June is a fun, lively month in Brazil.
It marks Festa Junina, a month of celebrations that have their roots with the Portuguese and Spanish settlers of Brazil who sought to honor their favorite saints and party after a good harvest. (June is early winter, south of the Equator.)
There are parties at schools, parties in churches, parties in clubs and parties in the streets. They can range from small family gatherings to tens of thousands of people at a neighborhood block party.
So, you can imagine that it’s a great month for a food company like Yoki Alimentos, a family-owned business in Brazil.
Parties means food and drinks, and Yoki makes some 600 food products for the average consumer, mostly under the Yoki and Kitano brands.
Last month, General Mills signed an agreement with Yoki to buy the Brazilian foodmaker. I visited São Paulo shortly after the signing and saw how Yoki has the festive consumers in mind.
At an Extra hypermarket – think of super center — Yoki built 12 stand-alone displays decorated with ribbons and flags and graphics typical of Festa Junina.
Here is some video that I shot, as I walked along a long aisle inside the store.
The displays are stocked with popcorn, Yokitos chips, potato sticks, cashews, peanuts, spice mixes for “churrasco” – the classic Brazilian barbecue – as well as oregano and garlic. There were sweet treats, corn cake flour and farinha and farofa, a common side dish made with cassava.
They span nearly the entire width of this warehouse-sized store that also sells clothing, TVs, sports gear and live plants. It’s so big that several store clerks work in rollerblades.
The displays – which Yoki refers to as a “train” – took 20 merchandisers working 24 hours to build and stock. While others may not be as big, there are 20,000 Yoki product displays across stores in Brazil this month. You could say that Yoki owns Festa Junina like turkey owns Thanksgiving in the U.S.
And, through Festa Junina, stores will be well stocked with the hallmark everyday foods of Yoki. Basics like flours and beans as well as convenient plays like quick-cooking farofa and instant mashed potatoes.
Nothing fancy, but family basics.
More than half of Brazil’s 200 million people have moved up to the middle-class, making this vibrant market a must-be for any global business.
And, Yoki clearly speaks to them.
“This is the beauty of the acquisition,” says Jaime Calleya, director of sales for General Mills Brazil, sweeping his arm toward these product displays in a store. “We are really buying a company that is really focused on the emerging middle class. They’re very affordable products.”
In many ways, Yoki is reminiscent of an earlier General Mills, producing the likes of Gold Medal flour, breakfast cereals and Hamburger Helpers.
Today, we are marketing Häagen-Dazs super premium ice cream and Nature Valley granola bars in Brazil.
“The story for Brazilians is that they grew up with Yoki products,” says Waldemar Junior, marketing director for General Mills Brazil. “Yoki’s a big player for everybody, and everybody remembers. The consumer awareness for Yoki and Kitano products is above 90 percent.”
In this video interview with Waldemar, he told me that he has fond memories of Yoki since his father worked for a supermarket and brought him along as a youngster to Yoki parties. His parents are almost as excited as he is about the acquisition.
“This is probably – no, not probably – this is the best opportunity in my career. And, the best is yet to come. This is very exciting!”
Indeed. As we learn more about Yoki and get to know its people, we see just how excitingly better we can be – together as one in Brazil!