MX a hot spot for emerging brands
A newsletter on upcoming food and beverage trends that offers a curation of brands and aesthetics written by Andrea Hernández.
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LAND OF SNAX
The Aztecs had hundreds of different gods and goddesses—one for every aspect of their lives. The various deities were believed to exert immense power and influence over everything people did and, as a result, were worshipped devoutly by all levels of society, both at domestic shrines and also in elaborate public rituals. Most of these ceremonies were related to the agricultural season, the sowing of corn or the harvest of fruits. If you are part of this community, you too believe in deities —such as the likes of Erewhon market and Foxtrot, and would agree that public rituals that resemble buying overpriced seltzers, would be a perfect tribute.
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On a rainy afternoon at Mercado Medellin, amongst a sea of flowers and greenery, I was in complete disbelief realizing that every stand in this market accepted cards, some with touchless systems. It was not what I was expecting from a local market in Mexico City, to my relief considering post pandemic I’m not one to carry cash, no wonder Mercado Libre is worth trillions, they are powering this economy bottoms up! Armed with flowers and candles, I made it out in the rain with Emily Miller from Off Limits accompanying me to prepare for our snax meetup, her brand representing the US amongst Mexican emerging brands.
Not a stranger to building legacy brands in food and beverage, Mexico is home to multinational giants like Grupo Bimbo, who at 76 years old has a presence in over 33 countries located in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa and nets in around $15 billion in annual sales. In beverage, you have Topo-Chico, sourced from and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico since 1895. The drink takes its name from the mountain Cerro del Topo Chico, near Monterrey, and though it may seem like an overnight hit in the US, its success was a over decade in the making, when Coca Cola bought the brand in 2017 for $220M from Arca Continental it was added to Coke’s Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) unit, which aims to “find and nurture brands with billion-dollar potential.”
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Leveraging tech has also brought Mexico notoriety—from Cornershop getting bought up by Uber at a whopping $1.4 Billion to Justo expanding beyond Mexico further into South America in highly competitive markets like Brazil, and JOKR realizing its success lies in emerging markets, not in the US. Though venture capital flowing in has slowed after a frenzy last year, Latin America is growing a fresh new crop of legacy-like food and beverage brands, following in the footsteps of the likes of Chile’s own NotCo, who’se AI technology used to create better plant alternatives attracted investment from the likes of Shake Shack’s founder, Daniel Meyer, food giant Kraft Heinz and most notoriously, Jeff Bezos—part of the reason why NotCo has been able to land in Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh’s around the US, and has become a unicorn valued at $1.5 billion in less than a decade.
MEXICO BY THE NUMBERS
—US companies wil invest $40 billion across Mexico between now and 2024
—Investment activity skyrocketed in the LatAm over the past 10 years, with a total of 206 venture capital rounds worth $1.7 billion dollars.
2020 & 2021 combined make up 64% of the total amount invested since 2011
—The food industry represents 7% of the national GDP.
—Packaged food market in Mexico was estimated to reach US$53B in 2019, which makes it the 11th largest market in the world
—Alsea, one of Mexico’s multinationals has partnered up with NotCo to launch plant based products
—MicroMeat is Mexico’s first cultivated meat startup, backed by YC
—99minutos, a logistics service company for e-commerce vendors across Latin America recently raised $82 Million in Series C
—Mexico is the second largest hub for food tech in Latin America
—Investment in food tech grew significantly in 2020 compared to the previous year.
—Food tech sector rasied around $19 billion in VC in 2020 across 848 deals, a 14% increase in capital invested from the $16.4 billion across 814 deals in 2019
NEW CROP OF SNAX
Biting into the cloud-like textures of the kent mangoes from Señor Mango at Maximo was an outer worldy experience, the ball of mascarpone that accompanied it highlited its sweetness, like a tasty juxtaposition. Sitting across from me is Daniela Wong, one of the co-founders of the famous brand Señor Mango, she often partners with the hottest upcoming chefs in Mexico city, who incorporate her mangoes into their desserts that lead to beautiful tangy creations. Mangoes have been part of Dani and her sisters’ lives, as they share on Shark Tank Mexico, their father is the inspiration behind Señor Mango, who has been growing the particular Kent species in their huertas in Sinaloa.
Their dehydrated mangoes are healthier in comparison with other brands, they abstain from adding sugar, as they go through their 5 different varieties, the sharks take a bite, with a gleeful smile they ask for an investment of $1 Million Mexican pesos in exchange for 10% of their business, with their effective pitch and even tastier product, they peak the interest of 3 out of 5 sharks, who ultimately partner in on the deal, that is how coveted their business vision is.
