Economy

French Vegetable Giant Bonduelle Has Big Plans in Brazil

Low costs, abundant rain make moment ripe for Bonduelle expansion to Latin America, even as the French firm eyes Green Giant takeover

via flickr

BRASILIA –- From a bird's eye view, the landscape resembles the geometric paintings of Vassily Kandinsky. Circles upon circles are etched into the deep red laterite-coated earth. In Brasilia's savannah, where Bonduelle has just opened its first canned peas and corn factory, the fields are often cut in circular configurations. They call them "pivots' here, after the sprinklers that rotate clockwise around a central axis. Crop irrigation has expanded so quickly in Brazil that three harvests are now possible every year, without depleting water reserves.

The water used for irrigation is in fact rainwater, collected during the four-month wet season. It supplies enough water to keep the factory running all-year round, compared to Europe's four months. "No need to issue stocks -- the working capital requirements are negligible and the costs are unbelievably low," says a Bonduelle official. The company expects to recoup their investment three times faster in Brazil than they would across the Atlantic.

That was enough to convince Benoît Bonduelle, who scours the planet in search of new markets for the French company. The new Brazilian site, based about 100 kilometers southwest of the capital, will give the group a solid foothold into the South American market.

Brazil represents an Eldorado of sorts for the vegetable giant, which was coming off of a 2009 fraught with natural disasters and economic uncertainty. Christophe Bonduelle, who heads the company based in the Northern French town of Villeneuve-d'Ascq, has meanwhile confirmed Bonduelle's interest in a potential purchase of US vegetable maker Green Giant, which General Mills has indicated it may be looking to sell.

In the meantime, here in Brazil things seem simpler. The Cristalina factory is an exemplar of modernity, having been built in a record eight months for 15 million euros, half the cost of the comparably sized Krasnodar factory in Russia.

"Investors here are given an expressway," says Benoît Bonduelle. "You don't have to deal with corruption problems like in Eastern Europe." In a country blessed with two meter-high corn stalks -- twice the height of Old World corn -- there is little resistance to change and much enthusiasm. And the minimum wage is 510 reals per month, (216 euros).

There is still much to do though. Bonduelle, a French company, has been in Brazil since 1995, but only controls 0,5% of the market. The company's offer has been limited to frozen vegetables and imported canned products sold to wealthy clients at a price five times higher than its competitors. By producing locally, Bonduelle will be able to lower its prices and offer better quality products, with just a 20% of a mark-up over other manufacturers. Tropical varieties of peas and corn have been adapted especially for the Brazilian market.

Initial product launches have been a success with customers who previously had access to little but dried peas and corn soaked in juice, which retain scant nutritional value. Their differences in the taste and texture of the "supersweet" pea, a variety patented by Bonduelle, as well as other canned products, is notable. With a burgeoning middle class, the 157-year old company figures it can "win an additional 10 million consumers per year", putting it in control of 10% of the processed vegetable market within five years.

With the Cristalina plant, Bonduelle will be able to service the entire distribution chain, from the five leading distributors, which control 50% of the market, down to the smallest retailers. A frozen food unit will follow in 2015, with exports into neighboring Latin American countries expected to start in 2018. "The adventure has only just begun," says Benoît Bonduelle. If one compares the 2.7 kilos of canned vegetables consumed by Brazilians yearly to the 50 kilos of French households, the potential seems undeniable.

But success is not guaranteed. In 2005, European consumer food giant Unilever, once the market leader in Brazil, sold its operations back to Brasfrigo, a Brazilian company that is struggling today.

Read original article in French

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com

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