Mindanao micro enterprises bag award for innovative food products

Micro enterprises from Mindanao were recently recognized for their emerging and innovative food products during the International Food Exhibit Philippines recently held at the World Trade Center, Pasay City

Baker's Field Enterprises of Zamboanga City won the Katha Award for Biscuits, Breads, and Pastries Category for its flavored biscocho, while Ellyne's Tuna Chicharon/Salmon Cracklings from General Santos City received the Katha Award for the Marine Products Category.

According to the CITEM website, Katha Awards Food is given to newly developed, locally-made food products and applications that meet the packaging design and innovation; product innovation; and market demand and readiness criteria.

First time IFEX Philippines exhibitor Fely Into, founder and manager for Ellyne’s Pasalubongs turned scrap tuna and salmon skin into a business venture that she started back in 2008. However, five months prior to this year’s IFEX Philippines, her almost decade-old production plant was taken down by fire, along with her residence.

"The main priority then was to rebuild the plant, not just for IFEX Philippines, but simply to get back to business as soon as we can," she said adding that hers is a story of a persistent and resilient micro entrepreneur. As a Katha awardee, Ellyne’s Pasalubong will get free space for the next IFEX show, as one of their prizes.

She further shared that her participation in IFEX, which was supported by the General Santos City government has opened newer and bigger opportunities for them, and is sure to join the next IFEX Philippines show bringing more promotional materials and more exciting variants of her healthy snacks products.

"We have not tried exporting yet, but I know that our products have been brought in many countries already as pasalubongs," she shared. Through the assistance of Department of Trade and Industry’s One Town One Product Next Generation (OTOP NextGen) Ellyne’s was able to shift from plastic pouch to foil packaging, which is deemed by Into as more export-ready.

Banker turned baker Ester Perez, General Manager of Bakers Field Enterprises also launched her new canister packaging for her Halal certified biscocho in this year’s IFEX Philippines. Although it is her second year as IFEX exhibitor, this is her first time to win a national award for her flavored biscocho through the Katha Awards for food.

“I think what made us won the award is the many variants of biscocho that we have. The coffee variant, which is our entry for Katha is just one of the 20 variants I’ve already made,” Perez shared.

Biscocho de Zamboanga comes in flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, garlic, cappuccino, peanut, and turmeric.

MSMEs role in regional economy

Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto also lauds the positive results of the IFEX Philippines, particularly for the Mindanao enterprises.

MinDA is the island-region’s coordinating body for IFEX, and works alongside DTI and its Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), and the Department of Agriculture.

“When we speak of Mindanao’s growth, it is imperative to highlight the role of the MSMEs to the region’s economy. This is particularly evident in jobs creation and the promotion of our local products,” Alonto said.

Bakers Field Enterprises for instance employs out of school youth in Zamboanga City. Perez shared that four of her employees already finished their studies.

“Although my main intent is to provide employment opportunities for those who are not able to attend school, I also encourage them to invest in education while they are earning,” Perez said.

“The future remains bright for our MSMEs. Every year, we see products and services getting more diverse and creative, and based on the trend in this year’s IFEX, there is an emerging and promising demand for healthier and more natural food products,” Alonto said, adding that MinDA will continually put the local producers and manufacturers at the forefront of their pursuit for enterprise development to make Mindanao more globally competitive. 

Both Perez and Into are looking forward to transition from being a micro to a small enterprise in the next few years.

Treelife Coco Sugar, a company based in North Cotabato also won the Katha Award for Food Applications Category. The Mindanao Pavilion, which featured the Maranaw culture and artistry won the Special Citation for Best Booth Display.

IFEX Philippines is the country’s largest international food show for Asia’s ethnic and specialty food products

[Photo: Ellyne's Tuna and Salmon Skin Pasalubongs]