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Latin America New Battle Ground For Top Five Global Tuna Brands? Latin America, July 25, 12

The top canned tuna companies will be present in Latin America within five years, as they cannot afford to ignore the developing region’s growing potential, says Dario Chemerinski, director partner with Global Resources Brazil, a company that facilitates international business, and a speaker at the INFOFISH Tuna Conference in Bangkok, Thailand this past May.
He sees Thai Union, Thailand’s largest canned and frozen seafood producer, entering the market either through a major take-over or a possible launch of the tuna brand, John West. He also predicts two popular brands in the region – Costa Rica’s Sardimar and Colombia's Van Camps – could be attractive potential key acquisitions for any of the major players looking to expand.
Currently, Ecuador is the dominant tuna exporter to Latin American countries since it is free from trade tariffs, while Thailand is the second biggest player. Chemerinski estimates Ecuador commands about 70% of the exports to the “big” countries (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile).
Latin America – which encompasses 23 countries in Central and South America – is emerging as an attractive market for tuna exports because of its improved stability and rising consumer demand for canned tuna, he says.
In 2012-2013, the GDP growth for Latin American countries is expected to increase at an average 4.3%. Peru and Colombia, however, are expected to grow at more than 5% a year.
“When the GDP rises in every country, this brings new consumers to some segments and canned tuna in particular is benefited,” says Chemerinski.
The positive trend towards fish, including canned tuna, is a healthy alternative to the region’s high consumption of red meat. Consumers in Brazil and Argentina, for instance, are used to eating about 45-50 kilos of red meat per capita each year. In comparison, the average canned tuna consumption per capita of the seven major Latin American countries (Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Panama, Colombia and Chile) is less than 500 grams, which is about three or four cans annually. Ecuador and Costa Rica, however, are the exceptions, eating more than two kilos a year.
The volume difference between red meat and canned tuna consumption is certainly huge, and it poses a challenge to overcome. Latin American consumers especially eat tuna during Easter, spring and summer, and companies are working to promote it as an ingredient for hot dishes.
“It is not easy to convince the consumers or families to move from red meat to fish, but this is happening,” says Chemerinski. The consumption of both fish and canned tuna is growing, he says. Brazil now consumes 9 kilos of fish per capita each year, of which 250 grams is canned tuna.
New players have entered the Latin American market since 2010, including Jealsa Robinson Crusoe in Argentina and Brazil; Beira-Mar and Van Camps in Brazil; Calvo in Paraguay, Colombia and Belize; and Gomes da Costa in Suriname, Nicaragua and Gautemala. Bean and rice giant, Camil, also gained the major Brazilian brand, Coqueiro, from Pepsi.