For the first time in three years, the global baking community gathers once again during the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), which is being held Sept. 17-21 in Las Vegas. Among the largest international delegations is from Brazil, which has more than 70,000 bakeries serving 200 million people with a wide variety of pastries, breads and other baked goods.

Baking & Snack magazine reached out to Rui Gonçalves, president of Sampapão, an association that brings together 6,000 bakeries in São Paulo. Sampapão is an acronym for the Baking and Confectionery Entities of São Paulo.

The organization is responsible for running FIPAN, which was held in July and is the largest Bakery and Confectionery fair in Latin America and one of the main events aimed at foodservice operators in the country.

Over the years, Mr. Gonçalves said, FIPAN and the Brazilian baking community have collaborated with IBIE and the US baking industry in many ways. Mr. Gonçalves shared his perspective of the Brazilian bakery market and a global perspective on the baking industry as a whole.

How would you describe the state of the baking industry in Brazil, especially since the pandemic hit?

Bakeries in Brazil have become a center of gastronomic production and convenience. The product mix, previously focused on bread, milk and coffee, has become much more diversified and complete for the customer, with options for lunch, pizza, soups, products for convenience stores, among others. We are focused on the 24-hour routine of our customers, being present at every moment of the day, every day of the week. The bakery industry in Brazil has already recovered the losses it had during the pandemic and already the sales volume is slightly higher than in 2019. Another important point is that sales through delivery increased, accelerating a trend that already existed before the pandemic.

How would you evaluate the strength of the Brazilian economy and how it is impacting the baking industry?

The bakery industry represents about $20 billion (US dollars) annually, indicating a significant importance in the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Even with the pandemic, the strength of the bakery industry, as it is an essential activity and of national public interest by law, remained open and continued to have daily sales, even if much lower than the pre-COVID phase. Compared to the economies of European countries and the United States, we have lower inflation, a recovery in the level of employment and GDP is expected to grow by 2.5% this year. Brazil continues to be the country of opportunity, with more than 200 million consumers and a constant evolution of various sectors, such as bakery, which is increasingly seeking efficiency and international technology.

What are the current consumer and market trends driving sales in Brazil, and how are they different from other countries in North and South America?

Delivery of food was certainly the biggest change after the pandemic. Bakeries have become experts in this type of service. Now in addition to having a know-how in customer service and artisanal production, we can quickly acquire experience in delivery, which is here to stay and just evolving every day. Consumers missed being at the bakery, so bakeries are taking the opportunity to improve services and retain customer fidelity even more.

How are bakeries dealing with supply chain issues, especially concerning ingredients and packaging?

With the pandemic, many more packaging suppliers emerged in the sector. The number of companies almost tripled, largely due to delivery. In this way, the options for the market have increased a lot. Despite the lack of inputs, we have more products on the market and more options for suppliers. A negative factor was the increase in prices, especially wheat, which we have not been able to fully pass on to consumers. We also adapted to other types of raw material and ingredients to continue production, the consequences of which were weekly prospecting of new suppliers and reviewing all contracts with them, leaving the establishments freer and being able to serve, even with lower production, the avid customers to buy everyday products. The rule is to always have options for customers. 

What is the status of the labor situation in Brazil, and how does it compare with the challenges that bakeries are facing in other parts of the world?

Our sector employs 2.5 million Brazilians, yet the problems of skilled labor continue, especially after the pandemic. The offer exists, but the demand needs to be more qualified, that's why we have several educational projects at the FIPAN trade show and at our school, IDPC, which has a range of professional courses for the entire sector. If we do not encourage professional education, the baking industry will not evolve.

Why was FIPAN so successful this year?

A lot of work and a lot of planning. We certainly conquered new markets and new audiences, bringing to our trade show what the baking sector needs. FIPAN is the platform for education, network and business for the bakery sector in Brazil and also in partner countries. We had bakery professionals from more than 30 countries visiting FIPAN, which had record numbers with 360 exhibitors, 450 brands and more than 42,000 square meters of exhibition space. Our congress also included topics on 5G technology, delivery with drones, energy efficiency and other topics to prepare the baking industry for the future.

How is FIPAN working with IBIE to exchange knowledge between Brazil and the North American baking industries?

We are at IBIE with a record delegation of Brazilian businessmen. There are around 50 owners looking for innovation and business at the trade show. We want an exchange focused on technology and more efficient production between IBIE and FIPAN companies. So much so that we will participate in business roundtables and technical visits during IBIE — just as they also had the opportunity to have a positive agenda with us during the last FIPAN. The bakery world must come together to grow stronger.

What would be the demand for foreign equipment, products and technology in Brazil?

Brazilians are looking for machinery and inputs that bring more efficiency to their production. We found technologies that are not yet in the Brazilian sector, and that is why we held these delegations to bring to Brazil suppliers that can meet this repressed demand. After all, there are more than 200 million Brazilians, and more than 70,000 bakeries to serve them so the opportunity for growth is huge.