Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Peru are the largest contributors to the Latin American baking industry, according to Mordor Intelligence. However, every nation contributes its own indigenous flavor to the bakery market.

Take empanadas, one of the few baked foods consumed heavily throughout the region. In Argentina, the beef-filled pastries typically come from wheat flour while Venezuela and Colombia versions are made from corn. Some Caribbean countries use plaintain or yuca to provide starch in the dough.

Likewise, Sourya Das Gupta, senior research analyst, Mordor Intelligence, noted that buñuelos, a fried dough, is popular.

“Pancakes such as cachapa, cookies such as besitos de coco and biscuits such as alfajores are also increasingly purchased, thereby demonstrating a higher preference and purchase behavior toward consumer-packaged goods offering regional specialties, local breads and other baked goods,” he said.

Panaderia y Pasteleria Peruana magazine’s Carmen Lopez, general manager, along with Carecé Saravia, founding director, have traveled extensively throughout South and Central America and discovered several culturally significant baked foods such as pão de queijo in Brazil, arepas of Colombia and Venezuela, and, of course, corn tortillas throughout Mexico.

“Some countries such as Mexico and Peru stand out due to their great variety with great Spanish and Italian influences in their artisanal techniques,” she said. “Some countries, such as Colombia, are known for their greater use of fats in their breads.”

Baguettes, rosettes and croissants are popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile because of the historically strong European influence in those countries.

Antero Pereira, president of Sampapao, Union and Industrialists’ Association of Bakery and Confectionery Industries of São Paulo, noted that in Brazil consumers are well-versed in international flavors and cuisines, but they are faithful to quality and traditional products such as French bread (pão francês), which he described as “still the champion of sales in bakeries and an exclusive Brazilian product.”

Likewise in Peru, Ms. Lopez said, French bread is king and never lacking for breakfast, although bread usually is replaced by rice and potatoes at lunch and dinner. While the packaged biscuit industry has been taken over by the large multinational companies such as Mondelez International, she added, many countries have their own versions of regional favorites such as dulce de leche served as a sweet treat or dessert.

In Peru and other Latin American countries, however, many other foods compete today with bread, and once again, the choice often comes down to price.

“In the schools, the children go with yogurt, energy bars made with seeds and grains, and noodles,” Ms. Lopez said. “While a kilo of bread in Peru costs more than two dollars, a kilo of noodles costs one dollar, but bread will still not be replaced 100% in any way since it is part of the ancestral memory of all of us dating back thousands of years ago.”

Despite its long history, Mr. Pereira pointed out, the regional bakery market has evolved a lot in recent years, thanks to the innovations offered by the supplier industry that have allowed bakeries to greatly expand the range of their products.

“But there is still a lot to learn from international markets about freezing, improving production efficiency and other long-established practices in more developed markets such as European and American markets,” he said. “The need to share experiences and learn with these partners is essential for the evolution of the Latin market, where Brazil is by far the largest representative.”

This article is an excerpt from the June 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Latin America, click here.