Micro and small businesses from Rio Grande do Sul state, in the Brazilian South, are innovating in the development of products and processes. By means of "Projeto Sabor Nativo" (Native Flavor Project) they are producing jellies, chocolates, ice-creams, pulp and diet products, using less traditional raw materials such as strawberry guava, Brazilian cherry, jelly palm, bilberry, uvaia and other small temperate-climate fruit.
The result of a partnership between Embrapa Temperate Climate, a division of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service in the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Sebrae/RS), the Studies and Projects Funding Body (Finep), and the Edmungo Gastal Research Support Foundation (Fapeg), the project involves six food companies, five from the municipality of Pelotas and one from São Lourenço do Sul: Indústria de Doces Caseiros Crochemore, Fragole Indústria de Alimentos, Silvia Chocolates (de São Lourenço do Sul), Sorvetes Tamaju, Tortas Diet and Valmatra.
"The proposal is to give value to agroindustries, integrate the regional production chain and strengthen the local economy, by producing and placing in the market a batch of previously-unheard-of products," explains the representative of Embrapa Temperate Climate and project coordinator, Daniel Aquini.
According to him, after one year's research, an experimental batch of 19 products was developed, presented and submitted to sensorial analysis at the 17th Fenadoce fair, in Pelotas. "The sensorial analysis resulted in an 87% approval rate from the public, and that shows that we are on the right direction, as the objective is to launch the products in the market starting in October," adds Aquini.
The Native Flavor Project taps into the natural wealth of native fruit, coupled with technological innovation. It also brings the community closer to the results of research work, considering that scientific production may transform and contribute economically to the location in which it is implemented.
"And if consumers approve our products, the repercussions will also extend into the rural area, as farmers will need to produce these fruit on an industrial scale," says Aquini.
To the manager of Sebrae South, Rosani Boeira Ribeiro, the challenge, starting now, is to place the products on the shelves in the region, increasing consumption and consequently the income of the companies involved in the project.
"Wide public acceptance of the sweets and juice at Fenadoce is already a strong indicator that these innovative products are going to conquer consumers in general," believes Rosani.
"With this project, we are going to promote not only the products, but also the entire South of the state," celebrates the owner of Silvia Chocolates Artesanais, Silvia Maria Schneid Tejada.
Through the project, Silvia Chocolates has developed four sweets made from typical fruit: red strawberry guava bonbons; yellow strawberry guava bonbons, jelly palm truffles (freeze-dried stuffing) and jelly palm truffles (pulp stuffing).
"Our expectation now concerns the launch of the products on the consumer market," says Silvia Maria.
The businesswoman, who has worked with the art of producing chocolate for 15 years, splits her time with a noble task: she is also an educator. Silvia Maria Schneid Tejada holds a degree in Plastic Arts, and teaches at two municipal schools in São Lourenço do Sul, where she resides.
The Silvia Chocolates shop, in São Lourenço do Sul, offers thematic products and packages themed after important dates, as well as customized gifts for weddings and graduations.