Entering the European market for salad sets
The mid-end to high-end segments of the European salad set market are most suitable for you. To appeal to consumers in these segments, you should pay attention to design, craftsmanship, materials and the story behind your salad sets. Sustainability also plays an important role. Entering the European market means you need to comply with the European Union’s mandatory (legal) requirements, as well as any additional or niche requirements your buyers may have. Most importantly, salad sets must be safe to come into contact with food.
Contents of this page
1. What requirements must salad sets comply with to be allowed on the European market?
The following requirements apply to salad sets on the European market. For a more detailed overview, see our study on buyer requirements for Home Decoration and Home Textiles (HDHT).
What are mandatory requirements?
When exporting to Europe, you have to comply with the following legal requirements:
- Food Contact Materials Directive
- General Product Safety Directive
- Timber Regulation
- Packaging and packaging waste legislation
Food contact materials
Food safety is a major concern in Europe, and safety measures go beyond food itself to cover dinnerware, packaging and cutlery that comes into direct contact with food. Salad sets for the European market must comply with the European legislation on Food Contact Materials. This legislation states that the packaging of products that come into contact with food must be labelled with specific symbols, such as the food safe symbol. Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 also requires that materials do not:
- release their constituents into food at levels harmful to human health
- change food composition, taste and odour in an unacceptable way
The Food Contact Materials legislation also contains specific Directives for items made of plastic, recycled plastic and ceramics. These Directives set out rules for the composition of these materials, permitted substances and Specific Migration Limits (SMLs).
In addition, Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006 on good manufacturing practices ensures that the manufacturing process is well controlled. Good manufacturing rules apply to all stages in the manufacturing chain of food contact materials, except the production of starting materials.
- For more information, see the European Food Safety Authority’s Frequently Asked Questions on the Food Contact Materials legislation.
- Keep up to date on the potential new limits for lead and cadmium in ceramics via the roadmap on the initiative to lower metal limits for ceramic food contact materials.
General product safety
The EU’s General Product Safety Directive is framework legislation that requires that all products marketed in the European Union must be safe to use. If there are no specific legal requirements established for your product and its use, the General Product Safety Directive still applies. If specific requirements do apply, the Directive applies in addition to those, and covers other safety aspects that may not have been specifically described elsewhere.
Unsafe products are rejected at the European border or withdrawn from the market. The European Union has introduced a rapid alert system (RAPEX) to list such products.
- Use your common sense to ensure that normal use of your product does not cause any danger.
- Search the RAPEX database for salad sets to get an idea of what issues may arise.
Restricted chemicals: REACH
The REACH Regulation (EC 1907/2006) aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals. While REACH has various important roles in Europe, the most relevant to you is the restriction of chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe.
Restricted chemicals with regard to salad sets include:
- cadmium compounds in various applications
- arsenic and creosotes as wood preservatives
- For useful information and tips from the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), see REACH Annex XVII (a list of all restricted chemicals), Information on REACH for companies established outside Europe and Questions & Answers on REACH.
The European Union’s Timber Regulation (EUTR) counters the trade in illegally harvested timber and products through three obligations.
When placing timber on the European market for the first time:
- illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber are prohibited
- European traders must exercise 'due diligence'
Once on the market, the timber and timber products may be sold and/or transformed before they reach the final consumer. To facilitate the traceability of timber products, economic operators in this part of the supply chain (referred to as traders in the Regulation) have an obligation to:
- keep records of their suppliers and customers
The Regulation covers a wide range of timber products listed in its Annex, using EU Customs code nomenclature. Products with a FLEGT or CITES licence comply with the EUTR, meaning they are exempt from the due diligence obligation.
- For more information, see the EUTR Guidance Document.
- See the FLEGT License Information Point and the EU FLEGT Facility for more information about FLEGT.
- For more information on CITES permits, you can contact your National CITES Management Authority.
Europe has specific packaging and packaging waste legislation. This EU Directive 2015/720 aims to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment. Buyers may therefore ask you to minimise the use of packaging materials (paper, cartons, plastics) or to use recycled materials, for example.
