What’s on the Menu in Latin America?

Comprised of 21 countries, Latin America is a land of enormously diverse peoples, climates and geographies. Yet across the region we find two commonalities — what people eat and their high trust in the food and beverage industry.

According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, the food and beverage sector is among the most trusted in the world, more trusted than business across all markets. In Argentina, the difference is 23 points (68 for food and beverage vs. 45 for business); in Brazil, 12 points (73 vs. 61); in Colombia, 15 points (79 vs. 64); and in Mexico, 14 points (81 vs. 67).

These high levels of trust can be maintained if companies and brands in this space pay attention to the trends that are shaping Latin Americans’ attitudes about and enjoyment of food. Our teams in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico collaborated to identify and analyze these trends. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Latin American consumers want to make healthier decisions when it comes to food. Their views on health and recipe planning have led them to begin replacing traditionally used ingredients with more nutritious substitutes.
  • Millennials in particular believe that functional foods can replace some medications. A surge in beverages replacing sodas, such as natural, organic, detox and fresh-pressed juices, have been seen in Latin America in recent years.
  • With growing concern around obesity across the region, the number of calories consumed by the Latin America population must be reduced. Moderation is key, and companies are taking action by downsizing containers and packaging. Some critics say this is not enough, and demand further recipe modifications to ensure they have not only fewer calories, but also healthier alternatives from which to choose.
  • In Argentina, the creation of the Healthy Eating and Obesity Prevention Program promotes healthy eating habits among the general population.
  • In Brazil, kombucha, kefir and hearts of palm “spaghetti” are the latest trendy foods.
  • In Mexico, corn tortillas have been cast aside by vegetable-based ingredients, such as lettuce or “tortillas” made from nopal (cactus leaves). The base of ice cream, which was traditionally made by cream derived from animal fat, is now being produced with avocado.

More consumers are considering social issues at the time of purchase. The 2017 Edelman Earned Brand study shows 51 percent of people believe brands can do more to solve social problems than their government. It is about making a statement on how our relationship with food should be a more conscious one – considering more than just the nutritional aspect, or cost.

Latin American consumers are increasingly interested in the impact that consumption (and waste) can have on the world. There is growing consumer awareness and concern about how food impacts the environment, which has moved the food waste discussion firmly into the mainstream. Food and beverage companies are now feeling the pressure to engage on the issue. The diminishing amount of arable land and population shifts to urban areas have forged new methods of farming that support sustainability in inventive ways.

  • Organizations in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have created programs to fight against food waste and hunger by sharing food that would normally be discarded with those in need.
  • The first urban farm was created by startup Be Green in a Brazilian shopping mall to provide inexpensive fresh food produced inside the city.
  • Huerto Roma in Mexico allows visitors to plant and grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Trends shift annually as a result of a variety of factors. However, consumer concerns around health, sustainability, transparency and technology that improves products performances will likely stay the same. In 2018, we may see expectations shift to a focus on brands and innovation.

View the trends

Jaqueline Januzzi is an account manager and Food and Beverage regional lead, Latin America.

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