For such a young company, Dani and her sisters have accomplished a lot, in one year they are now available in 34 premium retail locations in various cities, from H.E.B to entire endcaps at City Market (the Whole Foods version in MX) from coveted spots at the international airport in CDMX, to their succesful partnerships with delivery apps like JOKR and venturing into Los Angeles via Pink Dot. With their new investment, Dani has set her eyes further into US market, now with the aid of some of the top investors in Mexico.
Beyond Erewhon, Los Angeles’ spots like Gjusta and Wine and Eggs have become desired placement for brands like Señor Mango, as other Mexican brands have experienced success from that early validation of being in coveted curated grocer shelves. Cuna de Piedra, founded in Monterrey, has become a brand others are seeking to follow in footsteps. A bean to bar chocolate that sources straight from all that surrounds them, whether its sourcing hibiscus from the Numa Gamaa Ski Yu Me’Pha communities, to their own mezcaleros from Santiago Matatlán —Cuna de Piedra’s chocolates can be found in both coasts in the US, in grocers like Gjusta and The Goods Mart, in Europe and now even as far as Asia, their craftsmanship and beautiful packaging as well as ethical sourcing, has made them a great export.
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Emerging Mexican brands are catching the eyes of US retailers, even at very early stages, just ask Salsita Mão from Guadalajara. Salsa macha is quite common in Mexico, but brands like Salsas Iki, Norte and Salsita Mão are giving it their own modern spin, leveraging aesthetics to draw attention to themselves, as getting discovered can yield so much to a brand early on. Salsita Mão went from being sold at one retail point in their city, to landing in the coveted aisles of Foxtrot in Chicago, and even expanding beyond that to beautifully curated stores like Yowie, proudly sitting next to incredibly succesful emerging brands in the US, such as Graza.
Mexico is also a beacon for immigrant founders, just ask Leo Labartino from Molto. Born out of a family from the south of Italy that immigrated to Venezuela, Leo had been living in CDMX for 4 years, forever obsessed with nonna Rosa Petrone Labartino’s ragu recipe. Molto was born during the pandemic, after many a night hosting and cooking for friends who praised his inherited recipes, he began developing them as a stand alone product sourcing from the freshest Mexican ingredients.
When the ragu first grazes the tongue, it’s like a warm embrace after a long time away from home, even as I stand around a large group of people who have gathered to commune, like me, in the goodness of emerging brands like Molto. Equal parts beautiful and exquisite, you can taste the richness that is generations compounded into that recipe, with a sprinkle of Leo’s passion and seasoned with his creative vision for Molto as a food brand that extends beyond sauce, the parmesan crisps we got to taste test served as a surprisingly crunchy addition atop the warm cups of fresh pasta. Resilience is an inherent quality in immigrants, and Leo’s a prime example of it, hitting up spots during the day, his brand is in coveted premium retailers like Green Republique, Jarrilla and Ingredienta, and about to launch in City Market. Leo’s ambition knows no limits, with his eyes now set in US, at our event, a Molto altar is setup around a picture of Pavarotti slurping pasta, candles and roses surround it, a colorful sight, from a colorful brand, with a bright future.
Why So Cereal?
Mexican brands have launched their own versions of URL cereals that are hoping to emulate the successes that Magic Spoon, Three Wishes and Off Limits have had in the US. Brands like Bliss Bowl and Groovies have taken upon themselves to help reshape the cereal game in Mexico. They face a larger obstacle though, as the Mexican government has established regulations that make banking on nostalgia a little less easy —with the ban of using brand mascots, characters in any food or beverage product in anything that bears a warning stamp. (See below)
You walk across the snack and cereal aisles of City Market, and you will find it odd to see Fruity Pebbles without the Flinstone’s in the cover, instead replaced by just a bowl of the colorful cereal, the infamous Chester Cheetah is also absent from the cover of their puff bags. This government regulation came from shocking rates of children obesity and diabetes, their rates are one of the highest in the world, thus these labels are hoping to foster a positive change in health as these regulations have had in countries like Chile.
The wellness wave in food and beverage in Mexico has yet to peak, and brands like Happy People Foods are happily building in that intersection, offering a fun mix between US cult favorites like “everything but the bagel”, prodcucts like almond flour, supplements and monk fruit as well. The brand can be found everywhere from premium, Instagram friendly grocers like Green Republic to delivery-based apps like Justo and Cornershop.
The rise in interest in wellness and sustainability has also led to Mexican interest in alternatives, from protein, to seafood, leveraging local ingredients as well as food tech to create tasty offerings. A recent market report from Euromonitor focused on Latin American consumers points out that 54% of Mexican consumers are looking to shift to plant-based proteins due to digestive problems, 49% of them stated that eating plant-based proteins instead of common meat products makes them feel better (health-wise), while 44% started consuming alternative proteins due to a doctor’s recommendation.
