When she landed in Portugal for a postgraduate degree in business in 2018, the Maiara Righi of Ceará had never done a coxinha in her life. Despite this, he decided to venture out with a recipe for snacks during the celebrations of the popular saints – the Portuguese version of the June festivities, which (in times of no pandemic) take thousands of people to the streets across the country.
The improvised stand, set up at the gates of the Bica district, one of Lisbon’s bohemian epicenters, was such a success that she decided to invest in her farming career.
“I decided to make chopsticks as a joke. I thought I was going to sell 10 at most. They ended up missing every day, ”recalls Maiara.
With an eye on the bustling event market in the Portuguese capital, the businesswoman founded Mother Coxinha, still in the kitchen at home. Driven by the frantic pace of caterers, the company had to switch to an industrial kitchen in less than a year.
With a new house and machinery recently imported from Brazil – enough to produce 4,000 mini baguettes per hour – Mother Coxinha has seen Lisbon’s once busy events market disappear simply due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My idea has always been to work with events, which was the market I wanted. When the pandemic arrived, I needed to reinvent myself, ”Maiara says.
Instead of large quantities for buffets, she decided to invest in selling the frozen, pre-fried and semi-ready product to the end consumer.
Packs of prefabricated chopsticks | Photo: Disclosure
“I had to adapt the business. I invested in the packaging, reduced the portions and adjusted the price. That’s what saved me, ”says the businesswoman.
With the lockdown in Portugal, which included the closure of restaurants, the delivery market took off in the country.
The packages of 25 drumsticks, ready in 8 minutes in the oven, ended up conquering the Portuguese.
“There is a very strong link between Portugal and Brazil, so the Portuguese usually already know coxinha, I am not starting from an unknown product. It’s something that often has an emotional memory, ”he adds.
Success in the frozen food market during the pandemic – coupled with ease of trade in the European common market – ended up resulting in a hitherto unexpected aspect of the business: exporting.
With production based in Portugal, the coxinhas company now exports to other European countries.
The strategy has been to penetrate other markets through stores selling Brazilian products.
In addition to the original version, there is also the option of sunny and vegetarian chopsticks.
In the days of the closed borders between Portugal and Brazil (and other European countries), the journey through the kitchen has been an option for many Brazilians who yearn for the flavors of home.