Europe also has requirements for wood packaging materials (WPM) used for transport, such as:
- packing cases
- box pallets
All wood packaging material and dunnage from non-European Union countries must be:
- either heat treated or fumigated in line with ISPM15 procedures
- officially marked with the ISPM15 stamp consisting of 3 codes (country, producer and measure applied) and the IPPC logo
These requirements do not apply to:
- wood 6mm thick or less
- wood packaging material made entirely from processed wood produced using glue, heat and pressure, such as plywood, oriented strand board and veneer
- wood packaging material used in trade within the European Union
The objective of this Directive is to prevent organisms that are harmful to plants or plant products from being introduced into and spreading within the European Union. It also regulates imports from third countries in line with international plant health standards. Keep this in mind when you decide on the packaging of your salad sets.
- Read more in the overview of EU rules on wood packaging material.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
Social and environmental sustainability make your products stand out on the European market. Think of sustainable raw materials and production processes, as well as the impact your company has on the environment, the wellbeing of your workers and society as a whole. Buyers appreciate a good story to create an emotional connection with their customers.
Nowadays, an increasing number of European buyers demand adherence to the following schemes:
- Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI): European retailers developed this initiative to improve social conditions in sourcing countries. They expect their suppliers to comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct. To prove compliance, the importer can request an audit of your production process. Once a company is audited, it is included in a database for all BSCI participants.
- Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI): This initiative is an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. It aims to improve the working lives of people across the globe that make or grow consumer goods.
- Sedex: this membership organisation strives to improve working conditions in global sourcing chains. It offers a collaborative platform where you can share information on your ethical and labour standards with (potential) buyers, based on a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).
You can refer to standards such as ISO 14001 and SA8000 to read up on sustainable options. However, only niche market buyers demand compliance with such standards.
A recent study by the International Trade Centre concluded that, irrespective of the product, retailers in the major European markets are putting more environmentally and socially sustainable products on their shelves. Simply because consumers ask for it. According to the survey, 98.5% of retailers consider sustainability as a factor in their product sourcing decisions.
- Optimise your sustainability performance. Reading up on the issues addressed by initiatives such as BSCI and ETI will give you an idea of what to focus on.
- If you can show your sustainability performance, this may give you a competitive advantage. For instance, with a self-assessment like the BSCI Self-Assessment for Producers, or a code of conduct such as the ETI base code.
- For more information, see our special study on sustainability.
Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) can cause lung cancer through inhalation. The ceramics industry mostly uses crystalline silica in the form of quartz and cristobalite. Although European legislation cannot regulate working conditions in non-European countries, European buyers care about worker safety. They may demand good processing of crystalline silica during the production of ceramics.
- See the European Network on Silica for access to materials such as the Agreement on Workers Health Protection through the Good Handling and Use of Crystalline Silica and Products containing it, a Good Practice Guide and European national Occupational Exposure Limits.
The information on the outer packaging of salad sets should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer. The external packaging labels should include:
- producer name
- consignee name
- caution signs
Your buyer will specify what information they need on the product labels or on the item itself, such as logos or ‘made in…’ information. This is part of the order specifications. It is common in Europe to use EAN or barcodes on the product label. Labelling should be in English, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.
You should pack salad sets according to the importer’s instructions. They have their own specific requirements for the use of packaging materials, filling boxes, palletisation and stowing containers. Always ask for the importer’s packaging specifications. These are part of the purchase order.
Properly packaging salad sets minimises the risk of damage caused by shocks. How an item is packed for export depends on how easily it can be damaged. Packaging should make sure the items inside a cardboard box cannot damage each other. It should also prevent damage to the boxes when they are stacked inside the container. Packaging therefore usually consists of outer and inner cardboard boxes filled with protective materials like bubble wrap or paper.
If you produce wooden salad sets, you need to properly dry the wood after production to prevent mould or cracks. Condensation inside the container during transport can also cause mould. This is caused by humid air that becomes colder at night and warmer during the day. You need proper air ventilation inside the container to prevent this. Before shipment, you must inspect containers for air holes. You can also place products to reduce humidity amongst the cargo. Make sure to follow the importer’s instructions.
Dimensions and weight
Packaging must be easy to handle in terms of dimensions and weight. Standards are often related to labour regulations at the point of destination and must be specified by the buyer.
Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport, and you have to maximise pallet space. Nesting or stacking salad bowls inside the container reduces costs. Consider this when designing your products.
