European Union market entry checklist
This page provides recommended market entry steps into the EU (European Union).
You can also download a copy of the following checklist: EU Market Entry Checklist (PDF - 450.5 KB)
Step 1: Overview
The European Union's (EU’s) Single Market consisting of 27 markets sees free movement of goods, services, capital and people between those states. While the EU, not individual countries, is responsible for this market and manages trade relations with the wider world the reality remains that third country exporters need to consider varying rules around regulations, testing, and standards at the Member State level. Therefore, while looking at the EU level is important, exporters also need to develop their market entry on a country-by-country basis.
The 27 member states of the European Union include:
Step 2: Select and validate your market(s)
When selecting an export market, start by looking for market opportunities in countries with low-risk and focus your resources on one or two key markets before attempting a pan-European approach.
Market research is key to validating and understanding where the best opportunities are and how best to approach a potential export market. It's an important step, even if an overseas market has come knocking on your door or you have been doing business there before.
Look for market, trade and production information and understand the legal & regulatory environment as well as the competition you are faced with.
Step 3: Determine market access regulations and import requirements
EU-imposed regulations are the minimum standard, but this also means that some markets may have stricter rules for products they produce. As part of the EU all member states form a custom union.
Whether you’re exporting to France or Latvia, you will face the same customs duty for your goods when it arrives in the EU. It’s important to note that while the tariff rates are common, the duty rates charged differs from one import to another, depending on the type of good and where it is coming from. Make sure you understand what applies to your product.
Consider working alongside an entry market agent or Global Victoria on import regulations.
Step 4: Understand Labelling & packaging, CE Marking, Intellectual Property (IP) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The EU has strict standards around labelling and packaging for imported products and each member country may have its own additional requirements.
Packaging must be authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prior to being placed on the market, and safety assessments of the materials must have been conducted.
Please also refer to Step 5. Other trading regulations that need to be considered include CE marking, Intellectual Property (IP), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and adhering to other food safety standards depending on your category.
Step 5: Develop your market entry and channel optimisation plan
A Market Entry Plan will enable your organisation to better target opportunities, prioritise activities and be realistic around budgets and commitment. You will need to consider different ways you could choose to structure your business operations in a European market or how to find and work with in-market partners that will best suit your requirements.
You will need to understand the retail landscape and which digital sales channels dominate and who could be the right fit. Global Victoria can guide you towards market entry consultants or help define which in-market events and meetings could help you execute your market entry plan.
Step 6: Sustainability
Get ahead of sustainable packaging targets, taxes and regulations that might impact your packaging. The EU requires 'first distributors' (manufacturers or importers, but also foreign B2C exporters) of packaged products to take responsibility for the packaging waste of those products.
Obtain a licence from one of the country's private packaging waste collection schemes that then collect and recycle (to the extent possible) the disposed packaging waste.
The EU is also working on the European Green Deal, i.e. to become a climate-neutral, resource efficient economy by 2050. There is a Plastics Pact which brings together players from across the plastics value chain to work towards responsible design, use and recycling. There are already plastic bans in place for fruit and vegetables in e.g, France.
Step 7: Engage with Pathways to Export and Global Victoria
The Pathways to Export team within Agriculture Victoria is dedicated to supporting small-scale and emerging exporters understand global market entry requirements and assists businesses to build capability to achieve sustainable export results.
Christine Spahn is Global Victoria’s Trade Manager for the UK & Europe supporting Victorian businesses with market analysis, on-the-ground market insights and connections to key local partners to build momentum.
Step 8: Continue building your in-market network and be present
Once you’ve confirmed your intentions to proceed with your export strategy, it is imperative you dedicate sufficient time and financial resources to build your professional network to maximise in-market opportunities. In-market visits, regular communication, and engagement with existing customers, as well as potential new ones, supports long-term relationships and overall benefits to your brand.
Capability building trade activities as well as Inbound and Outbound Missions hosted by Austrade, Global Victoria and Agriculture Victoria are additional ways of expanding your networks.