.

NOTE: All details pertaining to CARM R2 processes are based on the current information available at the time of writing. As this is subject to change, it’s recommended you periodically check in with the CBSA or your customs broker.