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Brazilian Brands: Goiabinha & Biscoito da Vaquinha

Working from home poses multiple dangers. I mentioned my struggles with procrastination in my last post – today I have to tell you about ‘The Kitchen Problem’. Throughout my working day, I am never more than 6 or 7 paces from the kitchen and all the good things that live there. When temptation is so close, the urge to wander in and make a snack presents itself approximately every 45 minutes.

I have developed a coping strategy: tea. I’m now getting through around 8 or 9 cups of tea per day (feels great to live up to my national stereotype). However, the kitchen and my own appetite have developed a counter strategy: biscuits. I expect this arms race of desire and denial will continue, but in the meantime let me tell you about my current biscuits of choice (yes, 2 of them).

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Sal-Cisne-1968

Brazilian Brands: Sal Cisne

There’s a significant amount of irrationality in branding isn’t there? We consumers make choices based on colours and designs, often without even realising that we’re being influenced. If we stopped to think logically about it, I expect many of would concede that there’s probably no significant difference between product A and product B. All the same, for some reason we keep picking product A.

Today’s Brazilian Brand is one that I took to instantly, though I’m fairly sure it is in no way superior to other brands. I just like it.

 

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Sal-Cisne

Sal Cisne

Name: Sal Cisne

Product: Table salt

Description: The Sal Cisne salt refinery was built in Cabo Frio (150km east of Rio de Janiero) in 1949. They have a range of products, from big bags of sal grosso (coarse salt, essential for the churrasco) to smaller containers of table salt. But of all their products, one (or should that be two?) stands out.

The official name for this chirpy couple is the rather dull saleiro ovo (egg salt cellar), l but I think that most of us know them better as Senhor e Senhora Sal. As you can see, Mr Salt wears a blue cap while Mrs Salt has a pretty red boater. When I first saw this pair in the supermarket, I wondered “Apart from the hats, what’s the difference between Mr and Mrs Salt?”. The answer? Absolutely nothing! They both contain perfectly normal table salt.

Verdict: I like them! What can I say? I’m an irrational consumer! I could try to justify my preference by saying that the egg shape fits in the hand nicely, that the little hats actually do a very good job of keeping the salt dry and free-flowing, but in reality I just like having a happy little salt man in the kitchen.

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sonho-de-valsa

Brazilian Brands: Sonho de Valsa

Brazilian Brands is back! Today’s item in the spotlight has a somewhat romantic association which reminds me of a British confectionery favourite. Rolos were (and possibly still are) milk chocolate covered caramels that came in a tube-shaped wrapper. The tag line was “Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?”. I suppose this led romantic 9 year olds to handing over a half melted choccy to the object of their desire (not that I ever gave or received one).

Anyway, on to the Brazilian chocolate for the romantically minded.

 

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Sonho-de-valsa

Sonho de Valsa

Name: Sonho de Valsa

Product: Chocolate bonbon

Description: Sonho de Valsa was released by Lacta in 1938 and they say that the packaging hasn’t changed much in all those years.

As you can see, the chocolate comes in a very distinctive pink wrapper and sports a fairytale couple having a little dance. The dance in question is a valsa (waltz) and apparently the musical notes that you can just make out between the images of the couple are from an actual waltz by Johann Strauss!

Break open the wrapper and you will discover a milk chocolate covered ball. The chocolate is covering a crispy sphere, not unlike a Ferrero Rocher. Bite through the shell and you find a crunchy, buttery cashew nut filling.

 

sonho-de-valsa

Creamy cashew filling surrounded by a crunchy wafter shell and a layer of milk chocolate. Very sweet, very tasty, hits the spot.

 

Verdict: Am I actually turning into a Brazilian? Sonho de valsas are seriously sweet but I like them! I like the crunch from the crispy wafer shell and I like the creamy, crunchy cashew filling.

Apparently these sweets were originally designed to appeal to women (hence the mushy name) and they are now a classic gift “for your loved one”. It seems like it must have worked because Lacta’s rivals, Garoto, brought out the virtually indistinguishable Seranata de Amor (Seranade of love) in 1949.

As romantic gestures go it’s not quite up there with a dozen roses, but hey, it tastes good so stop complaining! I’ll leave you with more sappy mush highlighting Sonho de Valsa’s marketing ploy.

 

Awww, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye isn’t it? It isn’t?! Oh you heartless people!

 

dollynho_matem_seus_pais

Something truly terrifying!

Let me set the scene. It had been a long day. I started at 7.30am with a conference call from home and after getting to the office in Barra, I worked through until around 9pm at which point I was spared the bus ride home by a colleague who gave me a lift to Botafogo in Zona Sul. From there I took the Metro to Glória and then walked up a very steep hill to arrive home at around 10:15pm.

