Filipino food products shine at int’l fancy food show in SF
SAN FRANCISCO — Despite fewer exhibitors this year at the Annual Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS) at the Moscone Center here, Filipinos exhibitors were happy that their products were well received.
The Philippine Department of Trade and Industry’s Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) said that 17 Philippine exporters joined the show to seek exposure in the health-conscious North American mainstream market.
CITEM Project Officer Chol de la Paz and assistant project officer and trade industry development specialist Janine Briones organized the smooth participation of Filipino exhibitors, observing that exhibitors as well as buyers were happy and sales were“actually good.”
“With our theme ‘Fill It with Gusto,’ among the products that we pushed for this year were pili nuts of Bicol, coconut flour and virgin coconut oil from Quezon province, dried fruits and mango flour from Cebu and guyabano (soursop) from Cavite but processed in Tanay, which are all gluten-free. We also now have the beverages that are new. We have the soursop or the guyabano with collagen drink that’s not only healthy, but also makes one beautiful because of its collagen content that is known to remove wrinkles.”
De la Paz added: “We also have agriculture commodities and processed foods like coconut, dried mangoes, banana pineapple as well as canned tuna, hotdogs.”
Briones said, “We have to create awareness for the 4th and 5th generation of Filipino community in the U.S. because they no longer know the traditional Filipino food that we have in the Philippines.”
De la Paz and Briones shared that they discussed sales tactics with San Francisco Philippine Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. and considered having at least an ongoing cultural activity inside the pavilion to attract the crowd.
“In the mainstream market, the trending food products are healthy, natural and we aim for them. We cater to the health-conscious market. Our products go along with what are being offered by other countries, usually are gluten-free, natural, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms),” de la Paz cexplained.
In a reception held at the consulate, Bensurto explained that “the State of California alone is the sixth largest economy in the world, and is worth $2.6 trillion with a population of nearly 40 million people. The U.S. is our third largest export market, taking in 14% of our exports in 2017. The Office of the United States Representative also estimates that over the past decade, two-way trade between the U.S. and the Philippines had grown by more than 25 percent. These numbers indicate business opportunity.”
Among the WFFS Filipino exhibitors include Arko Foods Phil, Inc., Bethany Sales/Tamcor Mexim Corp. (US Distributor, Filipino Owned), Seabest Food and Beverage Corp. (of Dolly Dried Fruits), Subic Superfood (of Mount Mayon Pili), Monde M.Y. San Corporation, JNRM Corporation, Magic Melt Foods Inc. (of mango flour), Magical Blend Marketing International, Super Q, Mama Sita’s, Century Pacific North America and San Miguel PureFoods Inc. Other Filipino exhibitors like Ramar Foods, that have been perennially participating, were on the north wing of the Moscone Center
Mount Mayon Pili Nut manufacturer Subic Superfood General Manager and United Kingdom partner Dr. James Costello confided that he and his partners, including Filipina Cara Gallardo Weil, have been experimenting with the pili for a number of years in Hong Kong, using their own ancient Chinese process that makes the nut “very, very tasty” and popular.
“We test marketed in on different five-star venues in Macau and Hong Kong and have become very popular in Macau as pasalubong (take-home gift),” Costello said. “Next we are taking pili to Germany and then to France.”
“My dream is to make pili a very successful exclusive Filipino export product that all of us Filipinos can be proud of to take to a gourmet level,” Weil divulged. “Nuts in general are becoming very popular for their health properties. These nuts refined with the process we borrowed from China many years ago make the nut really special. Five to ten years from now I think we will have a much wider range of flavors and other products will come from the pili.”
Andrew Borbon, export sales manager of the Philippines’ biggest food company San Miguel Purefoods, saw their WFFS participation as a way of making sure that the favorite foods that Filipinos enjoyed back home can be enjoyed here too in the U.S.
“In San Miguel Ice Cream, we boast the premium tropical flavor; we highlight in each and every flavor. And since San Miguel has acquired La Pacita biscuits, long known for traditional biscuits and crackers in the Philippines, we carried them here with a twist to make it more modern. So now we have Graham-filled crackers with peanut butter, chocolate and cream cheese to appeal to the younger generation,” Borbon announced.
At the Ramar Foods booth, exhibitor Justin Lu from China was seen munching chicken asado siopao, which apparently liked a lot.
“This is very good with a very soft tender filling different from those frozen stuff bought in the supermarket. It is very moist and juicy. I liked it so much and will definitely recommend it to my friends. We have frozen products that are not as good,” Lu swooned.
Ramar Foods sales representative Isabelle Laski regarded this year’s WFFS as a very good show for Ramar where a lot of people showed interest in Filipino food.
“Many also learned a lot about Filipino cuisines and developed interest in them. It helped that the food we served smelled good and got people’s attention. We had a lot of visitors, a lot of inquiries as buyers looked for diverse products to add to their set,” Laski observed.
Even Century Pacific Food Inc. non-Filipino promo lady and sample server Amber Diaz, an experiential marketing specialist, was impressed with the products she and a partner promoted.
“We got great response not just here in our booth but in the whole Philippine pavilion as well because we have great products here out of the Philippines. Endorsing a Filipino product was so much fun, the culture is so beautiful, the people are warm and inviting and the food is fantastic,” Diaz remarked. “They specialize in quality and really have a complex taste that makes the products enjoyable and healthy for all ages.”