PH food products vie for attention at fancy food show in San Francisco | Global News

PH food products vie for attention at fancy food show in San Francisco

/ 03:39 AM January 16, 2015

Ramar Foods VP PJ Quesada entertains prospects in their  food booth1

Ramar executive PJ Quesada entertains visitors at Winter Fancy Food Show. PHOTO BY JUN NUCUM

SAN FRANCISCO — Philippine heritage food was once again among the specialty pavilions at the Moscone Center featured in the 40th Winter Fancy Food Show (WFFS), the largest marketplace devoted to specialty foods and beverages on the US West Coast.

Touted as including 1,400 exhibitors from across the US and 35 countries and regions and 19,000+ fellow industry professionals in attendance, WFFS highlighted the people and products that fuel the small businesses behind the $88.3-billion global specialty food industry.


The latest in international foods, from Brazil to Vietnam, were displayed including new products and updated classics from dozens of food companies from Italy and expanded exhibits from Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, among others.


Seen going around the Filipino pavilion were San Francisco Consul-General Henry Bensurto Jr. with wife, Mariz, and deputy consul-general Jaime Ascalon with wife, Cecille, partaking of samples, cheering on the Filipino exhibitors and doing their share in promoting Filipino food and products to prospective clients especially non-Filipinos.

Bensurto spoke with a foreigner who was very interested in tuna, and the consul-general boasted of the kind of tuna available in the Philippine waters.

Nick Johnson of ASIAetc. confers with Filipino food  distributors on available goods

“I told him that we actually have one of the best tuna sashimi right in General Santos City, an area known globally as the place where you have good-quality tuna are being sold (and not just where boxing champion Manny Pacquiao hails from),” Bensurto said.

“Many of the tuna sashimis being served in Japan, on the day they are exported, actually come from General Santos City. And this is the very reason why a world-class airport was also put up in General Santos sometime in late 1990s to simplify the shipment of tuna to Japan and elsewhere to make sure that the tuna that reaches the Japanese market is as fresh as the tuna harvested in General Santos,” Bensurto explained.

World-class products


Bensurto was proud to say that the Philippines had a very good contingent that showed that “our food products are of world-class quality.”

He was very encouraged by the visitations made by prospective clients–direct consumers, business people, distributors, consolidators, retailers and wholesalers—looking for opportunities to market products.

“It is wise that many food products that are displayed here are actually coconut-based. This is good for the country because the Philippines is a coconut-growing country and this actually will augur well for our coconut farmers,” Bensurto explained. “I hope that we continue to participate every year because the food market here in the Bay Area or in the West Coast is something we have to penetrate.”

Chef Dominic Ainza and assistant prepare to cook adobo in  a demo-1

Chef Dominic Ainza (right) and assistant preparing adobo sample at Winter Fancy Food Show. PHOTO BY JUN NUCUM

Nick Johnson, president and CEO of ASIAetc., based in Atlanta Georgia, noticed that the Philippine government has put up very attractive booths that feature “great companies.”

“I go to the Philippines twice a year and I am looking to increase sales from the Philippines to the United States and China. I am open to anything coconut and anything else could be fish like tuna, it is wide open any high end item from the Philippines and manufactured in the Philippines then I am interested in,” Johnson stated.

“Every food show that has Filipino booths even in Bangkok and Taipei, I make sure that I walk into those booths. The reason I do that is that I think the Philippines has very good food, you have very good access to products to make good food. Sometimes you have to help them create the label of the products so it will do better in the US,” Johnson added.

Johnson also thinks Filipinos are very serious in expanding their businesses outside of the Philippines.

For her part, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Executive Director Rosvi Gaetos said that last year, they realized the US was a major export market of the Philippines and admitted that the Department of Trade and Industry must do major promotion.

“We in CITEM have not been doing any major promotion efforts here in the US for many years now especially for food products. So we thought of going to the US in 2014 and launch a Philippine food promotion project in a major trade show,” Gaetos disclosed.

“We chose the WFFS in San Francisco, because it is the first port of entry of any export product from the Philippines. It also caters primarily to the American specialty market and there is less competition here than in New York. We wanted to be more focused with what we are promoting so we decided to start coming up and promoting the Food Philippines brand in the WFFS,” Gaetos added.

This year, the Philippines had sixteen companies that have their own brands and the rest were consolidators and traders who actually represent many Filipino food brands.

Like Con-Gen Bensurto, director Gaetos hopes to have enough budget to continue participating in the WFFS because as she puts it, “Medyo mahal dito sa America e hindi mura (It is quite costly here in America to participate).”

‘This is big’

Bensurto added, “This is big. This is global. And this is what we have to be in terms of mindset and thinking. This is how the Philippines have to be competitive. This is how we should be able to think. We have to think global, we have to think big. It is our time. This is the time of the Philippines now and we have break out from our cocoon because we have a lot to offer, food products most especially. This would be one good platform, one big opportunity for us now to showcase what we can offer.”

Filipino food brands focused this year on coconut because of its strong appeal to Americans as a health food aside from the success of coconut water as beverage drink. They are also promoting coco sugar for its healthful qualities compared with other sweeteners.

Cecille Ascalon, wife of Dep Con Gen Jaime Ascalon, CITEM  director Rosvi Gaetos, ConGen Bensurto and wife Mariz

Cecille Ascalon, wife of Dep. ConGen Jaime Ascalon, CITEM director Rosvi Gaetos, ConGen Bensurto and wife, Mariz, touring the food show. PHOTO BY JUN NUCUM

Other exhibitors promoted Filipino products like banana chips and dried mangoes, while a new company that hopes to sell to Filipino food stores here offered microwaveable their puto, espasol, maja blanca and bibingka.

Target: More revenue

Gaetos divulged that they intend to earn more dollar revenues for Filipino goods by generating export sales with some companies even getting on-the-spot bulk sales on their different products.

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And the chance to earn more was what Ramar Foods realized after joining WFFS in the last five years. Ramar Foods Vice President PJ Quesada recounted that they were one of the first Filipino-themed or designed company in the WFFS in 2007 when they learned that their budget was too short to effectively attract prospective clients.

“Then in 2010 we showed up with no products just samples and we learned that people love our foods. In 2011 we showed up with our Kusina brands and Magnolia brand ready for retail. And since then, I think we got over 800 stores that have picked up our brands since we started five years ago,” proudly beamed Quesada.

TAGS: Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), deputy consul-general Jaime Ascalon, PJ Quesada, Ramar Foods, San Francisco Consul-General Henry Bensurto Jr.

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