“Olha o Globo!” – Brothers, Biscuits & Beaches

(with Two Brothers in the background)

Ask any beach-going Brazilian that has been to Rio de Janeiro what images come to mind when they think of Rio and I’d bet Biscoito Globo is one of them. The famous doughnut-shaped powder biscuits are as common a sight as the sunbathers in Ipanema applauding the beautiful sunsets, silhouetted by Two Brothers hill. Speaking of brothers, three from São Paulo deserve some applause, too, as they are responsible for another pleasing sight, one that can be sweet, like catching some rays, or salty, like the sea itself.

The brothers’ success lies in the simplicity of their product. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Two flavors – Sweet or salty
  • Easy to recognize – Always the same packaging
  • Easy to open – Good for kids (though bad for those who want to close it, meaning you should eat them all)
  • Strictly word of mouth – No advertising costs and savings passed on to the customer
  • Great with another favorite – Often sold with soft-drink Matte-Leão (and vendors wear Matte-Leão shirts)
  • Easy to remember – Globo is a name everyone knows

The rest is history (or, at least the next part is)…


According to the Biscoito Globo site, it all started in 1953 when, after their parents separated, the three Ponce brothers went to live with their cousin who had a bakery in Ipiranga, in São Paulo. It was there that they learned to make powder biscuits with their cousin, which were sold on the streets of downtown São Paulo.

In 1954, taking advantage of a large religious conference in Rio de Janeiro, the brothers decided to sell their biscuits in the carioca capital. With their recipe for success, the Ponce brothers foresaw that, given the biscuits characteristics, Rio de Janeiro would be the ideal market for what they were selling.

The powder biscuit was given the name Globo in honor of the bakery contracted to make them in Botafogo. The year was 1955 and the biscuits were sold in the Globo bakery and in seven others, owned by the same people. Realizing the large demand for them, the Ponce brothers started to sell them to other bakery chains and in 1963, they formed a partnership with a Portuguese baker, an expert in breads.


There are other positive aspects that accompany a bag of Biscoito Globo, such as the fact that it’s perfect for making one’s stomach believe it’s fuller than it is. After all, who wants to swim on a full stomach? Other associated benefits mean the customer receives something that is low in calories, low in fat, without neither coloring nor preservatives.

The biscuit vendors are called ‘ambulantes‘ and they can buy a package for 60 cents then turn around and sell it for an average price of R$1 on the beach. A pretty good deal where everyone walks away happy. Since the famous snacks don’t contain the aforementioned preservatives, they aren’t sold to the supermarkets, meaning the customers must seek out the individual vendors if they want to get their hands on the biscuits. On the beaches of Rio, that’s not a hard thing to do because the vendors are omnipresent, the packaging is unique (save for a few imitators), and the holler is the same…”Olha o Globo!”

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

Two Brothers Foundation – Redefining Rocinha

I’d like to talk a little about an organization working out of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, who is helping to redefine the way favelas are looked at by bringing in volunteers to work within them. Through two institutions, the Two Brothers Foundation and the Two Brothers Institute (called the ‘2bros’ and ‘i2i’, respectively), the organizers and volunteers have the opportunity to redefine their vision of poor communities in developing nations as well as directly affect the communities themselves. According to 2bros, here’s a little of what they do in their own words, taken from their ‘About Us‘ page…

Two Brothers

“The mission of Two Brothers is to provide educational opportunities in neighborhoods such as Rocinha through local and international community service and cultural exchange.

Of course, one of the strongest and most important aspects of 2bros/i2i continues to be the intimate interaction between scores of international volunteers and researchers who come to live and work with 2bros/i2i in Rocinha and students and other residents of the favela. Over the past twelve months alone more than 100 people from around the world have volunteered their time and skills with Two Brothers. These dedicated men and women, along with the students and staff of i2i, help make our organization a sort of “organic university” in which the educational experience goes far beyond book leaning and the confines of the classroom into a firsthand, lived contact with the complex and intensely human realities of the lives of everyday people. It is difficult to calculate the enormous value and far reaching benefits that come from such an exchange. On the one hand, this exchange creates a tremendous flow of information, experience, and perspectives that enrich the lives of the volunteers and those of the residents of Rocinha alike. On the other, it contributes greatly to the general understanding of the profound humanity of people living in poor communities like Rocinha and helps raise consciousness about issues of social exclusion and violence in Brazil an around the world, as volunteers and researchers pass on the knowledge they gain through word of mouth, the dissemination of the audiovisual material they produce, and the publication of research results coming out of their intense interaction with their students and neighbors.”


To get a closer look at the day to day activities of 2bros/i2i, check out their Photos & Videos page, which houses several thirty minute videos on the subject. I reccomend checking them out as they will change your impression of how the favelas are (as opposed to how they are portrayed in international hits such as Cidade de Deus).

One of the people bringing awareness to the 2bros is DJ Zezinho who I’ve met here in California a few years back. I spoke with him recently and although he doesn’t remember me, he got a chance to tell me of his day long tours of Rocinha which can be set up by contacting him on his site. Another interesting character is the Aussie Tahnee who has been living in Rocinha for almost a year and started a fashion line called Hijinx, which showcases clothing made inside Rocinha itself.

Here’s an idea of where you could be housed, if you volunteered with 2bros and wished to live within Rocinha in order to get a firsthand experience.