Set up a little over a year ago, in December 2017, the Latin America and Caribbean regional group of the ICBA represents manufacturers, bottlers and national associations across the region and was established to create a regional agenda and unified voice for industry.
Latin America and the Caribbean represent 17.5% of the global beverage market, selling around 151 billion liters and generating revenues of US$17.7 million each year, according to the ICBA.
Competing companies with common purposes
Santiago López, executive director of the ICBA regional group Latin America, said since its inception, the umbrella-organization had been widely appreciated by industry as it allowed “competing companies within the market to have common purposes and actions amidst the respect for free competition”.
“...We have been able to elicit to associations and national actors that these challenges are global; that plenty of the local agendas have been through the same process in another country. Therefore, the acceptance amongst the association in each country has been positive and in no case detrimental to their autonomy or independence,” López told FoodNavigator-Latam.
The Latin America ICBA regional group had, for example, assisted and supported the presentation of proposals to simplify and harmonize labeling within the Pacific Alliance – a regional integration initiative established in 2011 between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru – through actions within MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) and SICA (Central American Integration System).
“We promote and take part in unification strategies that unify and harmonize in order to facilitate trading and everyday shopping for buyers. Regarding labeling, this is extremely palpable.”
It had also established a network where national association directors across LATAM's beverage industry could share experiences and build common ground on an array of topics and actively establish steps towards regional agendas and integration, he said.
A 'regional order' on nutrition and the environment
For 2019, López said integration and streamlining efforts would be stretched even further: “We want to explore the option of a public-private partnership in the central axis of the agenda of society and industry – the environment and nutrition. But, not country by country, rather a regional order.”
Whilst this would prove “undoubtedly complex”, he said the ICBA remained committed to spurring collaborative action from private sectors, government, academy and consumers towards this.
“In a five-year prospect, we intend that the industry would offer beverages in every country and island with uniform standards, under a regulation that promotes and eases the process of buying an adequate and convenient drink for each consumer need.”
The biggest challenge in achieving this would be collating data and evidence to form region-wide regulations in a more cost-effective way compared to prior attempts, López said, as well as having industry accepted into discussions on the design and implementation of public policies.
“Our main aim is to steadily continue to promote integration, harmonization, homologation, science and evidence-based regulation, and to carry on participating in all sorts of integration processes available in the trading blocks,” he said.