ILIGAN CITY -- How a homegrown food processing family business is taking the whole country and soon, the rest of the world by surprise is a story that parallels a local businessman?s gut-feel of what people needed at the right time.
Pinakurat is the now famous brand of vinegar made in Iligan City. And there seems no stopping its growing fame because it has not only become the must-have pasalubong from visitors of this city of waterfalls, but it is the most in demand padala to Filipinos abroad.
?We dispense of it here with a teaspoon,? says Dr. Roberto F. Godinez, a Filipino turned US citizen working in San Francisco, California. ?That?s how precious it is here.?
Given how gastronomically nostalgic Godinez gets, he cannot help but ask how he can get more of the sukang Pinakurat. So do thousands of other Filipinos living abroad who have heard of it. The lucky few who had managed to get a taste of it when they vacationed home bought boxes of sukang Pinakurat to bring as pasalubong but they had the misfortune of having their precious cargo severely cut down to size by airport authorities.
Clearly, the demand for Pinakurat is there that its maker, Green Gold Gourmet, is swamped with orders. People cannot seem to do without it on their dining tables.
Sukang Pinakurat is that spicy vinegar made from fermented coconut nectar and spices grown in the farmlands of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte. Its mercuric rise to the top of the condiment and dip business owes primarily to the fact that it takes over one?s taste buds and gives the pulutan or any food that needed zzzing!
Sukang Pinakurat was born out of desperation eight years ago when life dealt former Iligan restaurateur, Rene Jose Stuart del Rosario, 54, a double whammy?his restaurant business closed and his health failed.
The decline of Stuart del Rosario?s health is attributed by some to his indulgence of a famous local dish called pinakurat, which is made of chopped baboy sulop (wild boar meat) soused in vinegar and spices. Penniless and sick, he went to Manila to get a heart by-pass operation as an indigent patient.
After a successful operation, Stuart del Rosario returned home with what was left of the already meager funds donated to him by concerned relatives and friends. With wife Donna, 51, and four sons to support, Stuart del Rosario was at the lowest point of his life.
The term ?pinakurat?
Linguistics Professor at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), Dr. Luvizminda Cagas de la Cruz, says ?pinakurat? is an affixation of the Sebuano (correct spelling instead of ?Cebuano? according to language scholars) root word ?kurat.? ?Kurat,? according to De la Cruz, means surprise. Thus, ?pinakurat? means in a sudden or surprising manner as to shock the person.
?Since the taste of the vinegar mixed with the spices was very similar to that used in the pinakurat dish, we decided to name our product after it,? explained Stuart del Rosario. And sure enough, sukang Pinakurat?s taste took everyone by surprise. ?Papawisan ka sa sarap? (you?ll break out into a sweat from its spiciness) so the ad goes.
Because of the undeniable success of sukang Pinakurat, Green Gold Gourmet will now move from a micro cottage industry status to either small or medium enterprise in an effort to cope with the public demand.
Green Gold Gourmet?s response to this public demand of a famous product spawned 14 other creations to date, among them: Suka Waykurat (the milder version of sukang Pinakurat); Kuratsoy (Pinakurat blended with soy sauce and calamansi); Sweetened Pinakurat; Chigar (chili garlic sauce); Naprik (spicy pork alamang); Kulikot (flaming-hot chili pepper sauce); Pure Suka Tuba; Garlic Chips; and Garlic Crunch.
500 farmers benefit
The sukang Pinakurat indirectly provides 500 jobs to farmers who supply the coco nectar and spices from the different farmlands in and around Iligan.
Acccording to Stuart del Rosario?s son, Rene ?Peppo? Jr., who now manages the family business, they plan to ship the sukang Pinakurat to Australia, Canada and parts of the United States.
?Westerners are adapting to the taste. To them it is exotic,? he says.
There are also plans to export the family products to the Middle East as soon as Green Gold Gourmet gets its halal certification.
But all the talk of exporting is overshadowed by the fact that the company has yet to receive its license to operate and its certificate of product registry from the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD). Peppo though is confident they will get the license to operate very soon.
?We are actually just waiting for it to be issued by the end of the month,? he says. ?The BFAD already inspected our production facilities and was satisfied,? he adds.
The BFAD approval is important to Green Gold Gourmet because it is the only thing preventing it from realizing the product potential of sukang Pinakurat.
Already, notable giants in the retail industry in the Philippines like Shoemart (SM), Mercury Drug, 7/11 and Rustan?s have signified their intentions to carry the Pinakurat as part of their in-house brand lines.
Today, Green Gold Gourmet?s products can be found in stores in Metro Manila, and the cities of Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Iligan.
?But who knows, maybe very soon, makurat ka (you?ll be surprised) to find our products in your favorite mall or the sari-sari store,? Peppo says.