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How pandemic-era snacking is helping the growth of a Brazilian meat giant

BRF SA is planning to expand the production of snacking and convenience foods, certain that eating habits acquired during the pandemic will endure.

Brazilian meatpacker BRF SA headquarters is seen in Curitiba, Brazil (REUTERS)

 Does your usual day now consist mostly of cookies and cup noodles with an occasional hot meal thrown in once a day? And do you see yourself continuing this eating pattern, even after the pandemic is over? That is what Brazilian meat giant BRF SA is counting on.  BRF SA plans to expand the production of snacking and convenience foods to developed markets, in a bet that habits consumers acquired during the pandemic will endure.

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Work at home in the era of Covid-19 has changed eating habits, particularly in richer nations like the U.S. More people want meals at home that are quick and easy to prepare, which BRF sees as a prime growth opportunity, according to Patricio Rohner, the company’s vice president for international operations. BRF is the world’s largest chicken exporter, accounting for 9% of the global trade.

“We are focusing on new categories that have risen more than 20%, 30% during the pandemic and will keep rising,” Rohner said in an interview citing snacks, ready-made meals and pizzas.

The pandemic has shaken up eating patterns around the world, as well as the supply chains behind them. Food companies are scrambling to adjust to a new normal of logistics headaches, inflation and emerging consumer trends.

BRF is planning to partner with local firms to produce value-added food products using their meats. Boosting the company’s presence in developed markets is part of a ten-year investment plan. 

Aside from snacking, BRF is also working to consolidate its position in the halal market with facility expansions in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It’s also trying to get more export licenses and may soon benefit from a new chicken export quota that the U.K. is negotiating with Brazil.

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In Asia, the company is looking to supply demand from young consumers for processed food. But it won’t go the route of making an acquisition because local companies don’t yet understand the new consumer trends, Rohner said. BRF is halting overseas deals for the short term as it prioritizes a commitment to keep its debt under control. “We’ll do acquisitions at the time and speed that our leverage will allow us,” Chief Executive Officer Lorival Luz said.


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