Saturday, June 13, 2009

American Brands in Brasil

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If you look hard enough, even in the smaller cities situated in the State of Santa Catarina, you will find products from America. Most Brasilians refer to anything American as being from America, rather than from the United States (Estados Unidos). Many famous brands have found their way in the homes and hearts of Brasilians. I would venture to guess that the most famous of these brands is Coca-Cola. Everywhere you eat, you will see children and adults consuming their favorite beverage, Coke. I think I know why too. The Brasilian version of Coke is a bit sweeter (if you can imagine that) than its American counterpart. Pepsi is sold alongside Coke, but doesn’t have the same following. Still, when you want a taste of home, no matter what flavor cola you prefer, you can find it in the smallest towns of Santa Catarina.

And of course, what would life be without an occasional trip to your favorite fast food restaurant? McDonald’s restaurants exist in the larger cities of Santa Catarina, such as Joinville, Blumenau, Balneario Camboriu, and south in Itapema. During my first visit to Brasil, we were in a modern mall in Curitiba, and ready to have lunch. I decided to try the Brasilian version of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I guess I was expecting a different taste, having been exposed already to the Brasilian way of making a hamburger (see previous posts regarding food). Well, I needn’t have worried. The hamburger was a perfect clone of its American counterpart, right down to the skinny fries that accompanied it and the cardboard box and paper bag it came in. In addition to McDonald’s, they also now have Pizza Hut, Subway, and KFC, although the latter hasn’t made it’s way much further south than Rio de Janeiro yet.

Finally, a word about American products in the grocery stores. Nothing from America comes cheap in Brasil. If you want to make a favorite recipe that calls for Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, for instance, prepare to spend upwards of ten reais (equivalent of around $5) for one 10 oz. can of soup. Budweiser beer is available, but it will cost you about double that of a Brasilian brand. Beer in Brasil is pretty good, so that wasn’t as hard a pill to swallow as say, my craving for brownies made with walnuts. Walnuts and other nuts, such as pecans, almonds and filberts, will cost you almost $10 a pound. So what do you do? You adjust. You learn to make your own soup out of fresh or canned mushrooms, and you wait until the holidays, when nuts are cheaper and buy them and freeze them for future use. In fact, you learn a lot about yourself when you realize that a bottle of American barbeque sauce will cost you the equivalent of a week’s salary. Drink enough Brasilian beer, and those little packets of ketchup never tasted so good.


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