Packaging has to provide maximum protection, but you also have to avoid using excess materials or shipping ‘air’. Waste removal is a cost to buyers. You can reduce the amount and diversity of packing materials by:
- partitioning inside the cartons, using folded cardboard
- matching inner and outer boxes by using standard sizes
- considering packing and logistical requirements when designing your products
- asking the buyer for alternatives
Importers are increasingly banning wooden crating and packaging due to their unsustainability and high material and disposal costs. Economical and sustainable packaging materials are more popular. Using biodegradable packing materials can be a market opportunity. For some buyers, it can even be a demand.
Salad bowls are usually not tagged at retail level, except for product brands. In that case, the importer will print tags and send them to you to attach to the products during packing. Tags can also be printed and produced in the country of origin, usually based on a video sent by the importer. Salad servers are tagged more often than bowls, as they have a higher gift value. Any additional information adds to the attractiveness of the gift.
The importer usually designs attractive consumer packaging to reflect the brand identity. Both bowls and servers are usually supplied without packaging, to add to the natural effect of the product. Occasionally some form of gift-wrapping is offered, like a box for servers. Showing your buyer that you can take care of packaging also gives you a competitive advantage.
- Always ask for the importer’s order specifications, packaging and labelling requirements.
- See Packaging Europe for more information on the latest packaging developments, with regular news articles about biodegradable packaging.
Payment and delivery terms
Payment terms are usually agreed upon with the buyer in the order contract. They vary from buyer to buyer and are related to the volume and value of the order, the type of distribution partner, whether or not an agent is involved, and what delivery terms apply.
Delivery terms, officially known as Incoterms, depend on the type of distribution partner and their preferences regarding physical distribution. Importers generally prefer Free On Board (FOB) or Free Carrier (FCA) arrangements.
FOB is restricted to goods transported by sea or inland waterway. It means that the seller pays for transportation of the goods to the port of shipment, plus loading costs. The buyer pays the cost of marine freight transport, insurance, unloading, and transportation from the arrival port to the final destination. FCA can be used for any transportation mode. In this type of arrangement, the seller fulfils their obligation to deliver when they have handed over the goods, cleared for export, into the charge of the carrier named by the buyer at the specified place or point.
Retail multiples can ask for Cost Insurance Freight (CIF). That means that they will ask you to include the shipping and insurance charges in your quotation. Small retailers may go a step further and ask you to arrange that the goods will be delivered to their doorstep via a Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) arrangement. For importers who consolidate orders in your country, Ex Works (EXW) terms are often best.
- For a more detailed overview of the various terms and conditions, and how to work with these, see our study on terms and conditions. This also explains the benefits of having your own terms and conditions.
- Study the different types of Incoterms, including what your and your buyer’s rights and obligations are.
What are the requirements for niche markets?
According to the World Economic Forum, 86% of people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially if the production of your salad sets is labour intensive, fair-trade certification can give you a competitive advantage. Common fair-trade certifications include certifications issued by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and Fair for Life.
- Ask buyers what they are looking for. Especially in the fair-trade sector, you can use the story behind your product for marketing purposes.
- If certification is not feasible, work according to fair-trade principles without being officially guaranteed or certified. Carefully document your company processes so you can support your claim.
- Check the ITC Sustainability Map database for more information on voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification is the most common label for sustainable wooden products, including wooden furniture. The FSC chain of custody certification guarantees that a product’s source material comes from responsibly managed forests. These products are especially popular in Western European markets.
PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is another option. Like with FSC, the PEFC chain of custody certification verifies that the certified forest-based material contained in a product comes from sustainably managed forests.
Because these certification programmes are aligned with the EUTR, they also provide a means of showing legal compliance.
- For more information, see the five steps towards FSC certification and/or how to become PEFC Certified.
- If you use recycled wood or paper, you can apply for the FSC Recycled label.
2. Through what channels can you get salad sets on the European market?
The market for salad sets is segmented into low-end, mid-end and high-end (premium) market segments. The items are put on the market through the traditional channels: importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers, as well as retailers that buy directly from suppliers.
How is the end market segmented?
Figure 1: Salad sets market segmentation in Europe
The low-end market segment for salad sets consists of industrially made mass items, usually in inexpensive materials, particularly plastics. In this segment, consumers are not very focused on the design of the salad set and consider it a convenience product. Salad sets for the low-end market segment should be functional, basic in their design, easy to replace, inexpensive, and quick and easy to buy.
