Brazil's New Strategy to Win Arabs Through the Stomach. Next Stop: US

Arab eating Brazil's Apex, the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency launched November 6, in São Paulo, the Flavors from Brazil - Positioning Brazilian Food Brands in the Middle East, whose objective is improving the market shares of Brazilian food and beverage products in the Arab world.

"We want to improve the image of the Brazilian product among decision makers in the Middle East," stated the coordinator of the Image and Market Access Unit at the Apex, Juarez Leal.

Working with the end consumer is one of the ideas that the organizations believes may help increase Brazilian exports to the Arab market.

"Participating in fairs alone is not enough to position yourself on the international market," said Leal, who felt the potential of Arab demand for food products this year at the Gulfood, the food sector fair in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

According to him, Brazil has much more than commodities to offer the Arabs. "We are a country with enormous diversity," he added. Dubai should be the center for the Apex pilot project, but the idea is to expand to other countries. "If it works out, we are going to take it to the United States."

To participate in the project, the Apex is going to select around 40 companies, preferably with experience in export, to present their products to potential Arab consumers during a business roundtable to take place on February 17th at the Intercontinental Hotel, in Dubai.

On the previous day, the organization is going to make a general presentation about Brazil and promote a press conference. In the evening, the Apex should also offer a Brazilian dinner to 200 guests, who should sample dishes prepared by Brazilian chef Morena Leite. To remember the event, the guests will be given a book about the Arab contribution to Brazilian cuisine.

According to Leal, the Apex is going to cover travel expenses to Dubai of around 50 importers and distributors so that they may participate in the event. The idea is to set up, for a year, Brazilian shelves in the main supermarkets in the Middle East.

Businessmen who guarantee US$ 1 million in purchases of Brazilian products, for example, may get US$ 100,000 in promotion, including products and sampling counters, among other promotional activities.

In the opinion of the secretary general at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Michel Alaby, who gave a talk at the presentation of the program, the initiative is very positive. "It is not enough to sell the product without selling the brand," he said.

According to him, consumption of food in the Arab countries is growing constantly. Last year, for example, the Arab market imported US$ 10 billion in food and the forecast for 2008 is for the value to reach US$ 14 billion. "Since 2000, there has been growth of 150%," he added. Grain, milk and dairy products, meats and fruit are among the main products imported by the Arabs.

According to Alaby, the arid climate and little arable land in most of the Arab countries contribute to this strong demand for food in the region, mainly in the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

According to the analyst of the Market Intelligence Unit at the Apex, Rodrigo Cota, the countries of the GCC presented a great potential for Brazilian companies. High income, oil exporters, population growth and low food import tariffs are the main characteristics of this bloc.

"In the other Arab countries, the economies are poorer and the tariffs (for imports of foods) are higher, but the Apex has still identified opportunities in the food and beverage sectors," stated Cota.

According to him, Brazil had an 81% market share in poultry in the Arab market in 2007 and presented average annual growth of 26% between 2002 and 2007. In the sector of milk and dairy products, the average annual growth of Brazilian exports was 107% in the period. In the case of juice, the increase was 114%. "Imports of fruit are on the rise in the region," stated the analyst.

In the seminar launching the project another matter discussed was the matter of halal food, prepared according to religious requirements. For Brazilian companies interested in obtaining halal certification, the Brazilian Halal Food Center (Cibal) may help in the matter.

Another area considered important by the Apex to guarantee good positioning of the Brazil brand on the international market is the package. Good packages help products when exporting," stated the coordinator of the packaging nucleus at the Higher School of Advertising and Marketing (ESPM), Fabio Mestriner. According to him, Brazilian packages are now of international level and, many times, they are decisive to the success of the product.

"Abroad, for example, products depend exclusively on packages," stated the designer. According to him, in large supermarket chains there are over 100,000 items exhibited and the consumer does not ignore the package when buying. "The package places the product and interferes in consumer reception. It is a powerful marketing tool for export."