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PHILIPPINES : From dried mangoes to coco sugar, PH food products a hit in Paris

Vangie Baga-Reyes


Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:34 AM | Thursday, November 13th, 2014

From dried mangoes to coco sugar, PH food products a hit in Paris

EYE-CATCHING Philippine Pavilion at Sial Paris 2014

Banana, mango, pineapple, tuna, coconut, cocoa and coffee, or more known collectively as the Philippine Premium 7, grabbed the international spotlight at the recently concluded Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire or Sial Paris, one of the biggest food trade shows in the world, held at Parc des Expositions de Paris, Nord Villepinte, Paris, France.

Deliciously presented in various forms, flavors, colors and purposes, the country’s Premium 7 brought a steady stream of foreign buyers and potential long-term trade partners to the well-lit, elegantly designed 300-square-meter Philippine pavilion adorned with huge snapshots of local delicacies.

Traders and guests bunched up around the main reception area where a long wooden table showcased the country’s top tropical food products: a merry mix of dried mangoes, banana chips, organic rice, virgin coconut oil, glazed pili nuts, coconut water and coconut sugar, super frozen yellow fin tuna products, ice pops and jellies, concentrates and instant mixes, to name some. The mix of products was designed to position the Philippines as an important global source of specialty, gourmet and artisanal food and terroir food products.

Terroir is a French term for “land,” referring to indigenous goods native to the geography and climate of a country. The most distinct terroir Philippine produce includes cacao,
calamansi, coconut, bananas and mangoes.

TRADERS from the US enjoy the Philippines’ popular heritage food products.

Best products

“As the world’s largest food innovation marketplace, Sial Paris is a perfect platform for promoting the country’s terroir food products in the international scene, particularly the European market,” said Rosvi C. Gaetos, executive director of Citem (Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions), the export promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“These food products represent in a holistic way the distinct characteristics of our tropical land, our rich culinary tradition and our own innovative craftsmanship. They are the best products that our country could offer to the world.”

Sial Paris, which marked its 50th anniversary this year and is held every two years, featured some 6,300 exhibitors from 105 countries and nearly 150,000 visitors from around the globe. In 2012, the Philippine participation was a huge success, garnering total combined sales of US$20.6 million and 229 business inquiries. That was a 65-percent increase from the 2010 total sales of US$12.5 million.

MAMASita’s Joyce Sandoval (right) offers foreign clients a sampling of caldereta, tinola and adobo usingMama Sita instant mixes.

This year, the 15 participating Philippine exhibitors garnered $24.4 million in sales over the five days of the food expo, with frozen tuna as the best-selling item.

“They really know what the Philippines does best,”
said Gaetos. 

“Our local produce adds value to their products and they see new innovations that we always come up with. We just need to sustain and boost our country’s image as a top sourcing destination of premium specialty food products.”

Taste expedition

During the fair, foreign buyers from Israel and Saudi Arabia expressed interest in sourcing coco sugar from the Philippines. Clients from the US were also looking for coconut prepared in various ways, from coco sugar to coco flour and coco juice.

Banana chips (sliced or diced), as always, attracted foreign buyers because of their sweet consistency and easy storage. Unsweetened dried mangoes also made a killing in sales.

“When you go around the fair, you basically see the same products, like banana chips and dried mangoes,” said Gaetos. “But what makes us different from others is the texture and flavor of our mangoes. Some traders will try those from Thailand because they’re cheaper, but they will always go back to us for taste.”

PREMIUM tropical fruit and terroir food products: organic rice, chocolates, coco vinegar, rum and liqueur

Gaetos is thus aiming to push for country branding for local products.
“For instance, we should market Davao pomelo, because it has that certain characteristic that’s grown and harvested only from Davao. Also, Malagos chocolate, Dagupan bangus and Batangas coffee—just like products from the Champagne region of France which can only be called champagne.”

Top exhibitors

About 15 manufacturers/exporters from the Philippines participated in the exhibit, including B-G Fruits and Nuts Manufacturing Corp. (banana chips); Brandexports Philippines Inc./Profood Int’l Corp. (canned juices, dried fruits, virgin coconut oil, pili nuts); Century Pacific Food (canned and processed fish and meat); Franklin Baker Company of the Philippines (desiccated coconut); DLA Naturals (bakery/pastry ingredients); M. Lhuillier Food Products (tropical dried fruit); GSL Premium Food Export Corp. (banana chips); Mama Sita or Marigold Manufacturing Corp. (sauces and mixes, sea salt and spices, fruit syrups, rice with spice kits); Miesto Int’l Foods (ice pops, jellies and drinks);

Philfresh Corp. (super frozen yellow fin tuna products); See’s Int’l (banana chips); Universal Robina Corp. (snacks, biscuits and beverage); Jud Products (coco sugar and coco syrup); Philippine Int’l Trading Corp. (mango rum liqueur, calamansi liqueur, canned pineapples, organic rice); and Philippine Grocers Food Exporters (mixes, sauces, noodles and juices).

DAVAO’S Malagos chocolates and Cebu’s dried mangoes

Philfresh, producer and supplier of high-quality yellow fin tuna from General Santos City, has been attending Sial Paris for years now, as well as Anuga, another big food exposition held in Germany. It says the food expo has helped a lot in getting international exposure for the company.

“We also get to see what our competitors are selling, plus trends in the market,”
said Richard Friend, Philfresh international sales and marketing officer. 

“And we get to check our competitors’ prices. Our competitors may not necessarily be here, but their buyers are. So it’s a good opportunity for us to scout the competition and check the market condition of our products.”

The Philippines’ foremost competitors in the frozen tuna market are Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

“Price-wise, we are the most expensive because we keep higher sanitary, hygienic and quality standards, from the time the fish are caught and graded to when they are processed, packed and shipped.”

Versatile mixes

The Mama Sita group, led by president Clara Reyes-Lapus and daughter Joyce Sandoval, also showcased the versatility of its mixes and sauces by cooking caldereta, tinola and adobo on the spot, to the delight of foreign guests.

ROSVI Gaetos, Citem executive director

“For us, attending Sial is more about building relationships with our existing clients,”
said Sandoval.

Mama Sita started attending Sial Paris in 1994 to make its brands more familiar in the international market.

“It’s also a good venue to establish rapport with potential buyers. You may not get an outright order, but in due time they will remember you and work with you eventually,” said Sandoval, granddaughter of Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes.

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