Various Filipino products among thousands of new tasty offerings
The Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, the largest since it was first presented in 1955, is drawing strong reviews from exhibitors and attendees alike. The sold-out exhibit halls, filling 361,000 sq. ft., featured more than 1,400 U.S. exhibitors and 1,291 from around the world.
The trade-only event took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Amid record demand for specialty food, the show drew more than 22,000 attendees from top names in U.S. retailing and restaurants, including Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca, Kroger and Le Pain Quotidien and buying delegations from Europe and countries as diverse as the Philippines, Uruguay, Paraguay, Albania, and China.
This was the market that the Filipino and Filipino-American exhibitors wanted to conquer. Among the most ubiquitous goods imported from the Philippines? Coconut-based products. No surprises here since the Philippines is one of the world’s largest coconut producers.
In 2012, the Philippines exported more than 1.5-million metric tonnes of copra, coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, coco shell charcoal, activated carbon and coco chemicals.
According to 2012 statistics by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Philippines is the second largest producer of coconuts in the world – accounting for 26.6% of global production – ranking behind Indonesia. There are 3.5 million hectares dedicated to coconut production in the Philippines, which accounts for 25 per cent of total agricultural land in the country.
Celebes Coconut Corporation is the only Philippine-based company that exhibited at the show this year.
Based in Butuan City, the company is a major producer of coconut products such as coconut water, coconut milk, desiccated coconut, virgin coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut sugar, frozen coconut milk, among others.
They first joined the fancy food show this winter in San Francisco, and decided to check the east coast market as well.
“It has been a good show so far, a lot of people have passed by the booth. We’re looking for potential distributors in the area,” one of the representatives said.
Celebes is the first company in the Philippines to manufacture and export the Organic Certified Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Established in 1986 in Butuan City, Celebes started in the manufacture of the conventional and organic certified banana chips, then it diversified into the production of the organic certified and conventional desiccated coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream, creamed coconut, coconut concentrate, coconut water, coconut juice, virgin coconut oil, and also coconut sugar. All their products are Organic Certified, Fair Trade, Kosher, and Halal certified.
After the company erected its first coconut oil mill and refinery in 1990, they began producing 3,000 metric tons of coconut oil per month and has since then expanded. Celebes has over 2,000 employees and its products are exported to 49 countries worldwide.
Ramar Foods and Philippine Brand are famous Filipino-American companies based in California. They both sell and produce products that are near and dear to the Filipinos in America.
Ramar is the company behind Magnolia Ice Cream here in the United States.
At the show, PJ Quesada, Ramar Vice President, led his team in letting the food show attendees and fellow exhibitors to taste test the frozen products, an all-natural ice cream, which contains only California pasture raised dairy along with whole fruit purees.
Among the flavors they brought: avocado, purple yam, guava, mango, coconut, and lychee.
“Some people are surprised when they taste the avocado ice cream. Some of them think that it is only used to make guacamole or for salads. I tell them that we Filipinos eat it with crushed ice and condensed milk,” Quesada shared.
Their ice cream may be lusciously creamy and naturally decadent but they are only 180-260 calories per half a cup. Let’s just say that tasting these Pinoy-flavored ice cream will bring back a lot of childhood memories of eating sorbets either on a cone or cup or In between a hot pan de sal. Ice cream sandwich, anyone?
“We were able to meet with retailers who are beginning to understand that Filipino cuisine is a big Asian food trend,” he said.
At the show, Ramar showcased their chicken empanada, which joined the Kusina line of cooked Filipino dishes that they have been supplying to a lot of Filipino stores across the country.
Asked about where the Filipino Food Movement is going and where it is right now in the whole spectrum of things.
“We’ve already reached the awareness point – people know that there is Filipino cuisine, they might not necessarily understand it. Then the second step is adaption. There are some sub-sets of people, usually it is foodies and certain regions in the country that will start to adapt and play with it. It will reach a point where it will become mainstream, widespread,” Quesada shared. “Finally, there’s exploitation, case in point Chinese cuisine and Panda Express. It’s not bad what they do but it’s not necessarily traditional – that’s when we can claim that Filipino cuisine has arrived. I think right now we’re nearing the exploitation phase.”
The tropical fruit flavors of the Philippines are not just in ice cream. They were also available at the show in the form of dried fruits and juices from Profood USA, based in Northern California.
A veteran of the fancy food show, Profood USA is the largest Philippine-based dried fruit producer.
Led by its president Henry Sy (a namesake of the billionaire mogul who owns SM), Profood began with only 20 products. Now, they have more than 200, according to Mr. Sy. This is the company’s tenth year in participating.
Among the products they showcased are the Philippine brand dried mangoes, which are also available at Costco, Target and Walmart, dried guyabano, dried guava, guava jam, mango-tamarind, coco-mango and pineapple-mango balls.
“We have the best fruits in the world because of the tropical weather and the rich soil that we have in the Philippines. There’s nothing in the world like our fruits,” he said.
Coconut Water (and other coco products)
Almost every aisle at the Javits had companies selling coconut water. Coconut water is growing in popularity worldwide as a healthy beverage and an alternative to the sugar-loaded soda and energy drinks. The various brands hawking coconut water at the show came in all shapes, sizes and packaging.
Among those that stood out is Jax Coco, a brand of premium coconut products “that combines the world’s finest coconuts with high quality sustainable production and stylish, contemporary design.”
