“The unlikely rise of the custard tart and why it is suddenly everywhere” the international news agency Bloomberg was quoted as saying in an article published.
Every tourist that comes to Lisbon wants to visit the pastry shop and factory Pastéis de Belém to taste the house specialty: pastel de Belém (custard tart). Or visit any other pastry shop in the country and ask for the same custard tart.
For the international news agency ‘Bloomberg’, this centennial specialty of Portuguese pastry has become a “global brand” that is promoted as a “very modern marketing machine”.
An article posted on the agency’s website points to custard tart as a case of international marketing success and advances that “is on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as the French croissant”.
“The unlikely rise of the Portuguese custard tart, and why it is everywhere” is the title of the article that begins by remembering that until not long time ago, an authentic Portuguese custard tart – “the tiny cream pie of eggs with a crunchy crust “- required a trip to Portugal to taste this delicacy.
But this scenario has changed, says the journalist Alice Kantor adding that “centuries after being raised in a monastery in Bethlehem (Lisbon) by monks”, this Portuguese delicacy can now be found in coffee shops, bakeries and supermarkets “from Manhattan, to Singapore “.
If in Portugal a cream cake costs around one euro (1.14 dollars) it costs 3 pounds (4 dollars) in the fashionable cafes in London. “A supermarket is bragging about selling 2,000 Portuguese custard tarts per hour in the UK in 2018, competing in popularity with the donuts,” says the journalist.
George Mendes, the Portuguese-American chef who introduced this delicacy as dessert lso helped by spreading its popularity a year and a half ago at his Aldea, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan.
Even chef George Mendes was impressed with the meteoric rise of the Portuguese custard tart as dessert in his restaurant.
The international rise of Portuguese delicacies happened less than a decade ago, according to the Bloomberg article.
In spite of this Portuguese specialty, it has been a habitual presence for decades in Portuguese communities in cafes, grocery stores and supermarkets
Conquering the world
The article says that it is not clear what has caused this world ‘discovery’, but advances with a possibility.
“Culturally, Portugal is a must stop for travelers from all over the world, and Lisbon is increasingly the technology center for the millennial generation that comes from London and New York. The famous Pasteis de Belém and (the small pastry where they are sold) the blue and white tiles were made to compliment in the Instagram, even though the store was founded in 1837, “points out the Bloomberg article.
The article adds that another reason for the worldwide success of this Portuguese delicacy is the promotion work that has been done at the governmental level, giving as an example the support from the Nata Festival in London.
It also states that the Government has spent 50 million euros a year in the last three years to promote the country and national products such as the Portuguese custard tart.
But the “Bloomberg” also reveals an “improbable source” of promotion abroad: a small company called ‘Nata Pura’, by Portuguese Mabílio Albuquerque “who wanted to make with cream what Dunkin Donuts did with the donuts, “the article reveals.
With the support of Portugal Venture (a fund management company managed by government agencies), ‘Nata Pura’ tries to export the Portuguese custard tart to the four corners of the world.
Mabílio Albuquerque told Bloomberg that he used the marketing strategies of big companies like McDonald’s to adapt and sell Portuguese custard tart to the local taste of several countries in the rest of Europe and Asia. South Korea is a very successful market.
The small business received enthusiastic reactions at a food fair in London, where Albuquerque sold it as a luxury but affordable product with a special story. He also held tastings and sponsored events such as the London Coffee Festival and BBC Good Food.
The result: “The company now sells about 500,000 Portuguese custard tarts per month in 5,000 stores worldwide,” reports Bloomberg in the article.
When it comes to chef George Mendes, he says that for the time being his Aldea restaurant will be the only high-quality restaurant to offer the cream pie in Manhattan. But it assumes that it will not be a surprise if this iconic specialty of Portuguese pastry becomes more common in New York.