Yerba mate is making its way into a complicated market: that of coffee growers. Although until not so long ago many people associated it almost exclusively with Argentine or Uruguayan soccer players who went to the stadiums with their cups and “bombillas” in their hands, mate has been gaining visibility in our country. Visibility and followers. Good proof is that just a few months ago Mercadona added Amanda brand packages to its shelves and there are those who already point it out as a clear substitute for coffee.
For now, statistics show that Spain is already one of the main importing nations of yerba mate.
Where I said coffee… I say yerba mate. Perhaps the change may be surprising in a country with the coffee tradition of Spain, where the passion for caffeine can be traced back to at least the 18th century and there are even stories that already tell us about the consumption of belly, “a decoction made with black seeds that look like broad beans”, in the times of the first Muslims settled on the peninsula. Although the weight of coffee continues to be overwhelming in Spain, with consumption exceeding four kilos per person per year, there are those who already point to yerba mate as a clear substitute or alternative due to its flavor, properties and even Price.
The step ahead of Mercadona. Perhaps the best indicator is the one that 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 one to market yerba mate. With different brands and prices, it can also be found on the shelves of other large chains with a presence in Spain, such as the supermarkets of El Corte Inglés, Alcampoo, Carrefour.
1.8 million kilos. The demand for yerba mate in Spain is very far from that registered in Uruguay or Argentina, where the consumption of this drink has deep cultural roots, but it is significant enough to place 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 kilos of yerba mate with a value of 5.9 million dollars, which placed it in fifth place. Spain is also an important destination for Argentine and Uruguayan migration. Statista’s ranking of yerba maten imports was headed by Uruguay (30.8 million kilos), followed by Argentina (26.9 million) and Chile (6.5 million). In Europe there would be another nation ahead of Spain: Germany, which during the same period imported about 1.9 million kilos of weed.
Only between January and July 2023, Argentina’s exports to international markets totaled 178.5 million kilos, which represents a year-on-year increase of 1%. The increase is partly due to demand from Spain or France, which a few months ago hosted a festival focused on this drink organized by the French Mate School. Its objective: to facilitate a preparation that until recently was associated almost exclusively with Argentines and Uruguayans to create its place in the European market.
Looking beyond America and the EU. The expansion of yerba mate goes far beyond Spain. In 2022 News ArgenChina pointed out that the previous year the Asian giant had imported almost 100,000 kilos of weed – the vast majority, about 89,000, exported by Argentina – and pointed to the possibilities of the Chinese market. Along similar lines, a few months ago the Piporé Cooperative pointed out to CNN Radio the potential of foreign markets. “We send weed to more than 30 countries and we are growing 5% per year,” detailed the president of his board. Specifically, he highlighted the growth achieved in the Arab market, with Syria in the lead, and his particular 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 has caffeine, is characterized by the fact that this component dissolves little by little in the body. There is no euphoric effect and there is a more permanent vitality,” claims Carolina Vincenzoni, responsible from the French Mate School. Marketers also highlight its “stimulating and energizing effect”, the presence of antioxidants and its “health-beneficial properties”.
Taragüi actually presents it as a “super food” with beneficial effects on the immune system and a diuretic effect. As with coffee, its excessive use can however lead to some side effects and risks. Mate is obtained from the infusion of yerba mate leaves, a plant native to the basins of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, and although its preparation and consumption in countries like Argentina follow a well-defined tradition, its international expansion does not always respect it. . In China, for example, it is usually consumed as if it were tea, without the characteristic “bulb”, the tube with filter and strainer.
Images: Jorge Zapata (Unsplash) and Statista
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