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My top 10 favorite food finds at the 2015 IFEX

At last week’s International Food Exhibition (IFEX), I was invited to judge the first Katha Awards for Food along with chef/ restaurateur Margarita Forés, food editor Angelo Comsti, Enderun Colleges dean Edgardo Rodriguez, PhD, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) division chief Daisy Tañafranca, and Blue Macay president Ayet Austria, who’s on the board of directors of the Philippine Association of Food Technologists (PAFT).

IFEX, organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is the largest and most respected export-oriented food show in the country, and the Katha Awards (formerly the Trendy Awards) recognizes newly developed Philippine food products (from 2014 to present) that are innovative in content and packaging, keeping in mind its readiness for the local and international market. This is great because in our aim to promote and showcase Philippine cuisine to the world, we have moved another step forward.

In the end, the winners were Barrio Fiesta’s Tubagong (Food Ingredient); Green Leaves’ Maja Blanca (Snack Foods); Destileria Limtuaco’s Very Old Captain Rum (Beverage); Island Gems’ Laing (Processed Fruits & Vegetables); Mama Sita’s (Best Booth Display); DOST’s Pack of Hope, Smoked Milkfish, Blast Frozen Durian, Mighty Kamote (Special Citation for Product & Packaging Innovation and Social Relevance); and Andy Albao Enterprise (Special Citation for Extensive Product Innovation Using Coconut).

Apart from the winners, as I was combing through the different stalls, I felt a surge of pride at the progress and innovativeness of our country. Here were 10 Philippine products that caught my attention, including those exhibited on the Red Box, a platform to showcase products of the “millennial generation.” 

1. Kablon Farms dark chocolate

I had first heard of Kablon Farms from Amor Maclang, who highlighted that they were from South Cotabato, more specifically the highlands of Tupi, Mount Matutum, which produces some of the sweetest fruits, heirloom seeds and cacao. I like that they are healthy — 60-70-percent single-origin cacao, sweetened by cane sugar — high in minerals and antioxidants. (;

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2. Mango flour

The packaging isn’t the greatest but I was intrigued to discover flour made from 100-percent-pure mango fruit kernels, which can be used in baking as is or combined with all-purpose flour. Apparently much healthier, it contains polyphenols that act as anti-aging and anti-cancer agents, and have a lot of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, they are gluten-free. (+6332 260 4331;

3. Slurp coffee

The hip packaging of Slurp’s cold-brew coffee caught my attention. Owner Gerald Montelibano sources beans from all over the country, including the rare peaberry from Atok, Benguet! “Slurp Coffee is not only a hub for the choicest coffee beans available in the Philippines, it’s also a science lab of sorts,” its literature reads, with a goal to “present our customers with coffee beans that not only taste incredible but also taste distinctive.”  Other beans are from Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato, Batangas, Bukidnon and Northern Mindanao. (+ 63 998 987 2959;;

4. Chili Chili Bang Bang

The salsas and chili con carne here are fresh — slow cooked with their own blend of spices and chili. Chili Chili Bang Bang has six varieties, including veggie and Hawaiian recipes. Owner Minena Roxas-Garcia suggests mixing their original with the chili con quezo — delicious!  

They are available at Salcedo Market on Saturdays. (

5. Pack of Hope

This not only caught my attention, but also my heart! These Packs of Hope were created by the Department of Science & Technology (DOST) as relief aids for disaster and calamities. They’ve even been tested for airdrops, but will eventually be sold in supermarkets should there be no disasters (crossing fingers). That’s product innovation with social responsibility for you. (+632 837 2071 loc. 2271;;

6. Prime Fruits banana chips

I was wondering why they had Japanese characters on their packaging, and it turns out they export these crunchy, slightly sweet banana chips from Davao to Japan and Korea, where they are sold at 7-Eleven stores there. (+632 8150071;

7. Lakan lambanog

I first came across this in Spain during Madrid Fusion, as it was one of the items we showcased at the Philippine booth courtesy of Alicia Sy. Manufactured by Philippine Distillers, Lakan — named after the title of warrior rulers who governed trade within the archipelago of pre-colonial Philippines (Lakandula, anyone?)  — also hints at the strength of this liquor made from pure coconut nectar. Unlike other kinds of lambanog on the market, this one is extra-premium in packaging (just look at that gorgeous bottle!) and really smooth on the palate. It won the Gold Award in the 53rd World Selection of Spirits and Liqueurs 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. Lakan is available at Duty Free and Wine Depot. (

8. 7 Grains

A healthy “soy sauce,” 7 Grains calls theirs Skinny Seasoning, which uses no table or sea salt, with flavor extracted from fermented soybeans. Each serving has only one calorie, compared to 10 from commercial brands. They also have Skinny Tomato Ketchup that uses organic coconut sap sugar, making it safe for diabetics. They also carry Skinny Carbs that’s made out of the Konjac plant from Japan, but apparently tastes like noodles, which is 95-percent fiber and only six calories per 200 grams. (; +632- 2110901; +63922-8019149;

9. Pili & Pino

The catchy name is an indicator that they champion the Filipino. The Cebu-based company has interesting jam flavors like dulce de coco leche, calamansi marmalade, guyabano preserve, and tableya chocolate jam that come in miniature gift sets. They also have ube pancake mixes and bibingka mixes made from brown and black rice. In Manila, some of their items are available at Kultura stores. (+6332 412-2436;

10. Coco Dolce

My sister-in-law Clarisse first told me about Coco Dolce, which she carries in her Urban Pantry in Greenhills Promenade 3. She was telling me how the chocolates (made from fermented cacao beans sourced from the Subasta Cooperative in Calinan) manufactured by Free Food Coconut in Davao were both delicious and healthy, sweetened by organic coco sugar and coconut oil. It turns out that apart from that, the company, headed by Finnish general manager Peteri Makitalo, supports “environmental activism.” “We make sure there are no harmful chemicals, we have strict record keeping, we usually use bio mass for our energy needs especially when we have to heat the syrup,” says Makitalo on their website. It is a dexterous combination of Philippine ingredients with Nordic standards. (+63 82 285 9366;

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You can reach me at, on my blog, on Twitter at or on Instagram at Photos by Cheryl Tiu




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