The twin forces of fatigue and hunger were fighting it out inside me, so I opted for a quick bite to eat and then collapsed on the sofa with a glass of wine and made myself comfortable next to Mrs Eat Rio who was watching something on TV. The first glass of wine went down very nicely, so I helped myself to another. Having finished the second glass, I found myself getting drowsy…

I woke up to find that Mrs Eat Rio had also dozed off. Then I looked up and saw this playing on the TV:

 

 

Truly terrifying isn’t it? Just to be clear, I only saw that first advert in the compilation (and without the comments that have been added between clips). I was still quite drowsy and wondered if Mrs Eat Rio had slipped something hallucinogenic into my wine. Read more

diamante-negro

Brazilian Brands: Diamante Negro

What is it about chocolate that inspires such adoration? I’m sure you’ve all seen those articles in which “scientists say” all kinds of things about chocolate (it releases endorphins, is good for your heart, etc). But on top of all that science stuff, I think many of us are more than a little sentimental about chocolate aren’t we? I for one could talk for hours about the various chocolate bars and confectionery of my youth (don’t get me started on the infamous case of the shrinking Curly Wurly).

You can gauge the amount of love there is for a product by the intensity of longing that exists among expats who can’t get hold of it anymore (personally I obsess over Marmite, HP Sauce and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk). I wonder how many Brazilians living abroad have saudade for  today’s Brazilian Brand.

 

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Diamante Negrodiamante-negro

Name: Diamante Negro.

Product: Chocolate.

Description: This chocolate bar goes back a long way and (surprise surprise, this being Brazil!) it has a football connection. In 1938, the World Cup was being held in France. Germany had just invaded Austria (the Anschluss even extended to the football teams, leaving the tournament one team short!), but for French journalist Raymondo Thourmagem, the story of the tournament was a Brazilian player, Leônidas da Silva. Thourmagem was so impressed with Leônidas that he dubbed him the Diamante Negro (Black Diamond) and the name stuck.

Lacta, a Brazilian chocolate manufacturer, opportunistically decided to rename their chocolate bar after the great player and again, the name stuck. They came up with a rather nice slogan too: “Viver é bom, com Diamante Negro é melhor” (To live is good, with Black Diamond it’s better).

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Brazilian Brands: Toddy & Toddynho

When I think of Brazilian food, the dishes that spring to mind are feijoada, moqueca, pão de queijo, picanha, farofa and I’d better stop before I start drooling on the keyboard. But if you asked someone else they might provide an alternative list: doce de leite, beijinhos de coco, pudim, kindim, pão de mel, creme de papaia com cassis and (of course) brigadeiro.

Brazilian cuisine provides plenty of satisfaction for savoury food people like me, but it also has a lot for you glucophiles. Today’s Brazilian brand falls squarely into the latter category – something this sweet was sure to be successful in Brazil wasn’t it?

 

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Toddynho

Toddy & Toddynho

Name: Toddy / Toddynho (sounds like Todgey and Todge-EEN-yo respectively).

Product: Chocolate powder / chocolate milk.

Background: In 1916 Pedro Erasmo Santiago, a Spanish immigrant in Puerto Rico, lost his entire Cacau plantation in a hurricane. He moved to the USA where he worked his way up from toilet cleaner to prosperous businessman in the food industry.

In 1928 he bought the rights to the brand name “Toddy” for all of South America. Prior to this, “Toddy” was the name of a Scottish drink made of blended whisky, sugar/honey and spices, served hot. However, Pedro’s product, a sweetened cocoa powder to be made into a chocolate drink, was just as often served cold.

In 1933 Pedro Santiago was granted permission to market Toddy in Brazil. He set up a factory in Lapa and set about marketting his product with innovative publicity stunts, such as using planes to write the name of his product in smoke in the skies over Rio.

In the following decades, Toddy became a hugely popular drink across Brazil. Although Toddy was the first chocolate powder in Brazil, other brands soon followed, notably Nescau made by evil Swiss company Nestlé.

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Brazilian Brands: Balas Tamarindo Marllon

Brazilian Brands is back! Before we get going I should explain a little about the word bala. If you type this word into Google Translate, the first translation it returns is “bullet”. However, we aren’t going to be looking at some special brand of Brazilian ammunition! We’ll be looking at the other meaning of bala: “candy” (or “sweets” as we say in the UK).

