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Snacking with less guilt: Brazil’s all-day snack culture

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 30-Aug-2012

Related topics: Food labeling and marketing, Markets

There is no direct translation of ‘snacking’ as Americans know it in Brazilian food culture, but snack foods form a significant part of the Brazilian diet, according to a new report from the Hartman Group.

Many Brazilians tend to graze on snacks throughout the day and consume smaller meals, said Hartman Group’s senior director of culinary insights, Melissa Abbott, in a webinar introducing the market researcher’s latest report, “Global Snacking 2012: Brazil”.

 “Snacking is a historical part of Brazilian culture and produces less guilt than in many other countries,” she said. “…The mid-afternoon snacking occasion is when most calories are consumed during the day.”

According to the report, breakfast is not an important eating occasion for many Brazilians, but this may be explained by a high prevalence of evening and late night snacking.

Street sellers

While in the past, snack foods were often bought from street vendors, this is a trend that is losing ground with modern Brazilians, particularly as prosperity has increased. And mid-morning snacking presents a particular opportunity for packaged snack manufacturers, as packaged foods may trump perceptions of poor hygiene at street vendors.

“Street sellers are increasingly perceived as lower quality, but the individual treat culture persists at a retail level,” Abbot said. “…There is a growing need for foods that are easily prepared and easy to eat on the go.”

However, she added that Brazilian consumers do not tend to eat while they walk, as many Americans might, preferring to find a place to sit down and eat, even if it is a seat outside a gas station.

So what are Brazilians eating mid-morning?

According to Abbott, nutritional balance is less important at this time of the day, because lunch is just around the corner. Traditionally, the mid-morning snack might be a cafezinho, a small, sweet coffee, served with pastries, cookies, chocolates, or cakes.

A starchy, salty snack, or lanchinho, might also fill the mid-morning snack space.

“There are tons of salty snacks in Brazil,” Abbott said. “Top flavors often focus on categories of flavors such as meats or cheeses and often reflect American tastes.”

However, Brazilians are much less likely than Americans to call out specific varieties or origins of flavors, such as a specific type of ham, for example.

Sweet admiration

Although Brazilians are infamous for having a sweet tooth, the researchers were particularly surprised by the depth of regard for sweetness.

“Sugar is a crop rooted in history and national pride,” said Abbott, adding that there are big opportunities for snack food companies looking to introduce sweet prepackaged snacks in Brazil.

However, she added: “The guardrails to be aware of are the demonization of sugar and the aggrandizing of ‘diet’.”