COLOGNE, Germany – The Philippines’ biggest delegation to this year’s Anuga is aiming to bring home $66 million worth of export sales. The food trade fair is also known as a prime gateway to the European market. This year’s exhibitors, a good number of them returnees, are looking forward to reap the rewards.
“We’ve been coming to Anuga for years,” said Jackson Laureano of Philippine company Fitrite Incorporated. His company manufactures food products – from fruit juices, mixes, and ingredients – some of which can already be found in the European market, not just in Asian groceries but in mainstream stores as well. Fitrite juices, produced in the Philippines, are even sold in Germany’s historical, luxury department store, Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe).
Laureano said one of their fast-moving products is in fact bagoong (shrimp paste) – a hit among Filipinos abroad. While the ethnic market abroad is still their number one customer, he said there’s no stopping products from the Philippines from becoming popular among other nationalities as well. It’s all a matter of education, and Anuga provides that platform.
"Not only do we meet new and existing buyers here, trade fairs like Anuga are a great platform to introduce new products and feel the pulse of the market," he said.
Last Anuga, Cebu-based business Green Enviro Management Systems (GEMS), made a name for itself in Europe. With its mango flour made from the fruit’s seed, the healthy and waste-reducing product was among the crowd favorites. This time around GEMS brought something new: banana flour.
“This one is made from the flesh of bananas,” GEMS’ Evelyn Taboada said. “Twenty to thirty percent of bananas for export are rejected because of cosmetic flaws. Rejected produce means waste as well as losses for farmers. We wanted to do something about it.”
Taboada and her team then turned them into flour – a healthier version wellness-conscious Europeans would love.
Photo by Carol Ramoran/Rappler
The Philippine pavilion at the fair was opened by President Rodrigo Duterte's partner Honeylet Avanceña who visited each booth and spent time to talk to the businessmen. As a business owner herself in the Philippines, Avanceña said she could relate to the companies present in Anuga. Especially those who come from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who were there under the Trade Department’s (DTI) One Town One Product (OTOP) program.
“You should never give up. There will be struggles, trials. Sometimes, on your first try you will succeed.... Forget the word surrender. Continue to persevere. Innovate. You're dynamic. You can always think something else if something fails,” she told the manufacturers at Anuga in a mix of English and Filipino
She added that she also asked the bigger Filipino companies at the fair to mentor the smaller businesses.
“Germany – the European market in particular – is going through a food revolution,” Philippine Ambassador to Germany Ma Theresa Dizon-de Vega said at the event. “You see the indications, the effects of this, in the diversity in store shelves in Europe. We’re seeing more and more Asian products not just in Asian stores but in mainstream groceries. We’re seeing a diversity in the Asian products. This is a real opportunity for Philippine products to make an entry here.”
This was echoed by Trade Counselor for Germany Althea Antonio. “The demand is huge and the opportunities are already there. We just need to make our move.”
Together with other Filipino trade counselors in Europe – Brussels, Stockholm, and London – there is much work being done to match the Philippine businesses not just to German buyers but to the rest of the EU as well.
Photo by Carol Ramoran/Rappler
“The food revolution is indeed in full swing in Europe,” Antonio added. “Not only for food itself but for natural ingredients needed in everyday items like cosmetics.”
“For food, chefs are always looking for new flavors. If the Japanese yuzu can hit it big in Europe, what’s stopping our calamansi? There are now calamansi pastries in Vienna and France and we’re so excited," she added.
Antonio added that pili would also do well in Anuga should manufacturers of the nut choose to join the fair. “Pili can follow the footsteps of our turmeric and moringa which are already here. We have pili-based cosmetics back home because of the nut’s richness in Vitamin E and A. Those are two of the most famous anti-aging ingredients.”
A boost for the future
the Department of Trade and INdustry’s Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) aimed to focus on the country’s "Premium 7" exports – banana, cacao, coconut, coffee, mango, pineapple, and tuna – but only 4 made it to the pavilion. Cacao, coffee, and pineapple manufacturers were not present this time. DTI Assistant Secretary Demphna Du-Naga lamented on the lost opportunity, hoping that the success enjoyed by the companies who joined and were exhibited by CITEM will inspire producers of the 3 products to come to Anuga.
Packaging is still one of the things businesses from the Philippines are asked to improve on and Du-Naga assures the public that a new program would be of great help, especially to MSMEs.
“DTI’s Pack Pinas program can bridge the gap between our MSMEs and the Packaging Industry. With this initiative, the department could assist our MSMEs in their packaging needs. Some even went further with the program, developing their brands and innovating their products anchored on a certain market,” she said.
Photo by Carol Ramoran/Rappler
Anuga is the world’s largest trade fair, happening biennially. Companies from the Philippines enjoy zero tariff benefits from the EU under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). The EU is currently the country’s 4th largest trading partner, third largest import source, and 4th largest market.
“We have the second most diversified portfolio under such an agreement with the EU. Compared to most countries exporting to this part of the world, we have a lot to offer,” Delegation head DTI Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman said. “It’s through events like Anuga which offers a platform for business opportunities and partnerships through the exchange of culture and flavors, that this trade relation continues to grow.” – Rappler.com