I’m guessing that the ‘bullet’ meaning dates back to the days when ammunition was a spherical ball of lead that was pushed down into a musket. Then when candies became popular, they were similarly shaped and so took the same name. Or could it be the other way round? Does musket shot pre-date candy?

Regardless of how the word and its meaning originated, you should know that the term bala perdida means “lost bullet” (literally), but a better translation would be “stray bullet”. Sadly this term is in the news quite regularly in Rio (and many other Brazilian states), when people are hit by stray bullets.

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The ‘lost bullet’ looks at a picture which says “You are here”. Source

 

Anyway, today we’re talking about the tasty, sugary balas, so let’s get on with it!

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Bala-Tamarindo-Marllon

Balas Tamarindo Marllon

Name: Balas Tamarindo Marllon.

Product: Balas de Tamarido (Tamarind flavoured candy).

Description: The manufacturer is called ‘Balas Marllon’ and is based on the other side of Guanabara bay in a town called São Gonçalo. They make a variety of other candies, but these Tamarind flavoured are the best known and most widely sold. Inside the colourful wrapper you will find a dark brown, slightly sticky ball.

Although the Tamarind tree is native to Africa, it was introduced into Central and South America in the 16th Century and has become a common ingredient in Brazilian cuisine, particularly in the north where it is made into a refreshing drink.

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Brazilian Brands: Bis

The British take biscuits (not cookies!) pretty seriously. I put this down to our tea drinking habit – tea and biscuits go together like, well, tea and biscuits! 

If you ever find yourself with multiple British people and you feel the need to get the conversation going, just try bringing up the subject of biscuits. For example, you could mention that you heard that the best biscuit in the world is the chocolate digestive (a fine choice). Before long you would have people arguing over the relative merits of Hobnobs, custard creams and ginger nuts. We even had a big court case between the government and the manufacturers of Jaffa Cakes over whether their product was a biscuit or a cake (no seriously).

There are many sub-divisions of biscuit and one close to my heart is the ‘biscuit-bar’. The English biscuit bar of choice would surely be the Penguin. In Scotland they have a chocolate, caramel and wafer affair called simply Tunnock’s. The Australians favour something called the Tim Tam which can be ingeniously employed in something called the Tim Tam Slam (everyone should try this at least once).

penguin-biscuit

The humble Penguin biscuit – two biscuit layers with soft chocolate goodness in the middle, all covered in delicious milk chocolate. Good stuff. Source

 

Before I get carried away with all this biscuit talk, let’s come back to Brazil shall we? In Portuguese, the word for biscuit is biscoito. Now I thought I was fairly knowledgeable when it comes to biscuits, but it wasn’t until I arrived here in Brazil that I was told about the origins of the word. Apparently it can be broken down to “bi” (2) + “coito” (coitus) – the er, ‘union’ of two biscuit layers! Can this really be true?

OK, let’s look at Brazil’s favourite biscuit bar and today’s Brazilian Brand:

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Brazilian Brands: Paçoquita

Regular readers may be aware that I’m not a big fan of super-sweet things. I do like chocolate (I’m not completely crazy), but the really sweet things like Brigadeiro are a little too much for me.

With that in mind, it may come as a surprise to hear that I rather like today’s Brazilian brand.

 

Paçoquita

Paçoquita

Name: Paçoquita (‘passo-KEE-ta’)

Product: Paçoca (‘pa-SOCK-a’).

Description:  First let me explain that Paçoca is the generic name for a super-sweet, crumbly sweet made from ground peanuts, sugar and salt (and sometimes that Brazilian favourite, sweetened condensed milk). Paçoquita is surely the best known brand of paçoca. The website is slightly vague about when the Paçoquita brand was established, but it looks to have been someone in the 1980s. Today they are commonly found in a small basket or bowl next to the cash register in Kilo restaurants, gas stations and Casas de Sucos (juice bars). The bright yellow, matchbox sized brick has striking red lettering with a chirpy looking peanut man on the side.

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Brazilian Brands: Aviação

How do you feel about brands? Whether it’s food, clothes, electronics or detergents, they’re all around us whether we like it or not. Some of us willingly embrace a brand, while others feel that brands are simply a cunning marketing ploy to fool us into paying more than the fair price.

I have to admit that I find some aspects of branding really interesting. I like the design elements of the packaging and find it interesting how these are involved in the way we (at least some of us) develop an affection for certain brands. Of course a lot of this brand indoctrination starts at a very early age so that by the time we’re old enough to be buying our own tomato ketchup we don’t even stop to think about why we always pick Heinz.

An interesting aspect of transplanting yourself into a new country is that you come to the market cold. Many of the brands from home are unavailable and so you find yourself adopting new favourites.

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