Company finds a new partner in Brazil with the Matchmaking service
22 November 2021
Bevetrade, a company that imports drinks to Finland, found a new partner in Brazil via Finnpartnership’s Matchmaking service. Cooperation has begun smoothly.
Bevetrade Oy’s CEO, Celso Khalili, answers his phone in the middle of a large coconut palm plantation in the state of Paraíba in Brazil. He is on site to meet with his company’s new partner, whose coconut water Bevetrade has begun importing to Finland.
Coco do Vale is a Brazilian company that has been producing various coconut products for over two decades. It has a total of 2,600 hectares of coconut palm plantations and employs roughly 800 people. The company is the largest employer in the municipality of Lucena.
“One of the main purposes of my trip has been to audit the company’s operations, covering subjects related to the environment and social responsibility. Taking good care of these things is important to us and a precondition for our cooperation,” Khalili emphasises.
Cooperation began smoothly
Bevetrade, which imports drinks and other food products to Finland, was introduced to Coco do Vale through Finnpartnership’s Matchmaking service. “Finnpartnership contacted us and let us know about a Brazilian company that had registered in the Matchmaking database,” Khalili says.
Lucas Gama, who is responsible for international sales at Coco do Vale, explains that he learned about Finnpartnership’s service through a Brazilian acquaintance. “The tip came at a great time, because we were in the process of looking for new trading partners. In addition to selling products on the domestic market, we also export to countries like the US, Germany and Sweden,” Gama says.
Originally, the two companies were meant to meet for the first time at a food and beverage trade fair in Helsinki in spring 2020, where Finnpartnership had invited producers from developing countries. However, the meeting had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bevetrade was still able to get samples of Coco do Vale’s products, and close communication continued remotely over the following months. “We wanted to make sure that Coco do Vale was able to produce and deliver products that meet our quality standards,” Khalili says.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, cooperation went forward and, in August, the first shipment of Bevetrade’s ELO-brand coconut water arrived in Finland.
“The first batch was received well by customers, so cooperation has gotten off to a good start.”
From Vietnam to Brazil
Bevetrade previously imported coconut water from Vietnam, where the company had received Finnpartnership’s Business Partnership Support to help it identify partners and establish cooperation with them.
With Finnpartnership’s support, the company has also worked to develop the environmental and social responsibility auditing process used to evaluate potential partners. In Vietnam, auditing covered subjects like working conditions at the partner company.
According to Khalili, they discussed the improvement needs identified by the audit with the Vietnamese company and offered support for improving operations through training and other means.
“We weren’t satisfied with the working conditions at the company. We tried to help improve the conditions, but eventually came to the conclusion that we couldn’t change the company’s operating practices. That’s why we had to break off cooperation with them.”
“We are responsible to our customers for making sure that our partners operate responsibly. Without that, we can’t stand by the responsibility of our brand,” Khalili explains.
Changing producers was no small task
The tip that introduced Bevetrade to Coco do Vale came from Finnpartnership at an ideal time. However, changing producers has still been a work-intensive process. According to Khalili, Bevetrade’s customers also needed to be convinced that the products were still of the same high quality and that deliveries would still be carried out as agreed despite the change in producers. Large Finnish retail chains are among the company’s customers.
“Changing partners was a big risk because we could have lost the customer relationships we spent years building. However, our customers understood the situation and were satisfied that we had found a new partner.”
Khalili explains that the audit done in Vietnam has been useful to Bevetrade as the company has looked for new partners elsewhere. Khalili has employed the same process to evaluate Coco do Vale’s operations on site in Brazil.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without Finnpartnership’s support. Thanks to them, we are now able to take social and environmental factors into account better than before when doing business in developing countries.”
Pictures: Bevetrade Oy