Retailers in this segment include department stores like HEMA and hypermarkets such as Carrefour. Because this market is dominated by mass-produced items from countries such as China, your opportunities are limited.
Figure 2: Salad set in natural materials
Salad sets in the mid-end market segment are also standardised products, but trendier, offering some interest through new innovative shapes or handmade effects. Danish brand Nordal and German retailer Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof are important players on this market, where prices are reasonable.
The mid-end market segment is suitable for you in terms of product quality, which fits in with trends (such as millennial style), sustainability and products with a story. Especially in the upper end of this segment, where there is a market for fully or partly handmade items. For wooden sets, the more precious the wood type, the higher the market segment they can reach.
In the high-end/premium market, salad sets are characterised by high-quality design, craftsmanship and brand names. This is a segment where handmade dinnerware is also highly appreciated and can achieve decent margins, although volumes might be limited. Luxury department stores such as British brand Harrods and kitchen ware specialists such as Alessi (Italy) play an important role here.
Through what channels do salad sets end up on the end-market?
The channels through which salad sets are put on the market follow the traditional patterns: import takes place via importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers. Larger retail chains often bypass the importers/wholesalers and import themselves, while retailers are also increasingly buying directly from the supplier. In some cases, buying agents play a role. Below, we will highlight the main actors in the market for salad sets.
Figure 3: Trade channels for salad sets in Europe
Importers/wholesalers sell products to retailers in their own country or region, or re-export to the broader European market. Some European markets are therefore supplied by wholesalers/importers from other European countries (internal European trade). Supply to buyers in the project market (such as hotels and spas) can be considered a secondary distribution flow for European importing wholesalers.
These importers/wholesalers take care of the import procedures. They take ownership of the goods when they buy from an exporter (as opposed to agents), taking on the risk of the onward sale of the products. Developing a long-term relationship can lead to a high level of cooperation on appropriate designs for the market, new trends, use of materials, type of finishing and quality requirements.
Some retailers, especially the larger chains, import directly from their suppliers in developing countries. Many large retail chains, such as Ikea, even have their own buying offices in developing countries. Others, mainly the smaller independent stores, order in Europe from wholesalers.
Retailers come in many sizes: large and part of a chain, or small and independent. There is a tendency for consolidation in European retail, with large retail brands becoming more widespread in Europe and more ‘lifestyle-centred’ (offering home decoration and textiles as well as fashion accessories and furniture).
Buying agents, buying houses and sales agents
You can encounter several types of intermediaries in your dealings with European buyers. In your own country there may be buying houses, and in Europe there are both buying and sales agents.
European buying agents represent European buyers in sourcing countries. They act as intermediaries, meaning that they do not import products themselves. Sometimes agents have a more limited role, such as checking the quality of the products in your warehouse on behalf of a specific importer or checking compliance with the codes of conduct that you have agreed on with your buyer. Buying agents can work individually or as part of purchasing companies.
Buying houses are similar to buying agents, but they are based in your country and usually offer a broader range of services, which can include raw material sourcing, design and sampling services.
European sales agents can represent you in helping to find buyers in the European market. However, you should be careful before entering into (exclusive) agreements with them, as European legislation is quite protective when it comes to the position of commercial agents.
Agents and buying houses mostly operate based on commission. They may approach you directly, or your (potential) buyer could indicate they prefer working through an intermediary. However, if possible, working directly with a buyer is preferable. This saves on commission and allows you to communicate directly with the buyer.
E-commerce in home decoration and home textiles (HDHT) is increasing, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, and can help you reach a broader range of customers. However, the rise in e-commerce actually has fairly little effect on the way you should conduct your business as an exporter. While European HDHT retailers often sell their products both in stores and online, the way you supply them stays the same. Even online-only retailers need to stock items before they can sell them to consumers. Therefore, supplying to online retail is not a separate market channel in itself.
Another way to tap into the trend of online sales is by opening your own web shop. However, this is not easy.
Selling directly to European consumers via your own website would mean:
- supplying small batches and/or individually packaged items
- being prepared to pre-stock and offer more just-in-time supply concepts
- arranging effective consumer payment systems
- competing with experienced and well-known European and producer-country wholesalers/retailers
- dealing with aftersales on a business-to-consumer (B2C) level, including returns and replacements
Because all this is rather complicated and can be costly, direct online sales to European consumers are not feasible for most exporters from developing countries.
