When Ana Ferreira and her partner Jason Hill established Brazilian Style Imports a decade ago, Ana drew on her experience in retail and food services to get the company started.
The business specialises in Brazilian food products, sourced directly from South American suppliers.
Brazilian Style Imports currently sells to around 700 business customers in both Australia and New Zealand. Among their customers is Brazilian BBQ restaurant Braza.
Key to creating the charcoal flavours of Churrasco - Brazilian style charred meat - is a specialty BBQ range supplied by Brazilian Style Imports. Braza uses it to cook beef, pork, and chicken on metal skewers over hot coals.
And Ana’s personal connection with Brazil is the crucial link in this dynamic food chain.
"My mum used to send boxes of the products I missed the most, and it was always very exciting," Ana says.
When Jason asked why she didn’t buy locally, Ana explained the products simply weren’t available.
“The same night, we started contacting the suppliers and manufacturers," Ana explains.
Initially, both Ana and Jason worked full time, funding the home-based startup.
Jason’s background in importing was an added advantage.
“I think that combination is really the secret ingredient for the business," Ana says.
Gradually, the business grew, along with demand for their speciality lines, driven by homesick Brazilian migrants longing for the exotic tastes of home.
"Those first four, five, six years, there was a fire in the belly, there was an overwhelming pile of things to do constantly, but now it's kind of established, at 10 to 11 years so things come a bit easier,” Jason explains.
Now their range has expanded to include some of Brazil's most traditional products from beans and sauces, to spirits and wine, and even tea.
Importing from Brazil has its challenges since stock can take up to four months to arrive.
“Containers can be held up, or there can be delays bringing products from the farm during manufacturing, packaging and labelling, and then it's a two months journey to get here plus clearing customs. So there are a lot of moving parts,” Jason explains.
Despite the challenges, their business is booming.
These days the couple are keen to celebrate with Brazil’s traditional drink, a Caipirinha – a mix of sugar, hard liquor and lime.
It’s certainly delicious and, they admit, a lot easier to drink, than pronounce.
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