Tapping into Brazil's niche but growing low-carb and keto market

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ filipefrazao
© GettyImages/ filipefrazao

Related tags: Low-carb, keto diet, Gluten-free, free-from, Healthy eating

With a rise in ketotogenic-friendly product launches to a recently launched low-carb front-of-pack logo, Brazil's keto market may be small but it interest is growing.

Over 1,000 dieticians in the US recently chose the high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb ketogenic diet as their top diet trend of 2020.​ ​While the keto diet may not be as mainstream in Brazil as the US, low-carb diet is increasingly on people’s healthy eating radar. 

“The ‘faux carb’ trend, which emerged a few years ago, has seen carbohydrate-heavy products being replaced by nutritionally dense and low-calorie vegetables,” ​says senior food and drink analyst, Honorata Jarocka. “This has led to the development of pasta and rice alternatives like courgetti and butternut squash lasagne sheets. 

According to Jarocka, a by-product of this trend is the surge in popularity of the humble cauliflower. "The proliferation of low-carb, gluten-free [and] grain-free diets has promoted the use of cauliflower in a variety of formats, not only at home, but also in restaurants and supermarkets," ​she adds.

Natural Fit: 'Before, special diets were frowned upon'

Among 10 low-carb and cauliflower-based products from around the world selected by Jarocka to highlight product innovation was Natural Fit’s low-carb cauliflower loaf.

The company's founder, Carlos Eduardo Xavier,  told FoodNavigator-LATAM he was running a small confectionery and patisserie shop before deciding to focus on gluten-free and lactose-free food after a request from a customer.

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© Natural Fit

In the process of product development, I did market research to see what already existed and what people were looking for, I realized that the existing options did not serve the public very well,” ​he said. “And at the time [2015], products aimed at special diets were frowned upon. They had a general perception that they were bad. It was almost a punishment to have to eat."

Xavier describes Natural Fit as “a small company with big plans” ​that is ready to meet the rising demand in Brazil for nutritional foods, particularly for ketogenic and low-carb diets. The cauliflower bread is now its best-selling bread and it recently launched a low-carb brioche in three flavors. 

Using traditional bakery techniques such as fermentation allows it to match the sensory aspect of bread as close as possible, Xavier said, while its cauliflower bread is rich in fiber and is made with white bean flour that contains phaseolamin, which is said to reduce carbohydrate absorption in the body by inhibiting the action of the starch degrading enzyme, alpha-amylase.

Another Brazilian brand using cauliflower is Green People whose cauliflower chips are flavored with natural spices and cashew nut powder. The company recommends adding the crispy cauliflower florets, which are dehydrated at 42ºC to preserve the nutrients, to main meals as a crunchy, carb-free topping.

Brazilian Low-Carb Association launches logo

Working to spread the low-carb message is the Brazilian Low-Carb Association (ABLC), which created a low-carb front-of-pack logo last year that manufacturers can use to help low-carb consumers choose the right products. Products looking to use the logo must have a low carbohydrate content and be free from ingredients that can significantly increase blood glucose if there are

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© GreenPeople

lower impact alternatives, says the association. 

Unacceptable ingredients include sugars such as glucose, fructose, cane sugar, honey or agave; sweeteners such as maltitol or dextrose; seed-extracted vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean or corn; and starchy flours such as wheat, corn, rice, potato, green banana, sorghum or oats. 

The association says it uses criteria established through standards and procedures determined by an ABLC team of physicians and nutritionists to certify products. However, the association did not respond to requests from FoodNavigator-LATAM for nutrient thresholds or ingredient quantities. 

Through the seal, the association says it hopes to enlighten the Brazilian population about the role of a low-carb diet for health and well-being and encourage companies to offer genuinely low carb alternatives, thus reducing the occurrence of misleading labels in the marketplace.

Recipe recommendation: Think about what you’re taking out

Ingredient supplier Kerry suggests that manufacturers looking to create keto-friendly products should consider the nutritional content.“People following the keto diet are eliminating carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and many vegetables from their diets. This means keto-friendly foods should help these consumers fill nutrition gaps by providing added nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, vitamins A and C and potassium,” ​it says. 

According to market research firm Euromonitor, Brazil’s health and wellness food market grew by 98% between 2009 and 2014.

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