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Transformation in Latin America

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Latin America has always been considered as a region of heavy meat eaters. Attitudes are changing to plant-based meat and health is one of the driving factors towards this development. Mariana Tunis, marketing director of Fazenda Futuro, explains in an interview what other drivers push the rise of plant-based meat in Latin America and how this market differs from the rest of the world.

How Plant-Based Meat is Taking Hold in Latam

By Carmela Vecchione

Mariana Tunis, marketing director at Fazenda Futuro, discusses changing attitudes to plant-based ‘meat’ in Latin America.

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

LATAM has always been considered a region of heavy meat eaters, from Brazilian barbecue houses to Argentinian steak. What are the main drivers behind the rise of plant-based meat substitutes in this territory, as you see it?

Before Fazenda Futuro’s launch in 2019, there were no plant-based players in Brazil. Surprisingly, over the years we’ve learned that the main driver for plant-based ‘meat’ consumption is health. Because they don’t contain cholesterol, people understand our products to be better for them. After health come the environment and animal cruelty issues. LATAM is more conscious about these issues and people are acting on them now they see the option on the shelves. What we also notice is that options like ours are successful because they give customers an artificial taste of meat that they miss when turning to vegetarianism or veganism. We are able to keep consumers loyal to their personal and societal commitments without having to let go of their taste buds.

Key takeaways

  • Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) is a Brazilian food tech company recreating the taste of meat with plant-based ingredients. It now operates in 30 countries
  • In late 2021, the start-up held a funding round valuing it at BRL2.2bn (£368.7m, $426.4m, €429.8m)
  • The number of self-declared vegetarians in Brazil has nearly doubled over a six-year period, according to a poll by the research firm Ibope. Some 30m people, or 14% of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018
  • Almost half (49%) of Brazilians are reducing their consumption of animal protein (source: The Good Food Institute (GFI))

Globally, Gen Z are more likely to be vegan or vegetarian. Does that apply to LATAM? What’s your understanding of who is leading the way in eating plant-based food? Was there a particular trigger that prompted this move?

We see a clear progression when it comes to our relationship with food. We had Baby Boomers very keen on a full, varied diet. Gen X were very practical, as we had the rise of fast food. Millennials faced a boom in gourmet meals, where everything was being made to look fancier than it actually was. But now, Gen Z are bringing change as their motto. They’re after ‘me moments’, where they can rewind from trying to change the world. They love hamburgers, but they need options that meet their requirements and answer their worries about the environment. They’re pro-Earth and they want to take care of it. Gen Z are definitely making a positive impact. They’re carrying the plant-based flag around and changing shopper behaviour – their parents are still the ones making the purchasing decisions, but they are influenced by their children.

The brand's affiliation with Anitta (the Brazilian singer) is a very powerful move; she's gone worldwide and has been keeping political tabs up and running on her personal platforms. What was the response to her becoming a partner and launching her product line? Do you see this type of marketing driving stronger responses from LATAM consumers?

Anitta represents a long-term relationship for us. She is a flexitarian who gave up on veganism due to missing out on the animal protein flavour. She learned about us at one of her birthday parties and our products blew her mind. We’ve been together ever since, and our main conversations have been about showing people that plant-based food can be super-flavourful. Besides that, both brands – hers and ours – carry many similarities, such as being fun, bold, worrying about the environment and thinking about entrepreneurship. Her greatness also stems from reaching a broader audience, which was something we could use some help with. The response we got was amazing because it ignited conversations. Even though people might not be switching right away to plant-based options, they now know about it and have a better understanding of this movement. We thrive on transparency and are proud to have a very honest relationship with our customers. All our actions are based on believing that eating is a connecting act. It isn’t about the individual only, but the collective.

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

How does the plant-based ‘meat’ market in LATAM differ from the rest of the world. What are the gaps or opportunities?

The biggest opportunity is surely in education. We know, for instance, that the Brazilian consumer is still getting a deeper understanding about carbon footprints; it isn’t as mainstream here as it is in Europe. We are committed to the UN 2030 agenda towards sustainable development awareness, so we thoroughly plan our media communications to ensure the message is clear, and to always bring relevant information to our newsfeed. Not only that, we also use positive reinforcement to stimulate our consumers and we always highlight the environmental impact of choosing plant-based food. We are improving our website and a carbon footprint calculator is available for everyone to make this matter mainstream and support those who want to make a change but don’t know how. We started this process by mapping the Future Burger carbon footprint so we could neutralise it, setting an example to our consumers.

We understand that in LATAM, many people might not be able to afford meat due to financial difficulties. What can Fazenda Futuro do to help ease rising food costs? How does the brand stand in making its product accessible?

Our main issue here is that meat is much more affordable than our plant-based options. It doesn’t mean meat is cheap – but when it comes to a household environment with four people to feed, one tray of two plant-based burgers becomes too expensive and therefore not manageable. That brings us back to Anitta. When we were developing products with her, we aimed to democratise our offering. We opted to launch a Future Party line, an enjoyable option meant for sharing and a great opportunity to try our products for the first time. Each product comes with a reasonable portion per person, making it more sustainable for a group of people.

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

Fazenda Futuro (Future Farm) and Anitta, Brazil

What’s next for Fazenda Futuro? What trends are driving the brand to create a better, more sustainable future?

We have a very strong active listening channel with our customers; we hear them and address what they’re asking. We thrive on transparency and are proud to have a very honest relationship with our customers. All of our actions are based on believing that eating is a connecting act. It isn’t about the individual only, but the collective. A meal has the power to bring people together, to create this environment of collaboration and belonging, and that is what we are working towards. We are always improving our plant-based options to resemble actual meat flavours, and adding proper nutrition to our products – for example, adding Omega 3 into our plant-based ‘tuna’ – and learning how to make the packaging more sustainable. It’s about collectivism, and we hope to guide our customers to creating a positive impact.

Strategic opportunities

  • The road towards sustainable eating in LATAM is progressing. To smooth the path, an educational foundation is much needed, so prioritise investment here in your brand strategy and media communications
  • A deeper understanding of regional demographics can help diversify your portfolio, as well as adjusting product offerings to fit consumer behaviour and income level. Focus on making your brand a viable option for everyday consumption