The changing face of the Brazilian produce market

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The changing face of the Brazilian produce market

Brazil's buying power has risen in recent years with a strong currency and growing economy, albeit at a slower rate than its BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) peers. The number of fast food outlets and cases of obesity are on the rise, while per capita fruit consumption of 60-65kg (132-143lbs) is less than half the level of the European Union. With a large gap for potential, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Global Development Committee held a meeting in Sao Paulo in April to discuss how opportunities could be tapped. PMA Global Business Development vice president Nancy Tucker gives a run-down of the key points raised.

Tucker says there are more boutique and specialty stores popping up in Brazil with some large stores scaling down in size, while supermarkets hold around half the total food market in major metropolitan areas.

"For Brazil as a whole, supermarkets are still estimated to only make up around 20% of the fruit and vegetable market, although there is no specific data as there is very little government measuring of fruit production or consumption," she says.

"In the north you have a more informal market and cold chain infrastructure is lacking. In Sao Paulo consumers are more health-oriented, with juice consumption on the rise at the expense of soda for example.

"In Brazil it is important to understand how the retail sector is changing - firstly, street markets are declining in popularity as consumers are becoming more time poor and looking for convenience."

She adds the chains have been increasing quality and are becoming more competitive.

"You have two main retail models, divided up between the big retailers who tend to have their own infrastructure for imports so only low volume products come from importers, while secondly there are the small retail chains.

"In the last five years there has been a big increase in imports. One major retail chain has been growing by double digits."

The competitive environment for suppliers

In terms of foreign suppliers, Tucker says the U.S. is decreasing as a source of imports in Brazil, while Spain is on the up.

"The European Union has a big advantage in freight costs, with a shorter transit time of 5-14 days versus 30 days for the U.S.

"Spain and Uruguay are good sources of citrus for the Brazilian market and pears from the U.S. Northwest are still popular," she says.

"There are increasing imports from Chile and Argentina, supplying apples to the market along with European suppliers. People in the industry say that sometimes it is cheaper to bring fruit by ship from the E.U. than from Chile by truck."

Food safety

Tucker emphasizes Brazil's food safety situation is both a challenge and an opportunity.

"Food safety is not a focus in the Brazilian media, there is little identification or publicity of any problems and consumers' approach to traceability is more about curiosity than concern.

"Meanwhile the government is more focused on food safety for exports but not as much for the local market - 60% of farmers are small growers so certification is difficult.

"The local emphasis on food safety is very much being driven by the big chains, who often conduct field visits, while these larger companies are putting pressure on regional supermarket association in terms of traceability and food safety."

Opinion: food safety and Brazilian opportunity

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