In 2019, the value of the plant based protein market in Mexico was of around $400 Million, The current brand leading the movement is Heartbest, Mexico’s first food tech producing plant-based dairy alternatives. Based in San Luis Potosi, the startup’s line-up includes vegan pea and amaranth milk, and several Vegicheez products ranging from plant-based mozzarella to cheddar and parmesan. Founded in 2016, Heartbest has grown its presence to over 800 stores nationwide, including in some of the biggest retailers like Costco, Walmart, HEB, La Comer and Soriana.
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Most recently, Yaca Ñaca launched its yaca based alternatives, (jackfruit) the colorful brand founded by Ana Gutman hit the market. While celebrating alongside emerging brands this past week, our palates delighted themselves with bites prepared to share, seasoned with adobo, the taste feels as elevated as indugling oneself in caviar, seasoned perfectly and familiar enough to the tongue. It felt fresh, as opposed to something you would have frozen and having to thaw out, the shreds of yaca are the perfect replacemenet of shread beef/pork in a taco, tostada or flauta. The product is also find both in retail and online in the likes of Justo, yaca is inherent in LatAm culture, it was only right that it would served as the perfect base for this alternative. Their altar stood out by combining familiar kitchen items in every LatAm household, helping aid in the idea that this too can become a pantry staple.
Back in 2020 we wrote about gut health being the new bliss, kombucha has been adopted worldwide, and demand for water kefir has been booming in EU, and Mexico is no exception. The success of brands in the US has peaked interest in developing products in this space. Tibi Soda is a water kefir brand that launched earlier this year, its products can be found in the fridges of most wellness grocers, sipping their watermelon flavor, the sparkling beverage goes down easy, not to mention, their cute cartoonish iteration of gut and colon makes it hard not to want to try this product, and post about it too.
Umani Fermentos is a brand that beyond kombucha, focuses on sustainable approach by upcycling cascara, they also experiment with ferments and cider. Their bottled kombuchas have unique colorful labels but their most recent can iterations won over everyone in attendance of our meetup that late Friday afternoon in CDMX. Their unique kombucha flavors like rosemary, wholy bush, and cascara offer a taste of the region in each sip, the founders are also known to host workshops as a way of educating more folks around fermentation processes.
In line with the rise of “wellness” in Mexico, the adoption of natural wines is also worth mentioning. In Mexico city, most restaurants now carry a variety of natural wine options, as well as the notorious orange wine, who has been equally if not more popular north of their border. You can hang out at Maximo or Hugo and sip through their local offerings of natural wine, or you can swing by La Europea or order a case through Vinos Chidos, a company that is curating and educating CMDX folks regarding wine culture. They most recently launched their own product, Rosadito, the first canned rosé wine in Mexico. Though the price is pretty steep for a six-pack, the adoption of canned wine, similar to the US, is something Mexicans are embracing, despite the debates on whether or not cans are the best vessels for wine. Rosadito’s cute labels and culture adjacent vibe, they are usually found at trendy restaurants or collaborating on events with the up and coming in the city, canned wine is looking to spread throughout just as much as hard seltzers have done so.
Beyond the average hard seltzer , Mexico has seen an increase in the seltzerfication of their most popular spirits and drinks. Though Elenita’s and Madre’s Desert water pre-date them, you won’t find those mezcal seltzers in Mexico, instead Ojo de Tigre and Tumē have jumped on the trend train, making sure that the Mexican native spirit in form of seltzer, is available to its own people. “Mezclas originales” reads the can label at Ojo de Tigre, and to be fair, mezcal is original to Mexico, so “original mix” is something that fits! As I walked through Condesa on an early evening and saw folks carrying six packs of Ojo de Tigre seltzers, most likely to a pre-party considering it was around 8PM, latino for pre-game, my age was tellling as I walked by these young folks with a bottle of malbec in hand.
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Ojo de Tigre is also part of the CPG: celebrity packaged goods trend, as their founder, Luis Gerardo Méndez, is most famously known for his role on Club de Cuervos, one of the first LatAm based series Netflix produced. Along with Casa Lumbre, most famously known for their iconic Nixta bottles, a corn liqueur with a corn-like bottle, the best way to describe it is the Diageo of Mexico. Most recently, Ojo de Tigre earned several awards including Gold at Spirits Business Tequila & Mezcal Masters 2022, Gold at IWSC Awards 2022, Gold at World Spirits Competition San Francisco 2022, and Platinum at SIP Awards 2022, safe to say Ojo de Tigre is a proud export of Oaxaca.
