When she landed in Portugal for a postgraduate degree in the commercial area in 2018, the Maiara Righi from Ceará had never made a coxinha in her life. Even so, he decided to venture out with a recipe for snacks during the celebrations of popular saints – the Portuguese version of the June festivities, which take (in times without a pandemic) thousands of people to the streets across the country.
The improvised stand, set up on the doorstep in the Bica neighborhood, one of the epicenters of Lisbon’s bohemia, was so successful that she decided to invest in her career as a farmer.
“I decided to make drumsticks as a joke. I thought I was going to sell about 10 at most. They ended up running out 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 caterings, the company in less than a year had to move to an industrial kitchen.
With a new house and machines recently imported from Brazil – enough to produce 4,000 mini drumsticks per hour -, Mother Coxinha saw the once busy event market in Lisbon simply disappear due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My idea has always been to work with events, which was the market I wanted. When the pandemic came, I needed to reinvent myself ”, says Maiara.
In place of large quantities for buffets, she decided to invest in selling the frozen, pre-fried and semi-ready product to the final consumer.
“I had to adapt the business. I invested in packaging, reduced portions and adapted the price. It was what saved me, ”says the businesswoman.
With the lockdown in Portugal, which included the closing of restaurants, the delivery market took off in the country.
The packages with 25 drumsticks, which are ready in 8 minutes in the oven, ended up conquering the Portuguese.
“There is a very strong connection between Portugal and Brazil, so the Portuguese usually already know the coxinha, I don’t start from an unknown product. It is something that often has an affective memory ”, he adds.
The success in the frozen food market in the pandemic – coupled with the ease of trade in the European common market – ended up driving an hitherto unexpected aspect of the business: export.
With production based in Portugal, the coxinhas company now exports to other countries in Europe.
The strategy has been to enter other markets through stores selling Brazilian products.
In addition to the original version, there is also the option of sun-drenched and vegetarian drumsticks.
In times of closed borders between Portugal and Brazil (and other European countries), the journey through cooking has been an option for many Brazilians longing for the flavors of home.