Expo packs in Asia’s food buyers | Inquirer Business

Expo packs in Asia’s food buyers

MANILA, Philippines—No other event can probably generate more visitor traffic than a food expo due to the freebies. And the recently concluded International Food Exhibition (Ifex) Philippines, held at the SMX Convention Center, is no exception.

Now on its eighth year, Ifex has been at the forefront of showcasing the best of the country’s food and beverage industry, as well as the different gastronomic treats from Asia and other countries.

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The annual event, organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (Citem), an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service, aims to promote local products in the international markets.

KOREAN ice cream products are fast gaining popularity in the Philippines. Photo by Sharon Robas-Macawile

“We are proud to showcase a fully-packed and truly international event through Ifex that highlights the global capabilities of our local small and medium food enterprises,” says Citem’s executive director Rosvi C. Gaetos.

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“Over the years, Ifex has provided important strategic support to the country’s agribusiness industry, spurring innovations in food quality and packaging from our homegrown manufacturers for them to better compete globally,” Gaetos adds.

This year about 450 local and foreign exhibitors joined the event, which also featured the Philippine National Brands Pavilion, the Natural Food and Health Products Festival, and The Agri-Aqua Show which showcased marine and agricultural products from the country’s different regions.

Organizers say this year’s number of foreign exhibitors is the biggest to date at 50 compared to last year’s 30. The 2010 event also generated a total of $65 million in export sales and hosted buyers such as NTUC Fairprice (Singapore), the Americana Group of Companies, the Al Maya Group of Companies, and Shankar (Middle East), and Mon Chong Loong and FBC Worldwide (United States).

The 2011 Trendy Awards, which gives recognition for innovations in content and packaging new products and other applications, also highlighted the three-day event.

One notable exhibitor is Laguna-based Prepmeals Corp., which manufactures instant rice meals introduced in the market last year under the brand name iMeal.

Lemuelle L. Marasigan, Prepmeals’ key account specialist, relates that the company’s general manager Grace Cochingyan thought of producing iMeal because she noticed there are several “instant” food and drinks being sold in supermarkets today.

“Since the Philippines is a rice-eating country, she thought of coming up with a product that is something different like instant rice meal,” shares Marasigan.

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He adds that the product’s “heat and serve” method is a hit among office workers who usually prefer staying in their offices during lunch breaks instead of buying food outside.

“All you need to do is to microwave the product or if you don’t have a microwave, you can just submerge the pouch in hot water and in 10 minutes it’s ready to be eaten,” says Marasigan.

iMeal comes in four flavors: Adobo, yang chow, chicken teriyaki and the newly launched pork binagoongan. A small pouch which is equivalent to a serving of one-cup of rice retails at P44 and the two-cup serving pouch costs P55. It is available in Robinson’s supermarket nationwide and soon to hit the shelves of Shopwise, SM and Mini-stop. The company is also in the process of exporting the product overseas.

The Association of Samar Producers booth showcases the best of the island’s local products and has joined Ifex for four years now. From the town of Jiabong, known as Samar’s “tahong” town, products like tahong chips, tahong kropeck and bottled tahong are instant bestsellers, the town of Zumarraga boasts of its rock oyster appetizers while Daram town produces squid polvoron and squid chippy.

The products are part of DTI’s One Town, One Product program shares Ruthelma Samonte, senior trade and industry development specialist of DTI Samar.

Also, Filipinos’ craze for anything Korean led to a surge in popularity of Koreanovelas and K-Pop in the Philippines.

A product that is making waves in the local market is Korean ice cream.

Binggrae Co. Ltd., has been in the dairy and ice cream business for more than 40 years.

“Actually we are the No. 1 ice cream manufacturer in Korea and we have the best quality of ice cream,” says Amy Choi, assistant manager for overseas business team.

Choi says Binggrae’s ice cream products were introduced in the Philippine market about three years ago and has been gaining popularity since.

“They like our ice cream because it has good quality and has rich flavor of milk and fruits. Many people actually like it,” Choi adds.

The ice cream comes in popsicles, bars and waffle variety. Bestsellers are the Melona line or the melon flavored ice cream bars and the waffle with ice cream.

Choi is elated about the Filipinos’ response to their products and sees Ifex as great opportunity “for our products to gain more popularity not only in Manila but also in other areas as well.” Prices range from P25-P50 and are currently available in all Korean supermarkets in the country, Shopwise, Rustan’s and soon in S & R and 7-11 outlets.

This is also the first time that Brunei Darussalam is participating in the food expo. Hj Morshedi Hj Ludin, marketing and operations manager of Alai Nadhirah Ha’afizah enterprises, shares that they’re happy to be part of this year’s event which gives them a chance to showcase Brunei’s delicacies. He says he is hoping “to generate buyers and retailers from this year’s Ifex.”

Bestsellers are Batek cake, a popular delicacy in Brunei, and the snow balls snack which come in different flavors. All products are halal-certified.

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