Becoming a leading Latin American foodservice distributor: 5 tips to keep in mind

  • 24 July, 2022
  • 882

Latin America is a region rich in culture, traditions, and diversity of ways of thinking. From Mexico to Patagonia, Chile, it is possible to find many social contrasts and some similarities.

With a strong pre-Columbian history, different sounds and rhythms, flavors, colors, fashion trends, and ways of thinking. Latin America is unique on many levels.

Without a doubt, a positive and interesting experience to witness. At NS InterMarket we care about being aware of trends, differences, opportunities, and even difficulties that may arise.

Our goal is to provide the best service to Latin American food service distributors who wish to position themselves in their local markets, offering solutions tailored to their needs or business opportunities.

Some characteristics of the Latin American food service market

Each market has specific characteristics, and although it may share some with other markets, there are always details that accentuate the existing differences. For study purposes, it is necessary to specify the area to which we refer: the Latin food service industry.

First, you have to remember that there are key points that are part of every regional market in a specific industry, which is a small comment that we will make, but considering the necessary specificity. For example, in many regions coffee is drunk, but there are also a variety of ways to drink it.

Different geographic regions

Despite being a region in its entirety, Latin America is divided into several regions, which have their own culture. Each of the countries that converge within a region has similarities, the most obvious being geographical, but in the same way, it is possible to delve into ways of speaking, social trends, forms of organization, etc.

Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

We divide in this way due to the integrated systems that exist in each region. States have decided to organize themselves to facilitate integration and promote economic development.

Central America has tariff facilities between the States that are part of the integration system. The Caribbean has also established economic policies to promote development among them. Finally, Mercosur is a rather striking region due to its size and development.

For its part, Mexico has a fairly important economic development for the food service/HORECA sector due to its large geographical area and being part of the North American region in which the US and Canada are located, which are leaders in terms of economic development. in the region.

Different menu combinations

There are some common standards within every region when it comes to the food service industry. Transnationals, universal dishes, dishes for general consumption, etc. Going back to the example of coffee, this is technically universally consumed and it is a drink that can be found throughout Latin America, likewise, some dishes and menus can be found throughout the region.

Chachapas, tacos, tortas, enchiladas suizas, feijoada, baleadas, pupusas, arepas, sancocho de platano, bandeja paisa, milanesa, etc.

However, the important thing is to see in detail that many dishes are specific to each country, and it is even possible to find varieties within Latin American countries. Mexico is a clear example of the variety of quesadillas and the differences that exist between them.

It is important to note that from them the cooking methods, equipment to be used and food preparation will change because they will respond to those popular menus in society.

Growing technological development

Despite being a primarily agricultural and service sector region, in recent years it has been developing its technological industry in terms of kitchen equipment.

Mexico and Brazil are quite competitive markets, with strong development and even the birth of many OEMs. Although there are distributors of important brands, there are also manufacturers that represent strong competitors.

With competitive prices and simple and robust designs, it is clear that reaching a market that has a strong presence of manufacturers without a clear strategy could be signing the sentence of failing in your business objectives.

5 Tips to be a great Foodservice distributor

1. Have a clear business objective

Are you a coffee specialist? Are you dedicating yourself to the world of haute cuisine? Is your focus on technical service? Whatever the best answer to these questions, the reality is that you need a clear business objective.

A clear objective can give you a clear path to follow, dismiss false opportunities that take you away from your desires, and identify real opportunities.

2. Know your local market

As we mentioned before, each region is different from one another, each country is different from one another and even each area of ​​each country also has differences and details that must be taken into account.

It is not good to make plans without first knowing the market where you carry out your business objectives.

Becoming a cooking expert in a region where frying is the most important thing may not be the most appropriate. On the one hand, you can try to change the culture of the entrepreneurs, but this takes a long time and is sometimes not profitable in the short or long term.

Investigate the popular menus, most common ingredients, consumer culture and any other variable that you consider plays a key role.

3. Be open to new market trends

Before the pandemic, the virtual world had quite a presence, however, it was not as predominant as it is now. Video conferencing solutions were for a few who needed them, and even the idea of ​​telecommuting was far removed from reality for most people.

All of this changed with the advent of social distancing, giving rise to a whole new organization in our society.

Since the pandemic, online ordering services, videoconferencing services, digital solutions, and internet platforms have had exponential and unprecedented rebound and economic growth. 

How is your business adapting to a new aspect of life? Are you open to having virtual platforms? How welcoming is your website? Are your customers comfortable with the interaction you are providing? If the trend is the digital world, then we must respond appropriately.

This is reflected in the conventional, for example, you can be a specialist in serving cafeterias, providing the necessary equipment and the proper preventive maintenance, but you may notice your customers looking to improve the quality of their water filters or even that the Society itself demands this from restaurants. There is a trend towards improving sanitation equipment, which can mean an opportunity if the ideal factors are provided.

4. Have a strategy to face the difficulties facing the market

Difficulties with delivery times, constant price increases, high freight prices, high operating costs, lack of materials, etc.

It would be irresponsible to pretend that this is not currently happening when every dealer is suffering from the difficulties of this post-pandemic market. Likewise, manufacturers suffer to obtain the necessary raw material, which corroborates that in both cases there are difficulties to overcome.

But the reality is that those are the cards we have to deal with, so what is your strategy to deal with this? How are you coping with the situation? How do you redirect prices to reduce losses?

Taking into account the long delivery times, the market demands, and projects that are reactivated, a strategy could be created around the stock, keeping what the market needs on hand and being ready to face price increases. However, it is important to emphasize that predicting the needs of the market is extremely complex, the experts could guess fairly well that they could keep in stock for several months, but even they will suffer the consequences to a limited extent.

5. Establish a distinctive factor

Every market has competition and that is quite clear. The food service is not excluded, quite the contrary, due to the demand for needs, there are many options to choose from. You can look for a price market, high quality, detailed specifications, or whatever you imagine, but the reality is that you will always find competition.

In the case of distributors, it is clear that each one has the brands and equipment that they consider to be necessary to achieve an excellent business. However, only focusing on distribution could be a mistake, since that model no longer has the innovation of its own.

What will you add to make your customers decide they can’t leave you? What is that factor that makes it a benchmark? It could be technical service or consultancies, or even something more detailed and different, in the end, it will depend on each one.

The important thing with this message is to identify the distinctive factor that will ensure a presence in the market.