David Pineda Ereño, principal of the Brussels-based consultancy DPE Consulting, said ongoing efforts to harmonize regulations across the region after years of negotiations and discussions are finally starting to bear fruit. Pineda has deep experience with the markets in Central and South America, having been an analysts for EAS Consulting before setting up his own shop.
Pineda said the partnership between public and private interests has been advancing with an aim to improve access to the market for functional foods and dietary supplements.
Trading blocks amend regulations
The efforts began in 2014, starting first with dietary supplements and their ingredients, he said. Two trading blocs are active in South America, the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela was suspended as a full member at the end of 2016.
“Examples of that in relation to some of the major markets would be Brazil and the Pacific Alliance of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. On the one hand, Brazil has expanded the application of the notification procedure to more categories of food products and significant progress is being made towards the development and implementation of effective regulation for these type of products. On the other hand, the Pacific Alliance is harmonizing their regulations on processed foods and dietary supplements, among other areas,” Pineda told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The work on processed foods began later affecting a wide range of issues and is still ongoing. Needless to say that the harmonization of the food regulation in the Pacific Alliance is expected to bring positive changes into the national regulations of the member countries. Furthermore, the ambition in the Pacific Alliance is to make their harmonized regulation a model also for the Latin American region, and also a tool to increase trade with Latin American, South East Asian and European markets,” he said.
While the procedures for getting new food products and ingredients registered in the various markets shows signs of being rationalized, regulations concerning public health issues are ramping up, Pineda said. Recently Mexico climbed to close to the top of the world in the prevalence of adult obesity, having surpassed the United States by some measures (small Pacific Island nations dominate the top of those rankings). The government responded by instituting a tax on sugared beverages, which one study said had depressed sales by more than 7%. Pineda said that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While the tide of interventionist regulation is subsiding in the U.S. under President Trump, the opposite is true south of the border.
“When considering trends in the food and beverage area in Latin America, it is worth highlighting that Latin American authorities continue to increase their focus on the setting of additional regulatory requirements and measures on the labeling, marketing and advertising of food products as a way to tackle noncommunicable diseases and obesity. Measures such as front of pack labeling, traffic lights, warning statements, restrictions and/or bans on the marketing and advertising of food and beverages, taxation and reformulation programs are at the top of the regulatory agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
Upheavals afflict certain markets
Economic upheavals and political crises have gripped certain markets in South America, making for problematical investment climates, Pineda said. Venezuela, after years of financial mismanagement that was papered over by high oil prices, is close to total market collapse with runaway inflation and high unemployment. Brazil has been in the throes of a constitutional crisis and a deep recession, as the drawn-out spectacle of the impeachment of previous president Dilma Rousseff finally drew to a close in late 2016. The country’s economy contracted 3.6% last year, following a 3.8% contraction in 2015. The stock market surged after Roussef’s ouster, as the government forecast a return to growth this year. But now those prospects have clouded, as an ongoing corruption investigation has implicated Rousseff’s successor Michel Temer, who was Roussef’s vice president.
“When looking at markets, it is recommended to focus on those where consumers have higher income rates and where the market and regulatory environment provide interesting opportunities to the products. Pacific Alliance member countries - Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru - are very interesting taking into account the profile of their consumers, the easiness to start a business, as well as for the integration process that the Pacific Alliance is going through. Important to note though the labeling, advertising and taxation measures that food and beverage products need to observe particularly in Chile, Mexico and more recently Peru,” Pineda said.