Brazil's leading manufacturer of professional combi-ovens takes on technology to offer all-round services and make food faster, tastier and more efficient. Reuben Ford finds out what is cooking.
Giving Brazilians their daily bread has been the role of Prática Produtos SA for over 20 years. Add to the baking oven a complete line of well-designed convection, ballast and turbo varieties, services and accessories and you have the country’s biggest producer of professional ovens.
Prática’s string of recent investments have increased expertise and the company is focused on expansion, both in Brazil and abroad, to satisfy the hunger for technology in the growing food industry.
“We are innovating in synchronization with our clients – producing energy efficient ovens and technology conducive to high quality food and service,” affirms André Rezende, Director of Prática.
When Prática was founded in 1991 it produced steel stands and shelving units. Rezende explains that things quickly changed: “Energy efficiency was already an important issue in industry and the possibility of working in a more dynamic sector was appealing. We identified opportunity in steel ovens and quickly made our move.”
In 1993, Prática was entirely focused on food service and by 1997 had established a strong brand of energy-efficient combi-ovens (used in professional kitchens such as bakeries and restaurants), which continue to be the flagship products even today.
In 2001, poor planning and lack of rainfall (leaving Brazil’s reservoirs for hydroelectric power dry) resulted in what was called the Blackout Crisis. For Prática, the problems inspired positive development. “Our ovens were electric. The crisis revealed the necessity of working with other energy sources such as gas, so we began building both – electric and gas models,” Rezende explains.
Always focused on facilitating the use of its ovens, Prática gathered more momentum and started exporting in 2003, acquiring official certification for export to the European Union in 2005.
Prática was on the constant lookout for opportunity and acquired a refrigeration company in 2006. “The acquisition added value – increasing our integrated solutions for the food industry and giving rise to the Cook and Chill service we provide,” Rezende says.
The fast freezing technology that Prática began producing was ideal for preserving food quality and marketing in conjunction with (re)heating equipment: Cook and Chill service.
Existing product lines were also undergoing expansion. The company began producing spiral mixers and other accessories for the bakery division, which already included professional baking, rotary, turbo and ballast ovens.
Working to the needs of the industry and innovating to reduce time without compromising quality earned Prática worldwide recognition. In 2008, Endeavour Global a non-government organization based in New York, which supports entrepreneurs in emerging economies, selected Prática for its entrepreneurial spirit. “The achievement exposed our brand abroad and was an excellent opportunity for growth and development,” Rezende recalls.
In 2010 the company incorporated microwave heating technology in its portfolio. “Prática was one of the first in Brazil to manufacture professional microwaves, which heat food by injecting high heat at high speeds of up to 100 kilometers an hour,” Rezende says. The microwaves he refers to are used extensively in the fast food industry and heat food effectively in 30 to 40 seconds.
Close to Clients
Working with franchises around Brazil, Prática eliminated the need for outsourced transport services and began distribution through its franchise network in 2011.
“Our strategy has always been to be close to our clients; that means geographically too,” Rezende comments.
Today, Prática has six facilities dedicated to first class training and maintenance: the 16,000-square-meter company headquarters in Pouso Alegre (Minas Gerais state) and locations in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais), São Paulo capital, Campinas and São José dos Campos (São Paulo state) and in Curitiba (Paraná state). “Our target is to have 25 facilities in Brazil,” adds Rezende.
Prática also operates throughout Latin America, with representatives in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In 2012, the company opened its first branch in Chile, as part of a strategy to fortify the international presence of the brand.
This year investment in expansion and innovation is set to rise further still thanks to investment from BNSESPAR – the holding of the Brazilian Bank of Social and Economic Development.
Turning Up Technology
Prática’s leading professional and programmable combi-ovens use a turbine to propel hot air around the cooking chamber, producing a uniform and faster result. “The heat is injected into the chamber in the form of steam, which is much more energy efficient than alternative methods and preserves the characteristics of the food,” Rezende explains.
Combi-ovens represent 45 percent of Prática’s sales, the remaining 55 percent comprises other lines, equipment and technology.
The complete range of ovens offer safe solutions that are both smart and good for the gastronomy environment with energy-efficient equipment and differing levels of automation:
- The Technicook System provides simple cooking technology in pre-programmed ovens with precise cooking times;
- The Gourmet Line combines minimal space with high productivity;
- The Express Gourmet, equipment for speedy cooking, incorporates technology for ultra-fast preparation without compromising quality.
Prática baking equipment is ideal for large-scale production of dough, which can then be finished at the counter. Intelligent design and a wide range of models from compact to industrial all operate with energy efficiency.
The company has also developed and produced the Ecofry system. Rezende explains: “Ecofry is a state-of-the-art system, which gives the taste and texture of fired food without deep-fat frying. It uses a system of high-speed air circulation, extracting steam and with the result of frying – less energy, lower cost and increased health benefits.”
Growth Through Change
Prática’s constant investment and innovation in making things easier for food services have paid off. The company is experiencing annual growth of between 25 and 30 percent – translating into healthy revenue of $25 million.
“We are growing at a faster rate than the industry, because we are more focused on technology, we create products and the market for our products,” Rezende says. He predicts annual growth of 27 percent in 2013.
He also attributes Prática’s success to prioritizing the client. “We are always changing for the better, in an effort to surpass our own standards – not only in terms of our products, but internally too,” he continues.
To exemplify the importance of change and evolution, Rezende relays a recent experience: “I was at a trade fair and a competitor, who was perusing our stand, commented that each time he visits, Prática appears to be a different company! This shows true development.”
Sales are also boosted by the paradigm of modern living that favors fast food, eating out and pre-prepared meals. Short lunch-breaks, work and traffic all contribute to this, and the food industry is welcoming the change.
In Brazil, whereas most middle class families had a maid in the past, employment regulations and growing economic constraints are reducing the number of domestic employees. Cooking from scratch is unusual.
“People are attaching more importance to food, taste and healthy eating, but don’t have the time to cook – Prática provides the solution for restaurants, bars, cafés, bakeries, supermarkets and eateries.
A progressively international brand with strong innovation and efficient solutions for fast, healthy food – Prática is a company of the future.