By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – A walk through the sprawling Jacob Javits Convention Center on a fancy food show could be overwhelming. There was a sea of food to taste – cheeses, chocolates, fruits, vegetables, drinks. And there will never be enough room inside you to taste all the creativity food artisans have and the abundance that the earth could offer.
The common thread, however, was the fact that the 2550 food exhibitors last June 26-28 have consciously and increasingly become organic and healthy. Non-GMO, gluten-free, organic are the assurances coming out of certification logos on food packages, whether they were from Asia, the Americas, or Europe.
Local Businesses Going Healthy
Local American businesses here have steadily become compliant with healthy, non-GMO project verified products.
Barry Novick, president of the Kitchen Table Bakers, said his parmesan crisps are “honestly non-GMO goods.” In an interview, he said that the biggest challenge in business is maintaining the strict standards of health and environmental soundness. Its parmesan crisps are wheat, gluten, sugar, and trans-fat free.
The Kitchen Table Bakers, based in Syosset, is a 2015 awards finalist of the Sofi Gold Awards, created in 1972 by the Specialty Food Association, the organizer of the food show. The SFA aims to advance culinary excellence and creativity worldwide by recognizing the outstanding work of its members.
Another food company in Long Island which has lived through the tradition of quality products and high ethical standards is the Paesana (Italian for family). Established in 1902, it is now ran by the 4th generation of the Scarmeli family. It has opened a new product line, Asian Fusion marinade and dipping sauce which are organic, non-GMO, and kosher.
Steve Sechrist, the company’s regional sales manager, said that business tradition is quality product. “Good quality keeps us going. We also have good ethics. We take care of our workers. Our workers have been there for a long time. They have grown with our company,” he said.
Philippine Mango and Coconut
Two food-based Philippine companies made its head way in the recently food show, despite the staggering cost of joining the exhibit. The Philippine mango, arguably the sweetest variety in the world and the Philippine coconut, popularly known as the country’s tree of life have prominently been displayed.
The Cebu-based Profood International Corp. and Butuan City-based Celebes Coconut Corporation promoted native products that use organic ingredients and are produced using sustainable practices. Profoods produces dried fruit snacks, such as mango and coconut, and different tropical fruit drinks. Celebes specializes in producing coconut products such as desiccated coconut, coconut oil, and milk and coconut water. Both companies have established markets in the West Coast and have partnered with leading wholesalers such as Walmart and Costco in offering their products in mainstream US stores.
New York Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. who visited the Philippine booth assured the participants of the government’s continued support for Philippine products competing globally on a level playing field and internationally-accepted rules on Fair Trade. He was with Trade Representative Katrina Banzon and Consul Felipe Carino, director of the economic section. De Leon encouraged the participants to continue expanding internationally by promoting products that can compete in different market segments such as in halal or kosher certified markets.
Philippine Food Exports Need Boosting
Carolyne Go, the president and CEO of the Cebu-based Magic Melt Inc. and part of the Profood International Corp. contingent, said there is so much room needed for support of agriculture-based businesses in the Philippines. “Agriculture needs to be boosted so that our mango and coconut industries and all the other land-based products are produced in quantity and quality. It will also boost our local economy. I believe we should focus on agriculture instead of concentrating on call centers development,” she said in an interview.
Go said that her company is developing the mango flour and will kick off its production and distribution in a couple of months. “Government may be able to help in terms of financing for research and export promotions. Coming here is an expensive feat. There is so much need for agricultural development and promotions in our country,” she opined.
The Summer Fancy Food Show, organized by the SFA featured 50 countries and 180,000 food and beverage products. On its 62nd year, local food businesses and international participants that included Asian country pavilions of India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Thailand showed the best of their food products to the international market. (With a press release and photos from the Philippine Consulate General of New York)