The profusion of temporarily Brazilian-themed products
- 18 June 2014
- From the section Magazine
British supermarkets are suddenly full of a plethora of Brazilian-themed produce. But how Brazilian are they, asks Clare Spencer.
Think of Brazilian food and you may think of the barbecue dish churrasco. You may be less likely to think of Pot Noodle, even if it is Brazilian steak-flavoured. But that's one of many items popping up on British shelves this summer because of the World Cup.
If you want a sweet Brazilian snack, you could try the rich chocolate brigadeiros. But what about the M&Ms Brazil version? They are made with peanuts, not Brazil nuts. But they are in a yellow and green packet.
For a Brazilian main meal, you could try feijoada - a bean and meat stew. For the British consumer, Pieminister have put that in a pie. If you don't fancy pie, KFC have a carnival box - essentially the same as a normal box meal with extra chilli mayonnaise and barbecue dip. Dominos also have two carnival pizzas - the Fiesta and the Rio, only they spell it Carnivale. Never mind that the carnival ended in March.
You might want to wash it all down with a Brazilian soft drink. If so, you might try Guarana Antarctica, which is also an official sponsor of the Brazilian national football team. Lucozade have other ideas - their limited edition drinks include "The Brazilian" which is mango and mandarin.
If you want something a little stronger, there are plenty of Brazilian drinks. Perhaps the most famous is the cachaca-based cocktail caipirinha. Or you could have WKD's "Brazilian alcoholic mix". The bottle describes the contents as "sparkling fortified alcoholic premix blending mixed fruit flavours. Contains caffeine."
There's more, much more. Branston have a "sweet and spicy" Brazilian pickle, Tilda have "samba" rice. There's even a Brazilian water. Volvic coconut and pineapple flavoured water is labelled as "inspired" by Brazil. Pringles have a "Brazilian zesty chilli style" which, according to one reviewer, has a distinctly lime flavour, but you'll only find it in Asda. And then there's Mattessons "Brazilian chargrilled chicken" Fridge Raiders.
Tessa McFadzean, senior brand manager for Mattessons, said of the product: "Brazilian Chargrilled flavour Fridge Raiders will appeal to the three out of four shoppers who say they want to see more world cuisines in store." The advert for the Pot Noodles, on the other hand, appears to imply that their product is Brazilian because it is for people who don't make too much effort. "I wanted things easy, like those Brazilians," it says. "Turns out all I needed for the easy life was one of these new Brazilian barbecues - you just add water."
Bar Magazine reported that WKD provided kits for venues to conjure up Brazilian spirit, with straplines such as: "It's like a taste of Rio. Even if you're in Rochdale".
- Feijoada - a stew of beans with beef and pork
- Churrasco - beef or grilled meat
- Coxinha - shredded chicken meat fried in batter
- Pao de queijo - cheese bun
- Acaraje - black-eyed pea and shrimp fritters
- Brigadeiro - chocolate bonbon
A World Cup is of course a massive marketing opportunity. Many brands can't afford to be official sponsors so Brazil themes are the next best thing, says Robert Opie at the Museum of Brands and Packaging. The same impulse saw much use of the Union Jack during the London 2012 Olympics. Firms would have been heavily penalised for using any Olympic branding, such as the rings. Instead brands like Ryvita used the flag so as "not to miss out on the emotion of the moment".
But the perception of World Cups being a bonanza for supermarkets may be wrong. The World Cup probably doesn't lead to more sales, argues Planet Retail analyst Stephen Springham. He analysed Office for National Statistics UK sales figures for the last 12 major football tournaments. He found retail sales actually dipped in more tournaments than they grew.
If consumers are buying World Cup-related products, they are buying them instead of something else, he believes. But Planet Retail's David Grey suggests supermarkets have stocked up on Brazilian-themed food because they fear if they don't, customers will go elsewhere.
It's not easy capturing the essence of real Brazilian food. Brazilian-born Michelin star chef Marcello Tully has incorporated some dishes at his restaurant on the Isle of Skye. He says that although they seem like basic dishes, they can be technically difficult to make. For acaraje - deep fried bean paste and shrimp - he painstakingly peeled every bean.
He spent the majority of his career in food development for manufacturers and knows how hard it would have been to make genuinely Brazilian products.
But Tully has noticed the change in the availability of Brazilian products in the UK. He says that even two years ago it was difficult get hold of the Brazilian spirit cachaca in the UK. Now, it's much easier.
Perhaps this summer will be a significant moment for Brazilian food too.
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