By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Starbucks first opened their doors for business in Brazil back in December 2006 starting off in São Paulo and since expanding to several cities across the country. The latest venture has been in Rio de Janeiro, with the arrival of Starbucks in Ipanema on Rua Visconde de Piraja.
The coffeehouse which is famed the world over for its delectable coffee, cozy atmosphere, and savory and sweet treats – seems a good match for the locals in Ipanema and travelers alike.
After opening a Starbucks at Leblon Shopping in December 2008, the new opening in Ipanema is evidence of the success in Rio.
Martin Coles, president of Starbucks Coffee International, said that bringing the business to Brazil in 2006 represented “another significant milestone for Starbucks in our goal toward building a global brand.”
Starbuck’s determination to expand in South America’s biggest economy should come as no surprise, as most Western countries have been affected by the economic crisis, it makes sense to look to growing markets. Especially, in the affluent neighborhoods of Zona Sul (South Zone), home to Rio’s middle and upper classes, and Starbucks’ target market.
Initially Starbucks came to Brazil as a limited company, 51 percent owned by Café Sereia do Brasil (company formed by a group of investors to bring the chain to Brazil) and 49 percent by Starbucks International. However, in August 2010, Starbucks Corporation announced that it had assumed 100 percent ownership through the acquisition of Café Sereia do Brasil.
It was believed the move would accelerate growth for Starbucks across Brazil, a move that may have been inevitable. Though it was the the Brazilian investors sought to bring Starbucks to Brazil, it was probably also an easier option for Starbucks to tap into the Brazil by partnering up with investors who knew the market well and spoke the language.
Pablo Arizmendi, Vice President of Starbucks Coffee Latin America, went as far as to thank Peter Rodenbeck, a Café Sereia partner, “for establishing Starbucks as a trusted and respected brand in Brazil.”
Starbucks prides itself on what it claims to be the ethical sourcing of products. They continue to demonstrate the ethical business aspect by supporting community social projects in Brazil. Prior to opening its operations in Brazil, Starbucks partnered with Todos pela Educacao (Everybody for Education), a non-governmental organization committed to supporting educational initiatives.
The man who brought McDonald’s to Brazil in 1979, Peter Rodenbeck who is a native of Michigan and naturalized Brazilian, explains that one of the key factors to Starbuck’s success in Brazil has been the adaptation of the menu to suit the Brazilian market. The man responsible for this adaptation was the managing director Ricardo Carvalheira.
Carvalheira recognized the need for more savory products to draw Brazilian consumers into the coffeehouse culture. “Our concern was to bring products that customers would make an immediate connection with.”
As a result, he developed a series of new products in the line of snacks, sandwiches, savory muffins which can now be found on the menu. “Today on our food menu, pão de queijo is our top seller so it was a sure decision,” he said.
In terms of the local tastes for dark, strong coffee, customers can request a strong, extra-roasted “Brazilian blend” coffee made from locally sourced beans.