One of Brazil's largest producers of eggs hatches plans to expand and improve business, with new imported technology, expanded infrastructure, and the introduction of new products. Reuben Ford analyzes a fresh, forward-thinking approach.
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SOMAI Nordeste SA is a specialist in quality eggs. With a history of growth that covers more than 45 years, the company is investing heavily in measures that will propel production to 1,850,000 eggs a day.
Recent changes sparked by the instatement of new Company President Maria Luiza Pimenta in 2008 have brought expansion projects to henhouses and processing centers, as well as rigorous improvements to health and safety. For SOMAI, this means accelerated development and an aggressive reaffirmation of its market position.
Producing classes of eggs suited to all markets, SOMAI differentiates products through size, quality and packaging – facilitating purchases for the consumer; a mindset bolstered by their recently announced plans to develop liquid pasteurized eggs in carton in the future.
“We are in a phase of growth – investing all resources in reformulating our business plans, modernizing our plants, and bringing a better class of eggs to the market,” Pimenta affirms.
Back to Basics
SOMAI was founded in 1968 in Montes Claras, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Established as an association of the state’s integrated agriculturalists, the company started out by handling general farm produce. During the 1970s, the focus shifted to egg production, and by 1980, SOMAI had 1,200,000 hens laying eggs for the domestic market.
Today, the company is one of the largest in the industry, producing in excess of 1,400,000 million eggs a day for the consumer market from 1,800,000 million chickens and 400,000 chicks in incubation and rearing. The birds are housed in two facilities spanning 3,000 hectares in Montes Claras. SOMAI also has its own chicken feed factory and storage for eggs.
An important part of the local economy, SOMAI has 500 staff and indirectly employs 1,500 people in the distribution and production of corn and soy and treatment.
Firmly focused on egg production, the company sells throughout Brazil – firmly established as a consolidated brand with a range of eggs and derivatives (liquid eggs) available throughout the country’s major retailers. Since 2011, SOMAI has been officially qualified to export. “We have all the means and skills to sell abroad, but during our expansion, the domestic market has boomed so while we have concentrated here, we do plan on possible future exports,” Pimenta explains.
In 2012 SOMAI acquired Natu Ovos in Uberlândia (Minas Gerais). The strategic decision to maintain the natural production of the brand added another, differentiated product to the company’s range. “Quality and commitment define our work and our ability to expand our markets,” Pimenta adds.
The acquisition marks an ambitious, calculated step by Pimenta, who says that current expansion of the Montes Claros plant will increase the number of laying hens by 600,000 – a 33 percent increase in existing capacity.
In 2013, SOMAI restructured its egg classification center, including the purchase of new, state-of-the-art technology to increase speed and accuracy. “This includes the MOBA Classifier: a new machine from the Netherlands, which uses infrared scanners which read surface textures and cracks,” Pimenta elaborates. UV equipment disinfects eggs and weight is calibrated using 32-sensor technology that guarantees the quality and size of the product.
The SOMAI brand produces eight varieties of eggs for different consumer profiles (sold in six, twelve and 20-egg PVC or cardboard packages) and selected lines for bulk sales. The natural, Natu Ovo Line has a firmer, redder yolk, which is superior to competitor products on the market.
“Our raw material is the chicken!” Pimenta’s statement is simple. “The receipt and treatment of this material is what creates a difference,” she says. Chicken feed and vaccines are essential components in the quality of the eggs, although Pimenta is also quick to point out that no antibiotics or medicines are used in rearing the hens.
SOMAI’s own chicken feed is primarily made up of soy and corn (85 percent) and other important ingredients necessary for the healthy development of the chickens and their eggs. This recipe is derived the company’s strong partnerships with universities and environmental institutes, allowing them to guarantee quality in their products. Additionally, SOMAI collects important information from the National Brazilian Egg Institute.
“Safety is achieved though extremely strict bio-security at our facilities. We do not allow any external visits to the henhouses and processing areas. Employees and guests are subject to rigorous disinfection procedures, which include not having visited other chicken farms in a defined period. Cars and vehicles are treated, as are birds to eliminate possible infection or infiltration of viruses. Operational hygiene and security are absolutely non-negotiable,” Pimenta affirms.
The procedures, which have been tightened since Pimenta assumed control of the company, include strict regulations and control of batches of birds. Birds are kept together with others of exactly the same age, who have been exposed to exactly the same conditions. In the event of a disease appearing it cannot infect other batches. “The incubation and rearing facility is the strictest of all – we guarantee healthy birds. In the last 12 years we have not needed to medicate one single chicken,” Pimenta says.
Excellent conditions at the facilities have permitted steady progress and the 1,200,000 birds in 1980 has increased by 25 percent in 25 years, particularly more recently. “In the last five years we have raised production by 20 percent and future projects (extensions to the Montes Claros plant) will create a further 33 percent growth,” says Pimenta.
It’s clear that the main company objective for SOMAI is to consistently strive for better eggs. “We are diversifying packaging and distribution channels, as well as planning new variations of egg products; such as liquid eggs, separately pasteurized yolks and egg whites, and lightly salted egg yolks.
“The egg industry benefited from a boom in 2008 and 2009, when the rest of the world was experiencing an economic crisis. The growth in the Brazilian middle class positively influenced our sales. For having a low-cost product, the consumption per capita rose considerably, and access to our products increased,” Pimenta explains.
With ambitious new projects underway and a strong new direction that drives toward growth, SOMAI continues to build on its consolidated brand. The increasingly diverse range of egg products makes the company the fifth largest producer in Brazil, a position they look to hold and build off of for many years to come.