The literal translation is “beautiful, marvelous.” I suppose we could Americanize it by saying “A beautiful thing!” What am I referring to? Brazil, in general, and the country’s confectionery industry, specifically.

Why the high praise? Well, given that I’m writing this from Curitiba, Brazil, a city of 2 million that’s hosting this year’s Sweet Brazil show, there’s a direct correlation. But let me first start from the beginning.

During the most recent ISM show in Cologne this past January, I had the opportunity to speak with Getlio Ursulino Netto, long-time president of the Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolate, Peanut and Candies Manufacturers Association, simply known as ABICAB.

While chatting about the Brazilian Pavilion and the companies exhibiting there, Netto discussed the possibility of attending Sweet Brazil. He indicated that there might be an opportunity for the association, in conjunction with ApexBrazil, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, to sponsor a trip to the show.

Time flies when you’re on deadline, and before I knew it, an e-mail reminding me of that conversation came across my screen. So yours truly, together with Graciela Diaz Serrano, director of Producciones Manilla, publisher of Dulcelandia magazine; Kristiane Henney, a journalist with Kennedy’s Confection; and Steve Forester, executive editor of Candy and Snack Today, were invited to visit two Brazilian confectionery companies as well as go to the Sweet Brazil show.

Since arriving in Sao Paulo last Thursday morning, it’s been a whirlwind trip. Luckily, I’ve been to Brazil before, both on business and personal visits. As a result. I was curious regarding any changes over the past five years. Aside from the great strides made in the economy and society overall, one thing that hasn’t changed is the traffic in Sao Paulo.

With a population of nearly 20 million throughout the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, it doesn’t take much math to figure that there are plenty of automobiles on the road (six million, to be exact). But Paulo, my driver, and I had a pleasant conversation during the hour-plus drive to the Golden Tulip hotel.

That afternoon, we had a presentation by Netto about Brazil, its economy and the confectionery industry. With nearly 191 million inhabitants, Brazil has the 10th largest economy in the world. It also represents the fourth-largest confectionery marketplace.

Thanks to its rich natural resources, everything from sugar and soybeans to beef and poultry, the Great Global Recession proved to be merely a misstep on the country’s determined march to economic growth.

It’s no surprise, then, that the confectionery industry has been growing, as well. Total confectionery sales reached $9.3 billion dollars in 2009.

The following morning, we had the opportunity to see an example of that growth. Our group travelled to Rio Claro, Brazil, to visit Riclan (www.riclan.com.br). This family-owned company, which posted $180 million in sales last year, produces a broad range of hard and filled candies, caramels, lollipops, chewing gums and cereal bars.

The company recently completed construction of a $15-million manufacturing facility just outside of the city, complementing its existing plant, which sits in the downtown area. Ivan Schraider, director of domestic sales, and Antonio Romualdo da Silva, director of international business, proudly took the group on a tour of the facility, which underscored Riclan’s philosophy of pursuing world-class operating standards.

Upon returning to Sao Paulo, the news pack set its sights on Vila Velha, a sister city to Vitoria, where one of Brazil’s legendary chocolate companies, Garoto (www.garoto.com.br), has its headquarters and manufacturing facility.

Purchased by Nestlé in 2002, the company competes on the market independently of its parent and provides a wide array of chocolates, everything from pralines to bars. Its famed “yellow box” remains Brazil’s leading assortment of chocolate candies.

Alain Webbe, account manager for Garoto, charmed our group with his enthusiasm and persona, while the facility impressed everyone with its high level of automation and continuous investment.
At the conclusion of the visit, the intrepid international band boarded another plane, eventually landing in Curitiba just before midnight. This cozy and very livable city in southeast Brazil has the largest middle-class in the country, emblematic of what’s happening in the country.

The Sweet Brazil show is expected to host nearly 35,000 visitors, who will have the opportunity to see exhibits from Brazil’s leading confectionery companies. Having had the chance to walk the floor, it’s clear that the confectionery industry is alive and well in Brazil.

It’s also clear that these companies are committed to competing on the world market, cognizant that investment in automation and technology are critical to delivering high-quality and innovative confections to the global community.

Look for my complete report in the coming issue of Candy Industry, where I’ll profile Riclan and Garoto as well as showcase the latest new products coming from Brazil. Upon reading those reports, I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion -- Brazilian confectioners and confections are a beautiful, marvelous thing.