Although the trade in sweets and confectionery from Brazil to the Middle East is small, at about US$10m last year, its status as a growth market makes it critical to Brazil, according to Romualdo Silva, vice-president of ABICAB, the Brazilian confectionery industry body.
Only region with growth
“Up to December 2015, our global exports were decreasing. But if you analyse only the Middle East, this is the one area which is increasing a little bit, from 5-10% a year. For us, this means the region is very important – while our global trade is decreasing, the Middle East is increasing. The percentage doesn’t matter, it’s good because it’s increasing,” said Silva.
This importance is reflected in ABICAB and its producers’ presence at industry trade shows such as Gulfood and Yummex, formerly Sweets & Snacks Middle East. At last year’s Sweets & Snacks event, Brazilian sweets producers came away with almost US$9m worth of orders.
According to Silva, Middle East consumers share a very similar palette with Brazilians: “There are some markets where the taste is completely different – but the taste of Middle Eastern people is not so different than Brazil. For example, some fruit flavours, some acid tastes – we don’t have any difference between our market and the Middle East.”
He said the main difference was the need for halal production: “Some things do have to be different – for example, some countries in the region require some certification, such as halal certification. Companies that produce for the Middle East need to be prepared to produce halal food.
“But regarding the flavours and the nutrition factors, we don’t have a lot of differences. And yes, this makes it easier for Brazilian producers to access the market – you don’t need to change the flavours to reach the Middle East,” added Silva.
Brazil goes local in Lebanon
Along with sweets produced in Brazil, there is also a burgeoning trade for Brazilian sweets produced in the Middle East. The Arab-Brazil Chamber of Commerce recently highlighted Mimos Doces Finos, a sweets and pastry business set up by Lebanese-Brazilian Yamani Assaad, who moved from Brazil to Lebanon in 2009.
Assaad said that thanks to the long history of trade and migration between Lebanon and Brazil, most Lebanese are very familiar with Brazilian sweets: “The clients are Lebanese people with some sort of connection to Brazil. Here, in the cities, almost everybody has a relative that lived in Brazil. Those that visited Brazil and came back are now clients for sure. I prepare them [the candies] exactly as in Brazil and they love it.”
She echoed Silva in saying the tastes are very similar – according to her the only ingredient Lebanese people are not fond of is condensed milk. The demand for Brazilian sweets has seen Mimos Doces Finos’ business boom, with its largest order – for 3,500 sweets – coming just last month.