Latin America and the Caribbean represent 17.5% of the global beverage market, selling around 151bn liters each year, according to the International Council of Beverages Association (ICBA).
The LATAM regional group, launched in December last year, would work with manufacturers and national beverage associations across much of this region - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.
Creating a regional agenda
Speaking to FoodNavigator-LATAM, Santiago López, executive director of the ICBA regional group Latin America, said the group had two central objectives.
“The first, is to work with the national beverage associations, sharing industry best practices and configuring, among all, a regional agenda on key topics, such as the promotion of healthy lifestyles and environmental sustainability,” he said.
“The second major objective is to establish a voice that can present this vision and action of the industry before the various multilateral forums in the region and contribute in an aligned manner to the common agendas.”
López said whilst there were plenty of opportunities for beverage manufacturers in LATAM, there were also considerable challenges that were better tackled collectively.
“As an industry, we required a much closer and more direct dialogue with the national beverage associations; with the beverage companies of different sizes; and with regional authorities in order to address these challenges and opportunities.”
‘Dispersion and multiplicity’ of regulations
Given its expanse as a region and each country operating under separate national governments, López said many hurdles facing industry centered on regulation.
“At a regional level, one of the main challenges facing the industry is the dispersion and multiplicity of regulations that hinders trade between countries; reduces the competitiveness of the region; and adds unnecessary costs to beverages,” he said.
Customers suffered as a result, he said, with higher price points on products.
Across many of these LATAM countries, he said there was also plethora of regulations that created an “absence of legal stability”.
“We have cases like Ecuador, where in five years more than 100 regulations related to imports, advertising, marketing or labeling have been issued. Or in the case of Colombia, in a single year there were 94 regulatory initiatives amongst congress, ministries and regional entities – all with a high level of potential impact to the economy.”
Not only were these regulations numerous, they were also often experimental, he said, rather than being based on widely accepted, scientific evidence with proven real-life effects, impact analysis and multi-stakeholder participation.
“The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean must give way to the adoption of tools that allow a normative production of quality.”
There was huge opportunity, López said, to integrate processes and trade agreements that would harmonize industry.
This involved a huge number of players, he said, from agriculture and processing levels through to bottling, advertising and transportation, but the ‘umbrella’ structure of the LATAM regional group made it was easier to impact the entire supply chain.
“The priority is to position the group as a relevant, active, positive and proactive voice in matters of interest. This is achieved when the main beverage companies and associations in the region are connected and united on agendas aimed at the promotion and adoption of the best practices in the sector.”
The ICBA now has two regional groups – LATAM and Asia Pacific – the latter was launched in March 2016.