- To find potential buyers, search the list of exhibitors or attend the main (online) trade fairs in Europe: Ambiente - Frankfurt (February), Maison et Objet - Paris (January and September) and Tendence - Frankfurt (August).
- See our Tips for finding buyers on the European HDHT market.
- For more information about trading directly with smaller retailers, see our special study on alternative distribution channels.
What is the most interesting channel for you?
Wholesale importers are the main channel between exporters in developing countries and European retailers. They are interesting if you want to develop a long-term relationship and they usually have good knowledge of the European market. They can provide you with valuable information and guidance on European market preferences and will normally provide you with design input.
However, as the market is becoming more and more competitive, large retailers are increasingly importing for themselves instead of through European wholesale importers. The obvious advantages are cutting out the margins of the wholesaler and reducing delivery time to the market. In the lower-end market segments, the self-importing retailers might want to drive a much harder bargain with you. However, in the higher mid-end segment, which offers you the most opportunities, price is less of an issue.
Smaller, independent European retailers continue to purchase mainly from domestic wholesalers/importers. As in other European market sectors (such as food or clothing), independent HDHT retailers struggle to compete with retail chains. They need to stand out on value-added service, as well as specialised offers and authenticity. They typically prefer small order quantities per item, small total order volumes and delivery to their doorstep, with a limited likelihood of repeat orders. You need to calculate if this is cost-effective for you.
The trend of direct sourcing is expected to continue in future and may create more opportunities for you. The pool of buyers may increase if more retailers become importers, possibly resulting in an improvement of your bargaining position. Importing retailers order for their own shops and can therefore place orders much more quickly than some of the importers/wholesalers, who first need to show samples to their retailers before exporters receive their orders.
- Consider targeting retailers directly, to improve your bargaining position and increase your chances of closing deals faster.
- Relate your offer and terms to the targeted retailer (large/small). Ask your existing buyers how they operate if you are unsure. The better informed you are about this aspect, the better you will be able to set prices.
- For more information on the pros and cons of dealing directly with smaller retailers, read our study on alternative distribution channels.
- Offer suitable services such as fast delivery and after sales support to build a relationship based on mutual benefits.
- When you participate in international trade fairs, especially in Europe, make sure that you have a policy for small, independent retailers coming to your booth. If you choose to sell to them, you must have appropriate terms of trading (such as low minimum order quantities, delivery to the doorstep of the retailer, or pre-stocking).
3. What competition do you face on the European salad set market?
Nearly a third of European salad sets imports comes from China. These Chinese exports mainly consist of mass-produced salad sets for the lower-end segments. Instead of competing with Chinese companies, your best opportunities are in the mid-end market segment, where you compete with manufacturers from Eastern Europe and, for instance, Thailand.
China is by far the biggest supplier of salad sets to Europe, accounting for 31% of the imports, followed at a distance by Germany with 11%. The Netherlands (6.2%), Poland (5.9%), Italy (4.6%) and Belgium (4.3%) are next on the list.
However, you should be aware that in the European market, countries have different roles. You can make a rough distinction between countries that are mainly importers and countries that are mainly manufacturers. In general, Western European countries are mainly re-exporters. Most Western European importers not only sell their imported products in their own country, but also distribute them across Europe.
European production mainly takes place in Eastern European countries. This is mostly because of their closeness to the European market and their relatively low labour costs. This sometimes makes them a good alternative for sourcing from the Far East.
Mass-produced salad sets are segmented in the lower ends of the market and produced in the most cost-effective country. You do not compete with these countries, as your focus should be on the mid- to high-end market.
Which countries are you competing with?
China dominates the (low-end) market
After increasing between 2016 and 2019, Chinese exports of table and kitchen ware to Europe fell by -12% to €1.8 billion in 2020. This added up to a modest average annual increase of 1.3% over the period from 2016 to 2020. With this performance, China managed to keep its import market share fairly stable.
Its low-cost workforce, availability of raw materials and efficient shipping to Europe compared to other Asian countries make China the most competitive supplier. However, the cost of labour in China has also steadily increased in the last 10 years, which has affected China’s price competitiveness. In the coming years, disruptions following China’s trade war with the United States and the outbreak of COVID-19 may also negatively impact the country’s trade performance. This could benefit companies from other developing countries.
