Let’s try to get inside the head of a food exporter from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). What might their greatest desire be? Seeing their products on the shelves of supermarkets in other continents, probably. They might dream of someone in Belgium tasting their blueberry jam or a shopper in Korea trying their yucca snacks.
They might not even need to look for new consumers, as there are millions of people from Latin America and the Caribbean living in the United States or Canada who consume so-called nostalgia products—things they miss because they live far from their homes, like huancaína sauce, chilies, or yerba mate.
There are endless export opportunities for LAC SMEs, which represent 95% of the region’s productive matrix. However, only 13% of them are currently exporters, as was explored in the IDB publication Going Global. By conquering new destination markets, SMEs can diversify their customer base, cut down on commercial risk, sidestep product seasonality issues, and employ more people.
Going Global reveals that SMEs that start trading internationally increase their sales by 55%, become 54% more productive, improve salaries by 42%, and increase employment by 246%.
It is often hard for companies to expand their trade horizons as this involves market research, investing in travel to attend trade fairs, adopting quality standards or sustainability labeling, and so on.
These and other dilemmas inspired us at the IDB’s Trade and Integration Sector to create the annual LAC Flavors event. For 10 years, LAC Flavors has connected SMEs that manufacture foods and beverages in the IDB’s 26 borrowing member countries with international buyers from around the world.
Since LAC Flavors was first held in 2009, it has generated 15,000 one-on-one meetings that have led to a projected $762 million in business.
How have we managed this? Through an innovative business concept in which buyers and suppliers sit down to negotiate at half-hour meetings. Supplier firms are carefully selected by the IDB based on their export potential, how innovative their products are, and the international quality of health and safety and traceability certifications and standards they use.
LAC Flavors is much more than just a place to make export deals. At each event, the atmosphere is all about networking, knowledge transfer, and learning about trends, which makes it truly unusual. Learning first-hand about the needs of highly demanding markets like kosher certification in Israel, the high standards of the FDA in the United States or halal labeling for Arab countries are just some examples of this.
Business meeting during LAC Flavors Peru 2016
Over the course of two days of business meetings at LAC Flavors, SME owners attend technical talks and come into direct contact with other entrepreneurs who they often end up partnering with to access new markets.
These business opportunities don’t end when the event does: they multiply through the ConnectAmericas.com online community, which the IDB created as a 24/7 business experience.
International supermarkets, importers, distributors all take part in LAC Flavors, which has been held in Cancún (Mexico), Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Anti-gua (Guatemala), Granada (Nicaragua), Mérida (Mexico), Asunción (Paraguay), Lima (Peru), and Buenos Aires (Argentina). This year, on its tenth anniversary, LAC Flavors will be held in Santiago de Chile on September 24 and 25.
MORE INFORMATION ON LAC FLAVORS 2018
- This is the first time that the LAC Flavors will be held in Chile. It will take place in parallel with Espacio Food & Service 2018, a landmark Southern Cone business event that brings together companies, service providers, and public bodies from all areas of the food value chain.
- The business round at the event consists of 30-minute one-on-one meetings between LAC producers and international buyers. The event is planned using specialist software that lets companies create profiles around the products that they are seeking to buy or sell, which then throws up matches so that participants can prearrange meetings with other companies that are a good fit for their business objectives. This initiative is promoted by ConnectAmericas.com, the business platform that the IDB launched in 2014 to help LAC SMEs go international.
- The products on show at the event include preserves; jams and jellies; healthy snacks; dulce de leche; frozen fruits and vegetables; cereals and grains; meat products; fish and seafood; and gourmet products with added value.