Maya seeks to put more Filipinos back in the kitchenBy Corrie Salientes-Narisma |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Maya—the brand that made home baking possible even for those who don’t own ovens—has just turned 50.
And as it continues its journey, Maya promises more surprising innovations, just like its pioneering oven toaster cake mixes launched several years ago.
Maya was introduced in 1962 by Liberty Commodities Corp., then the marketing arm of flour miller Liberty Flour Mills, to cater to the household market.
It started with the hotcake mix which, according to the LCC people, immediately won the hearts of the market. For the last 50 years, Maya remained the dominant hotcake mix brand in the country.
But while the pancake mix remains its flagship product, Maya has over the years evolved into a multiproduct brand, says LCC president Ernesto Fajardo. It has continuously reinvented itself, through innovative products crafted by the company’s R&D team, to meet the present and future needs of consumers.
For instance, the Maya oven toaster mix line, which was introduced in the mid-1990s, is an innovation that nobody at that time thought was possible.
LCC wants to actively promote baking, but it cannot fully carry out this mission because not too many Filipinos own conventional ovens.
Realizing that many of its target customers aspired to do some baking at home, and that most of them owned oven toasters, the company’s R&D team was tasked to develop mixes that could be baked in oven toasters in a shorter period.
That started Maya’s oven toaster mixes, such as the banana cake, butter cake, chocolate cake, crinkle, chocolate fudge brownie and bibingka.
It later came out with other product lines and variations of existing lines, particularly of the hotcake mixes, in response to the consumers’ ever-changing preferences.
Players come and go
Players in the pancake market have come and gone, but none has succeeded in edging out Maya particularly in product innovations.
The pancake mix, for instance, now comes in various types. There’s the more convenient mix—the Maya Complete Hotcake—which does away with the need to add eggs when cooking.
Recipe variations for the hotcake mix were later introduced, allowing the market to enjoy the mix in many ways, such in making puto, crepes, lumpia wrapper, cookies and many others.
When the market started getting health-conscious, the whole wheat Maya pancake and whole wheat carrot cake with muscovado sugar were introduced under the “Think Heart” sub-brand. This line is cholesterol-free with zero trans-fat.
For the sophisticated market, Maya has its Decadence mixes of brownie, devil’s food cake and yellow cake. And to add more excitement in Maya’s breakfast and snack offerings, the champorado mix was introduced.
Today, Maya has 13 product lines, with the addition a few years ago of all-purpose flour and cornstarch for those who “bake from scratch.”
Back to the kitchen
In all this, the Maya Kitchen and Culinary Arts Center—formed in the 1960s as Maya Bakeshop, a research center and baking school—has played an important role not only in coming out
with innovative products but also in promoting the brand. It takes pride in having as its graduates the movers of iconic brands such as Goldilocks and Hizon’s.
Today, Maya Kitchen has taken a more active role, embarking on a mission to bring the people—young and old, men and women—back to the kitchen, says Fajardo.
Now with eight mini-kitchens and two lecture areas, Maya Kitchen holds culinary classes, entrepreneurial workshops and cooking demos for all those interested—people aspiring to become professional chefs, those seeking additional income, or others who turn to cooking for plain fun.
“Maya Kitchen is about cooking, not only baking (although LCC is more into baking products). We feel that if we can manage to bring members of the family to the kitchen, they will eventually use our products,” he says. “We don’t push only recipes that use our products. As long as housewives and other members of the family are in the kitchen, we are okay.”
Maya’s R&D today has gone beyond developing products, it is also into making recipes and putting out cooking and baking books. Fajardo says recipes are sent to newspapers and magazines for publication and posted online. The Maya Kitchen has also published 27 cookbooks and technical books.
Also, LCC embarked on a program called the New Gen Bakers for today’s woman—one who wears many hats and celebrates life doing what she enjoys most: being with family, shopping, reading, running, “Facebooking” and baking. For her, Maya has the newgenbaker.com, a site where she can learn and share new recipes and baking tips, as well as meet and connect with other bakers. Although, women are topmost in the minds of the developers of the site, men won’t be stopped from joining the club.
Soon, the site will give all New Gen bakers access to special product discounts and a place to buy or sell their baked products. LCC envisions newgenbaker.com to become the biggest baking community in the country.