Chinese producers mainly supply the lower ends of the market with low-priced products, benefitting from their strengths in productivity and production management. To avoid having to compete with Chinese suppliers on costs, you should make your products stand out and stay away from mass-produced salad sets. Focus more on sustainability, materials and the story behind your product. This allows you to enter the mid-end and high-end market, where your best opportunities are.
Poland is strengthens its position as a regional supplier
Although Poland is a relatively small player on the salad sets market, the country is quickly increasing its exports. Polish supplies to the rest of Europe grew from €217 million in 2016 to €338 million in 2020, at an impressive average annual rate of 12%. This includes a 9.0% increase in 2020. As a result, Poland’s share of the European import market increased from 3.9% in 2016 to 5.9% in 2020.
The country’s strength is its geographical proximity to the Western European market, allowing suppliers to offer short delivery times. Compared to Western Europe, labour in Poland is relatively affordable. Suppliers have a good understanding of the European consumer and have well-established and efficient production lines. In addition, products ‘Made in Europe’ are increasingly popular.
To compete with Poland, you should focus on design, craftsmanship, material use and the story behind your product. Make sure you offer a high level of service to build a strong relationship.
Turkey also benefits from its location close to the European market
Between 2016 and 2019, Turkish exports of salad sets to the European market hovered around €150 million. In 2020, they decreased by -13%, to €128 million. This added up to an average annual decline of -2.8% over the period from 2016 to 2020.
Like Poland, Turkey has the advantage of being located close to the European market. The country still has to find its footing in the salad set market, and to discover whether its positioning should be on price/volume or more on design value. To compete with Turkey, a relative newcomer, you should focus on your own unique strengths and occupy the right niches before others do.
Thailand is a traditional mid-market supplier
Thai exports of table and kitchen ware to Europe plummeted in 2020. After steadily growing at an average rate of 4.6% per year between 2016 and 2019, they dropped by a disappointing -20% to €122 million. Due to this above-average decline, Thailand’s share of the European table and kitchen ware import market has decreased from 2.4% to 2.1% within the year.
Most Thai players are small and medium-sized manufacturers, supplying medium-grade products for the mid-end market. They can produce bowls with traditional Thai patterns as well as with modern designs, under their own brand or via contract manufacturing. However, Thai manufacturers have struggled to innovate and have become quite expensive for the country’s original customer base.
Czechia clings on to its market share
Another competitor from Eastern Europe is Czechia. However, Czechia is not performing as well as Poland. Czech table and kitchen ware supplies to the rest of Europe peaked at €116 million in 2017 and then decreased. A further decline of -15% to €96 million in 2020 added up to an average annual decrease of -1.2% between 2016 and 2020. More than 40% of these exports go to Germany.
Czechia’s supplier profile is similar to that of Poland. The country has a convenient geographic location and can offer relatively affordable labour and ‘Made in Europe’ concepts.
Romania struggles to retain its position on the market
As another Eastern European supplier, Romania is also well-positioned to benefit from its location close to the Western European market and its relatively low-cost production opportunities. However, like Czechia, Romania appears to be unable to hold on to its share of the European table and kitchen ware import market, as its overall business climate has recently been seen as less attractive and stable than that of Poland.
The country’s supplies to the rest of Europe peaked at €109 million in 2018 and then declined, falling by -16% to €83 million in 2020. This added up to an average annual decrease of -1.6% since 2016.
- Compare your products and company to the competition. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country. You can compare on market segment, price, quality and target countries.
- To stand out from your main competitors, focus on design, craftsmanship, quality and the story behind your products.
Which companies are you competing with?
The following companies are examples of the type of competition you face on the European market for salad sets.
Asha Handicrafts Association, India
Founded in 1975, Asha Handicrafts is a WFTO-certified fair-trade organisation with an impressive heritage. Working with over 800 artisans across the country, they have access to a broad range of skills and materials. They offer a wide variety of HDHT products. For their salad sets they use the local Sheesham wood, combining it with inlay and other decorative techniques. A full kitchen and serve ware collection is offered in this wood, including trays, trivets and a recipe book holder.
As a social enterprise, Asha Handicrafts invests all profits in the social welfare of the company’s artisans and their families. As Asha is consistently audited on their compliance to ten principles of fair trade, they offer good value to distribution partners in wholesale and retail, at any level of the market. However, they do not explain how the Sheesham wood is sourced.
