How the most popular drink in Argentina and Uruguay makes its way to coffee as an alternative

  • Large supermarket chains include mate on their shelves as an alternative to coffee.

  • In 2021, Spain imported almost two million kilograms of product that is finding its place in Europe and Asia

Yerba mate is finding its way into a complex market: the coffee growers’ market. Although until recently many people associated it almost exclusively with Argentine or Uruguayan football players who went to the stadium with cups and “bombillas” in their hands, mate is gaining visibility in our country. Visibility and followers. Good proof is that just a few months ago Mercadona included Amanda brand packages on its shelves and there are people who already point to it as a clear alternative to coffee.

For now, statistics show that Spain is already one of the main importing countries of yerba mate.

Where I said coffee… I say yerba friend. Perhaps this change is surprising in a country with a strong coffee tradition, Spain, where the obsession with caffeine can be traced back to at least the 18th century and there are even stories that tell us of its consumption even earlier. Tells about. brucham, “a decoction made from black seeds that look like broad beans”, during the time of the first Muslims who settled on the peninsula. Although the weight of coffee in Spain is very high, with a consumption of more than four kilos per person per year, there are people who already consider yerba mate a clear choice due to its taste, properties and even price. Or indicate as an alternative.

One step ahead of Mercadona, Perhaps the best indicator is the one Mercadona gave a few months ago. At the end of September, the supermarket chain expanded its catalog by adding packages of Yerba Mate Amanda to its linear packages with a format that, as reported at the time by Busos Review – offers 500 grams for three euros. . The Valencian firm is not the only company marketing yerba mate. With different brands and prices, it can also be found on the shelves of other large chains present in Spain, such as the supermarkets of El Corte Inglés, Alcampu, Carrefour.

1.8 million kg, The demand for yerba mate in Spain is far from the demand registered in Uruguay or Argentina, where the consumption of this drink has deeper cultural roots, but it is enough to put our country on the list of the main importers.

This is reflected in a study published in November 2022 by the Statista portal based on data from UN Comtrade. According to its results, in 2021 Spain imported 1.8 million kilograms of yerba mate worth $5.9 million, placing it in fifth place. Spain is also an important destination for migration to Argentina and Uruguay. Statista’s ranking of yerba matan imports is topped by Uruguay (30.8 million kilos), followed by Argentina (26.9 million) and Chile (6.5 million). There would be one more country ahead of Spain in Europe: Germany, which imported about 1.9 million kilograms of weed during the same period.

Between January and July 2023 alone, Argentina’s exports to international markets totaled 178.5 million kilograms, representing an increase of 1% year-on-year. This growth is partly due to demand in Spain or France, which a few months ago hosted a festival focused on this drink by the French Met School. Its objective: to facilitate a preparation that until recently was almost exclusively associated with Argentines and Uruguayans to find its way into the European market.

Looking beyond the US and the EU, Yerba mate is widespread far beyond Spain. 2022 News Argentina reported that the Asian giant imported about 100,000 kilograms of weed last year – the vast majority, about 89,000, was exported by Argentina – and pointed to the potential for the Chinese market. On similar lines, a few months ago Pipore Cooperative had told CNN Radio about the potential of foreign markets. Its council chairman elaborated, “We ship weed to over 30 countries and we’re growing at 5% per year.” In particular, he highlighted the growth achieved in the Arab market, led by Syria, and his special interest in Asia: “India and China are two markets to exploit.”

But… can it replace coffee? “With coffee we immediately notice this stimulation, but mate, which also contains caffeine, is characterized by the fact that this ingredient dissolves little by little in the body. There is no euphoric effect and more lasting. There is vitality,” claims Carolina Vincenzoni, responsible from the French Met School. Marketers also highlight its “stimulating and energizing effects”, the presence of antioxidants, and its “health-beneficial properties”.

Taragui actually presents it as a “super food” with beneficial effects on the immune system and a diuretic effect. Like coffee, excessive use of it can have some side effects and risks. Mate is obtained from the extract of the leaves of yerba mate, this plant is native to the valleys of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, and although in countries such as Argentina its preparation and consumption follows a well-defined tradition, its International expansion does not always respect this. , For example, in China, it is usually consumed as if it were tea, without the typical “bulb”, filter, and strainer tube.

Images: Jorge Zapata (Unsplash) and Statista

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