Brazilian snack company enters Chinese market

World Today

Cheese bread is one of Brazil’s most popular snacks. Now, one manufacturer is selling it in China. The factory is already expanding in anticipation of its biggest market yet.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco has more.

It’s a full-capacity operation, rolling along 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from grating, mixing and cutting, to baking and packaging, all to make a single product — Brazilian cheese bread.

Now, they’re expanding — doubling the factory size and output, because Forno de Minas is out to conquer the world. The company was already exporting cheese rolls to seventeen countries. Now, the eighteenth is China. The first shipment of ten tons has reached the market and another 24 tons, or 1.2 million rolls, are on their way.

Rags to riches stories like this one are rare in Brazil. When 77-year-old Maria Dalva Couto Mendonca moved from the farm to the city as a young mother, her family was struggling.

Cheese bread was a low-cost tradition handed down over generations in this mining region. While Dona Dalva’s four children adored her recipe, there was nothing particularly special about it except for one thing — freezing. That became a big selling point when she started peddling them to her neighbors.

“There is no secret,” she said. “I will give you or anyone else the recipe: cassava flour, butter, cheese, eggs, milk and freeze them if you want. It’s simple.”

Their growth has been almost breathtaking. Opening in 1990, the factory had doubled in size by a decade later and it’s now doubling in size again, to 48,000 square meters, with the capacity to produce over 120 million cheese rolls per month.

The logistics of such expansions are never easy, from purchasing equipment to organizing production lines to now, when, for the first time ever, they’re adjusting the recipe for Chinese tastes.

“After several contacts with Chinese distributors, we decided to develop an exclusive product that has less salt, that is better adapted to the Chinese palate,” said CEO Helder Mendonca.

Despite the growth, it is still very much a family business and the Mendoncas are involved with every aspect of the company, including the color and messaging on the package.

Meanwhile, Dona Dalva says her only concern is to stay true to her original formula.

“Quality, simply quality,” she said. “The company is well-positioned, with a great staff of workers. We have been able to handle our growth until now and we will in the future, no matter how big the market becomes.”

Never losing sight of their humble beginnings, the Mendoncas take pleasure in the simple things in life, enjoying the moment more knowing that soon people in China will be sharing the experience.