As a brand dedicated to producing items created by Lithuanian designers, Namuos is an example of a company that is now entering the market as a brand, after supplying products under a private label arrangement. Namuos, meaning ‘at home’, focuses on kitchen ware and bathroom decoration. Their birchwood salad servers express their design philosophy: “functional design inspired by nature and natural materials”, but they are actually quite playful in style and colouration. It places them in the middle end of the mid-market, with the potential to move upwards.
Namuos is now mostly targeting retail, as well as the project market. That is quite a positive change from how the Lithuanian manufacturing sector is generally perceived: as an anonymous private label supplier to wholesale and multiple retail channels. As a young and contemporary brand working with natural materials, they are likely to develop some sustainable values along the way.
TUNART - Tunisie Artisanat SARL, Tunisia
TUNART is an export company working with a large network of artisans and craftsmen in all major regions of Tunisia. Some of these makers work semi-industrially, such as with ceramics, and some produce items manually, such as olive-wood salad sets and kitchen ware. Aiming at wholesalers, TUNART is capable of some volume as well as a degree of customisation.
Despite being founded in 1994, the company is relatively new to the European market, and has participated in its first trade fairs only recently. In its design, marketing and communication, TUNART still needs to make the step towards a more market-led concept. However, the market is currently quite open to newcomers with authenticity and honesty.
Which products are you competing with?
Competition for manufacturers of salad sets mostly comes from within the product category itself and can be fierce. For salads sets in any material, straightforward alternatives in other materials are available. Consumers can choose between salad sets made from ceramics (including porcelain, stoneware and earthenware), glass, wood, metal, plastic and bamboo.
- To stand out from your main competitors, focus on design, craftsmanship, quality and the story behind your products.
4. What are the prices for salad sets on the European market?
Prices for salad sets vary across market segments, ranging from low-end to high-end. After adding logistics costs, wholesaler and retail margins and value-added tax (VAT), European consumer prices amount to about 4 to 6.5 times your selling price.
Table 1 gives an overview of the prices of salad sets in the low-end, mid-end and high-end market segments. ‘Indicative’ is key here, since prices for salad sets vary depending on technique, size, material, design, brand and other ways of value addition, including a strong sustainable concept.
Table 1: Indicative consumer prices for salad sets in Europe
High-end / premium
Up to €30
€80 and over
Salad servers (pair)
Up to €10
€30 and over
Consumer prices depend on the value perception of your product in a particular segment. This is influenced by your marketing mix:
- product benefits (design, material, techniques, brand value, dimensions)
- promotion (brand or not, sustainable values, designer names)
- points of sale (reseller positioning)
The following percentages give an indication of a price breakdown for salad sets in the supply chain:
- shipping, import, handling costs: +25%
- wholesaler: +100%
- retail: +100-150%
- VAT*: +20%
*Rates of VAT in Europe range from 18% in Malta to 27% in Sweden. On average, the rate of VAT is around 20%.
For example, in Table 2 the FOB price is set at €10. Depending on the market segment your product is designed for, the consumer price ranges from €41 in the low-end market to €65.50 in the high-end market.
Table 2: Example of the price breakdown per market segment
Your FOB price
Transport, handling charges, transport insurance, banking services (20/15/15%)
Landed price for the wholesale importer
Wholesalers’ margins (50/75/90%)
Selling price from the wholesale importer to the retailer
Retailers’ margins (90/110/150%)
Selling price excluding VAT from the retailer to the end consumer
Selling price including VAT (20%)
Selling price including VAT from the retailer to the end consumer
The FOB price of €10 includes your own margins as a producer. These margins depend on your efficiency and price setting. Generally, margins in the lower segment, that deals with high volumes for low prices, are smaller than those in the middle and higher segments.
Some examples of online salad set prices (excluding shipment) are:
- hand-carved mahogany salad servers, South West Coast Refills (United Kingdom), around €11
- fair-trade porcelain salad bowl, GLOBO (Germany), €39.50
- stainless steel designer salad bowl, Alessi (Italy), €64 / €177
- Study consumer prices in your target segment to determine your price and adjust your cost accordingly. The quality and price of your salad sets must match what is expected in your chosen target segment.
- Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.
This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Globally Cool B.V. in collaboration with GO! GoodOpportunity.
Please read our market information disclaimer.
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