Jax Coco is headquartered in Hong Kong with offices in Manhattan, Toronto, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, and was founded by four entrepreneurs – all cooconut water enthusiasts – Jane Gottschalk, Jason Ing, Alex Ing and Max Gottschalk. They noticed that while there were plenty of young coconuts throughout Asia (and even more coconut water lovers), there didn’t seem to be any coconut water products packaged for easy consumption.
In Asia, coconut water is traditionally enjoyed straight from the nut. Envisioning a product that could make coconut water more prominent in a drinks landscape filled with sugary sodas and artificial beverages, Jane, Jason, Alex and Max, formed Jax (all letters in each of their names). Their mission was to produce the finest, freshest, purest coconut water available.
Jax Coco’s coconut water is 100% sourced from young coconuts grown by Northern Philippines local farmers. They have established a proprietary process for extracting the coconut water in partnership with Alfa Laval to ensure coconut water is extracted and packaged in an aseptic environment within 2 hours of picking the coconut, as well as a low temp flash pasteurization to maintain the natural flavor of the coconut water.
“We’re enjoying promoting a Philippine product globally and in North America,” Jax CEO John Craig told the Asian Journal.
Jax Coco’s premium artisan glass bottle was designed by Alasdhair Willis and inside it is 100% pure, microfiltered coconut water from the Philippines. No wonder Elton John is an investor and Vogue declared it “The chicest coconut water”.
Among the other Jax Coco products are the world’s first sparkling coconut water, an all-natural carbonated coconut water which comes in regular and calamansi flavors. Its flavored coconut water comes in two variants: banana puree or pure cocoa, while its Jax Kidz line comes in five flavors: original, banana, calamansi, chocolate and guyabano.
Then, there’s the Organic Extra Virgin Centrifuged Coconut Oil, considered by health wizards as the creme de la creme of coconut oils. Certified organic and produced in the Philippines from fresh and fair trade coconuts opened within 48 hours of being picked from the trees, and immediately processed into oil extracted by centrifuge (which means without using any heat in the process, with no solvents, bleaches or deodorizers).
Jax Coco has a cutting edge process using a proprietary 3-pass centrifuge extraction which retains all the nutrients, including enzymes. The process, which uses low heat to keep coconut milk raw and retain nutrients, produces organic coconut oil with the industry’s lowest zero peroxide (other coconut oils contain traces), lower free fatty acids and rich in lauric acid, which has anti-viral properties and beneficial metabolic effects. This raw and unrefined coconut oil is very creamy and smooth with a lovely coconut taste and aroma. It has high concentration of lauric acid and when it is used in most cooking applications, it will not overpower other flavors.
Jax Coco works with its coconut growers, the World Bank and the Philippines Coconut Authority to develop long-term purchasing arrangements that benefit growers by offering above-market prices, and that benefit the environment by encouraging responsible stewardship of coconut plantations old and new. Jax also works with the IFC to use a portion of proceeds from coconut purchases to provide micro-financing as well as build schools, hospitals and other community needs.
“The Philippines faces a problem with aging coconut trees that no longer produce coconuts — our efforts help to ensure that growers have the funding necessary to replant and maintain the vitality of their groves,” Jax Coco’s media kit said.
Later this year, Jax Coco will become the only independent coconut water company to open a fully owned and operated production facility in the Philippines. The factory is designed following the guidelines of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The green facility will responsibly process 1 million coconuts per day when fully functional and wwill also serve as a community center to educate farmers and the local community on best farming and economic practices.
This facility will serve as a vehicle to give back to local communities in the Philippines. The Provincial Coconut Charity Fund initiated by Jax Coco will receive donations from every coconut purchased from cooperative farmers to be used to build local schools, hospitals, churches and other community facilities.
There were other frozen products that caught our attention, among them wine ice cream. Yes, you read that right. Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream sells for $5.99 a pint, it is 5% alcohol and is also quite delicious. New flavors include Spice, made with mulled wine, and a Strawberry Sparkling, made with champagne.
Then there’s gourmet sorbet from Sorbabes. Their summer sorbets are just brimming with flavor. I’m torn between the Juicy Passion Fruit Sorbet with Lychees and the Pistachio Sorbet with Sea Salted Caramel. The two women who started this business have created a cult following as their product is now sold at over 100 stores in NYC, Long Island, Westchester and Connecticut.
“There was optimism and positive energy in every aisle,” says Ann Daw, president of the Specialty Food Association, owner and producer of show.
Dominique Ansel, the acclaimed pastry chef and creator of treat sensation the Cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid, delivered a keynote address on innovation, and announced the winners of the 42nd sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of the year.
The contest drew a record 2,737 entries across 32 awards. Lentil Rice Crispbread with Sesame and Pink Salt from East Hampton Gourmet Food in East Hampton, N.Y., won Outstanding New Product.
Chef Ansel, who said he faced hunger as a child in France, donated his speaking fee to City Harvest, the Summer Fancy Food Show’s longtime anti-hunger charity. At the end of the show, exhibitors donated seven and a half tractor trailer loads of cheeses, hummus, produce, meats, and more to City Harvest, which delivered it to 12 emergency food programs in New York City.
Now in its 60th year, the show continues to be the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages in North America and a must-attend event for top names in retailing and foodservice in the U.S. and abroad.
A certified purveyor of Filipino food, Quesada is hopeful that in years to come, both Filipino cuisine and products will become more visible in food shows like this.
Maybe a Philippine Pavilion can be done as well, like what the Malaysians did this year to promote ten companies and their new project: Malaysia Kitchen USA, a program under Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), which is the gateway to making Malaysian products and cuisine accessible to everyone by providing information and all-natural food products that come straight from the source.