It’s widely known that consumers are increasingly mindful about the ingredients in foods, though their brand preferences go much deeper than just ingredients alone. Beyond simply knowing what’s in their favorite snack foods, shoppers want to also know the origin of the product and the history of the organization, including the production process and environmentally sound manufacturing. This is particularly true of the Millennial and younger generations who purchase from companies that follow the highest standards of corporate responsibility.
Brazil, as the world’s sixth-largest consumer market and among the largest producers of key ingredients such as cane sugar (largest), milk (fourth largest) and cacao (seventh largest), is one of the major global players in candy and chocolate manufacturing. Brazilian companies also adhere to the highest standards of environmental and consumer responsibility as the demand for natural ingredients continues to rapidly rise. Brazil has also become the stage for premier confectionary companies, both emerging and established, to develop differentiated, exclusive and unique products.
Brazil is a market of abundance of exotic flavors and natural ingredients to discover. The concepts of tree-to-bar, bean-to-bar, premium and gourmet, as well as the attention given to sustainability and healthiness, are inspiring the entire production chain, from the field to its final destination with the consumer. This dedication is particularly true among candy and snack manufacturers in the south and southeastern regions of the country, known as Brazil’s chocolate manufacturing hub.
The chocolates produced in these regions translate the success of the cultural fusion that characterizes Brazil. Often, production involves natural cocoa, European technologies, all while encompassing Brazilian creativity with its indigenous and African roots to discover and combine typical and exotic ingredients. Alongside the larger manufacturing plants are small manufacturers and ateliers, which typically make their chocolates using artisanal production methods with secrets and tricks that are passed down from many family generations.
Here is a look at just a few of Brazil’s chocolate manufacturing hubs, and the Brazilian brands whose single origin and bean-to-bar products are growing a large following among U.S. consumers:
Nugali Chocolates — Pomerode, Santa Catarina
Founded in 2004, Nugali produces a complete line of all-natural chocolates, using only fine flavor Brazilian cocoa and other Brazilian ingredients. Working in close partnership with cocoa growers enables the company to not only ensure the quality of the beans, but also assess the growing practices. The cocoa sourced by Nugali is grown in agroforestry systems, where the cocoa trees coexist with the native rainforest. All of their products are gluten-free and soy-free, and no artificial flavorings, preservatives or colorings are used. These products are receiving international recognition through industry awards and competitions.
Harald — Santana de Parnaíba, São Paulo
São Paulo is another chocolate manufacturing hub in the south of the country, specifically the southeast. It is here that you’ll find a company called Harald, one of Brazil’s leading cooking chocolate manufacturers. Harald is a specialist in chocolate and cocoa derivative products. They develop innovative ingredients and solutions for bakers, food manufacturers, artisans, chefs, chocolatiers and professional users from around the world. Harald has been in the single origin chocolate field with its “Harald Unique” brand for many years, and this line has come to be known as the most complete and sophisticated collection of single origin chocolates ever produced in Brazil. Harald makes its chocolates using only fine cocoa from select farms in Bahia and the Amazon region. Although the company only began exporting its products to the U.S. in 2014, in three years’ time, they have already won over the American palate and their products continue to grow in popularity in the U.S. market.
Q Chocolate — Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Q Chocolate is another great example of a Brazilian-based bean-to-bar company that is experiencing growth in the U.S. market. One of the company’s key differentiators is that farmers from Fazenda Leolinda, located in the heart of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, tend to the cocoa trees themselves and manually collect each cocoa fruit that is used in production. Every Q bar, the company says, will remind you that chocolate is made from a tropical fruit and the subtle notes of dried banana, barbados berry and jackfruit will bring you even closer to the rainforest, home of the cocoa fruit.
In total, the Brazilian confectionary industry has impressed industry experts in keeping pace with global health trends, especially those in the highly competitive U.S. market. Nugali, Harald and Q Chocolate are just three examples. From small ateliers producing the finest single origin chocolates, to robust and highly automated factories, chocolate companies across the south and southeastern regions of Brazil are surprising the consumer with a wide variety, exceptional quality and exotic flavors.
The Brazilian companies are committed to evolving their product lines and manufacturing processes to meet the changing needs of the American consumer. Supporting them in this initiative are organizations such as The Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolate, Peanut and Candies Manufacturers Association (ABICAB) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil), which co-lead a trade project called “Brazil Sweets and Snacks” to promote confectionery exports from Brazil. To date, the project supports over 100 Brazilian manufacturers of chocolate, peanuts, candy and other specialty products.
As the U.S. market continues recognizing the creativity of Brazil’s candy and chocolate companies and the quality and innovation of their products, the demand for these products will only grow larger. And with the guidance and support of ABICAB and Apex-Brasil, companies across the Brazilian sector will be well positioned to shine globally.
Milena Boggio is Vice President of Exportation of The Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolate, Peanut and Candies Manufacturers Association