Mesoamerican cannabis, that’s the first thing that came across while looking into Mesobis, though born in LA, they are a growing community of cannabis creatives that describe themselves as “on a mission to bridge cultures throughout space & time—life & death” —Mexicans have a beautiful relationship to death. “Mesobians” —as they are described, involve people, creatures and aliens alike. As Mexico begins its process of decriminalizing cannabis, a move that feels empowering, considering just how much of it is sourced from their land, Mesobis seeks to destigmatize, demystify, and make an inclusive for all brand, comitting themselves to bridge Latin America’s past into modern day culture
Anel Hernandez is like a crossover between Bourdain meets esoteric, “Do you need any help?” I asked as she constructed her brand altar for our meetup —”I’m good” she responded as she continued to build out a circular mandala with Mexican ingredients, she had a stack of corn husk that began to hang in a heavenly way from the roof of Publico’s terrace. My mouth hit the floor once she had finished her “offering” —her space involved THC infused mole, that was perfectly served inside a corn husk she so elegantly took from the stack she had hanging, she would complement it with toppings, and added a dessert version of it by having colorful obleas (wafers) be drizzled with THC infused honey.
Anel is part of the cannabis movement in Mexico, not just cannabis but also partnering up with other brands to bring about psychedelic experiences. Dinner for the senses is what she does, and its an expertise I believe comes from being natively Mexican, as we’ve talked about before, you can find psychedelic experiences embedded in old Mixteca hieroglyphics (CODEX) —she wields all ingredients like they are stemming out of her, my eyes drool watching her add the mole unto the corn husk, while she adds toppings to it, I think about how her work makes me feel connected, despite not being Mexican, but as someone from Latin America, and how with each bite of her offering, we reclaim something that has been taken from us, our relationship with cannabis. Anel has partnered with other amazing groups to bring about psychedelic brunches and other incredible food experiences, from picnics to indoor experiential shroom trips, her work has helped normalized cannabis and food, which has always been inherent to Mexican culture.
SNAX IN CDMX
The rain didn’t stop as Emily and I prepped to decorate the beautiful Condesa terrace at Publico, even though I had bough my body’s worth in greenery, the space was green enough in itself. Snaxshot has always been about becoming the platform that lends visibility to brands around the world, that are innovating if not becoming trail blazers in the space beyond the usual hubs. As someone who is familiar with Mexican brands, helping founders transcend barrriers but also listening to their beautiful founding stories as well as their friction points.
I was so thankful that Emily Miller from Offf Limits had made the trip down to CDMX to be part of our event, it was such an honor to be part of the brand getting to expo alongside Mexican brands, I was fully confident that Mexicans would fall in love with the brand, just as I had done from afar. Throughout the 3 hours we spent alongside 7 brands who were part of our event, the Off Limits miniature boxes dwinlded as the event closed in, folks would come up to me to say they couldn’t stop munching on their circular puffs, the pandan flavor being the star of the night. It reminded me that taste is so important, having such delicious taste that transcends cultural and language barriers, speaks most highly of a brand, I was glad to witness Off Limits take on Mexico, one snack bite at a time.
Mexico demanded a snax meetup, and thus it felt only natural to partner with Publico, who is supporting the entreprenurial movement by offering the most conducive and aesthetically pleasing co-working spaces. In Snaxshot nature, we asked Mexican brands wanting to participate in our event, to imagine how their brand would transcend as an altar, that is such an inherent part of LatAm culture. Food has always been a transcendental food experience, refer to our past issue to learn more of those origins, despite a rainy day, on a Friday night, surrounded by brand altars in Condesa, Snaxshot manifested itself. Mexico has the potential to build incredible legacy brands, all one has to do is pay attention, it has been an honor to make space for these brands and their offerings, I only hope you have been able to experience some of it through this writing.
Let’s chat, snax, join our new home, Geneva!
Spoonful News 🥄
Oh no, major recalls from top brands, be on the lookout, your Oatly mayb be contaminated.
Fishwife has been crushing with their collaborations, from Fly by Jing, to Graza, no one does it like them.
Pepsi just poured half-a-bill (billion) on Celsius, has anyone tried it?
Love a good brand troll but would ask Tito’s why the fuck I would spend $20 on their empty cans?!
De Soi (non-alc aperitif which clearly ripped off Ghia LOL) has just raised $4 Million to “expand into retail” —k, next time just partner with Boisson for launch, they are bicoastal now.
Erewhon dropped a new collection of merch and snaxbois are happy
We predicted GrocerCore and it continues to manifest in the likes of Instacart dropping merch
Snax Concierge 🛎️
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