It Foods – Interview about fads in the world of sweets

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This interview was made by journalist-in-training Juliana Benetti de Bauru for her final project. I found the questions very pertinent, so I decided to post them here.
“With the Brazilian economic rise, a considerable percentage of the population started to spend more on products of less importance for daily life. The industry, upon learning about the subject, initiated behavioral research that came to generate constructions of waves / fads introduced in our daily lives in a subtle and practically imperceptible way. As everything is a big cycle, consumer sectors like bars and restaurants have not been left out. ”

Let’s go to the questions about cupcakes and macarons, extremely pop and high.
JB – Every day the number of franchises of these products in Brazil increases considerably, including big names such as Ladurée, which has just opened its first headquarters at Shopping Iguatemi JK in the city of São Paulo. Apart from the large franchises, which follow a standard line, do you believe that most of these stores are selling quality products?
DN – I can’t talk about ALL the stores because I don’t know all the places that make macarons or cupcakes. But I believe that places like Só Doces do Flavio Federico, for example, which makes me one of the best macarons in São Paulo, is certainly a better option than consuming a macaron from France for 9 reais. I explain: dessert, like any other food, the fresher it is, the better it will taste and the better its characteristics will be maintained. Therefore, I believe that products made in Brazil, on the day, with fresh ingredients, are the best form of consumption. In addition, as a Brazilian, I believe that we must value what is best done in our country and with our ingredients and labor. And there is yet another issue that concerns me these days, which is sustainability. It doesn’t make sense to me that a candy that could be produced in Brazil, with the same characteristics, board a ship or an airplane and consume millions of liters of oil to get here and be consumed by us. That’s why I like to say: and live the brigadeiro! Nor do I believe that the franchise standard, as it has a regularized and uniform production process, is synonymous with quality. Most of the time the product lacks life and heart. Living here in Paris, I realize that the most special places are still run by families or small businessmen, who before being traders, are passionate about food and what they do. It is from this situation, where the owner / chef / confectioner is in daily contact with his products and with his customers, that the great recipes and inventiveness come out. It is not for nothing that in Paris you don’t see so many French people in the Ladurée, because they run away from the mass flavor, however good it is. What I mean is that there is a demand for artisans and humans, qualities so dear to food. Now, going back to the initial question, like any market in the world, I don’t believe that most are selling quality products. A large part is average and a small portion stands out, with some more for marketing than flavor.
JB – Do you feel a lot of difference between Brazilian and French products? As for flavor and quality.
DN – The flavors are different, just as the taste is different. Since the era of sugar mills, Brazil has been the country of sugar and sugar cane. It was a pride for the women of the planters to make their own sweets. Sweets at that time were not made by slaves, as they were family recipes passed down from mother to daughter and that no one could discover the secrets. Therefore, we have always been a country where wealth was shown by the amount of sugar contained in our sweets. An example of this is our jams or the dulce de leche. So today, our palate is a much more sugary palate than the European palate, where sugar comes from beet (a sugar that is much less sweet and that consequently sweetens much less) and that in the past was a luxury product and considered too expensive and so it was streamlined. That said, I am sure that we have very good products being made in Brazil and for the taste of the Brazilian people, as well as in France the products are also very good and made for the taste of the French. Of course, because they are a colonizing country, they will always, in a way, impose their taste on other countries as something better. But in my opinion there is no better or worse, each one is tasty in its own way. And I would like to exemplify this with a Taiwanese friend who thinks French sweets are very sweet, because in Taiwan she is used to oriental confectionery, which is much less sweet than the western one.
What exists in France that is very cool is a standardization of both the ingredients and some manufactured products, which guarantees the quality and origin of the products. It works more or less like the controlled designation of origin in the case of wines, but it extends to butters, creams, milk, cheeses, sausages, flours, etc. This ensures that the consumer knows exactly which product he is buying. A common example of this is the intangible sugar sold in Brazil, which never has in the description the amount of starch contained in sugar, which does not make it any easier when making and trying to standardize a recipe.
JB – What do you think makes both cupcakes and macarons so attractive?
DN – The colors and shapes of the two form collectible product cards. As much as you know that you will not be able to collect them, as they are perishable, it is as if in some way you could contain a sense of organization and pattern within these sweets. They are aesthetic products that happen to be edible.
JB – Is the price paid by the consumer for these products in Brazil fair?
DN – Unfortunately I am a little out of the prices that these products are being marketed out there. But I will talk about the prices I remember when I was still in São Paulo. Starting with macarons, I remember that Flávio Federico charged 6 reais per macaron and Ladurée is charging 9. Here in France a macaron costs from 1.50 to 2 euros. If you do not convert the value of the euro into real, it is as if a French citizen who earns a minimum wage can buy a macaron whenever he wants. Now, I don’t think that a person who earns a minimum wage in Brazil can afford to pay 6 or 9 reais in a tiny candy. So, do I think it’s fair? No, I don’t think it’s fair. However, we also cannot ignore the costs of renting in expensive malls like those in São Paulo or even in a street store; nor can we neglect the number of employees employed in a store or factory like this. While in a store in France there is an employee to barely serve you, as he is only there to deliver the product to you, in Brazil you probably have to have at least 5 employees to take the coffee on the table, treat the customer well, with the utmost attention and quickly and without making a face. Anyway, it is a set of things that cost, and are very expensive. And because of all this our dependence on expensive places, exacerbated marketing and large number of employees to serve us, we ended up paying more, too. That is why these products come as premium and luxury market items in Brazil and bring aspirational quality to the middle class. That is why I believe that we must think about alternatives to offer to the Brazilian public and work with the ingredients of our culture, in addition to gradually getting rid of our rancid slavery to be served and treated like great nobles and bourgeois. This would help to lower the cost. Another alternative is to try to do it at home, which is what I teach, and in addition to paying a fair price, having fun with family and friends.
JB – Do you believe that both products “exploded” just because of good taste? In the literal sense of the word.
DN – I can’t understand the definition of “good taste”, but I can understand our habit of importing tastes and cultures considered superior to ours, both European and American culture. I honestly prefer a good milk pudding.
In addition, as I said above, the aesthetic treatment given to these products offers a feeling of euphoria specific to the miniatures. There are two desserts that do not need other utensils than your mouth to be eaten. There is a feeling of accessibility and casualness, as if you are not actually eating. They are desserts that do not share the tradition of dessert and food in general, which is the culture of sharing. With these products there is no exchange with anyone, it is a matter of self-indulgence, an individualistic pleasure. Nothing could be more coherent in a Western world that has already settled down as overtly selfish and individualistic, a “personalized” dessert for its time, its hunger and its loneliness.
This does not mean that they are worse or better products than others – I particularly like both – but I think their success is a reflection of the times in which we live.
JB – What is the main difference of these products, from when they started to be sold, to today in Brazil?
DN – I believe that the products are, in essence, the same. What happens, with increasing competition, is the differentiation between each establishment in relation to the quality of its ingredients, the originality of the combination of flavors and the aggressiveness of marketing.

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