Against this background, for the first time, South American exporters have emerged as price makers for a greater part of the year: sources with high standards for sanitary management now have more strength in pricing, prompting Minerva Foods to seize the opportunity through an alternative way of doing business. Within this scope, our company is uniquely equipped in this sector. Against this background, for the first time, South American exporters have emerged as price makers for a greater part of the year: sources with high standards for sanitary management now have more strength in pricing, prompting Minerva Foods to seize the opportunity through an alternative way of doing business. Within this scope, our company is uniquely equipped in this sector.
2017 Minerva Foods has completed its strategy of geographic diversification inside and outside of Brazil, expanding operations out of five different countries in an integrated manner, while at the same time establishing a commercial sales base that is extremely efficient and focused on niche markets. This structure has allowed us the necessary flexibility to supply products that meet the demand of each country, in addition to expanding the number of plants certified for a greater diversity of markets.
In 2019, this business model was fundamental to the success of our operations. Through our subsidiary Athena Foods (Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay), we were able to quickly meet the significant increase in demand from growing markets, especially in China, without having to reduce our activities in the domestic markets in which we operate in Brazil. As a result, Minerva Foods ended the year with international sales accounting for 66% of its gross revenues, further strengthening its position as the largest player in beef exports in South America, holding 20% of the market share.
The consolidated gross revenue for Minerva Foods reached a record volume of R$ 18.2 billion, surpassing the 2018 result by 6%, the same percentage of increase of net revenue of the annual base, which reached R$ 17.1 billion. Free cash flow, after adjusting for non-recurring expenses, reached R$ 787.0 million, while the financial leverage dropped to its lowest level in recent years of 2.8x.
These numbers reflect not only the market conjuncture but also the success of a business plan, based on the strict criteria for corporate governance, the efficiency in risk management, and the engagement of the whole team around a corporate culture that values above all, product quality and customer satisfaction.
We believe that the work we have done at Minerva Foods over the recent years, has prepared us for the opportunities and challenges ahead. We will continue to focus on results, paying attention to debt deleveraging and permanently seeking to improve the return on invested capital and cash management, in addition to other factors.