Food and Leisure

Coffee talk with Jiggy Cruz

LIFE & STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil - The Philippine Star

There are many things you can talk about with Justin Benigno Aquino Cruz, better known as Jiggy. He is the grandson of our hero and martyr, Ninoy Aquino. Jiggy was born years after Ninoy was felled by bullets at the airport now named after him, but he would have wanted to meet his grandfather.

Jiggy has heard many amusing stories about Ninoy. In an interview with STAR columnist Bianca Gonzalez, he said Ninoy would drive in Boston with all the windows down and sing Imelda Papin’s Kung Liligaya  Ka in full volume.

“One of my favorite stories was my Lolo Ninoy being a fan of James Bond. As a senator, you get that special plate number 7 and a letter. The letter A was already taken  so he asked if his plate could be 007. My Lola Cory got mad because he was the youngest senator then and if had 007 as his plate number, people might not take him seriously. Haha, that’s my Lolo being funny,” laughs Jiggy.

How about President Noynoy, any amusing story? “My story on my Tito Noy is also related to James Bond and he told me this story that happened in Hong Kong when he was about eight years old. In the hotel, he answered the door and this large Asian man wearing a suit and bowler hat was there. My Tito Noy shut the door and ran to my Lolo Ninoy, worried. He said: “Dad, si Oddjob, nasa labas! (Oddjob is outside).” So my Lolo Ninoy went to the door to meet his tailor. He let the man in and said: “I’m sorry, my son thought you were were Oddjob from James Bond.” The man then stared at my Tito Noy in a low, scary voice and said: I AM !” At which Tito Noy ran to Lola Cory.”

Jiggy says his Lola Cory was the sweetest. “She was really just so supportive in whatever I did. When I first started working at Nestle, it was her household help who told me that she requested that the grocery items needed for the house should be made by Nestle — from the milk, coffee, creamer, seasoning, all-purpose cream and all. I only found out when she passed away. She was really the best! I miss her every day.”

As for Ballsy, his mom, Jiggy says: “She’s the kindest and simplest person I know. In the family she’s the person everyone turns to. I guess it's because she’s a great listener and she will always tell you what’s right. I'm amazed at how many people turn to her — her siblings, cousins, even titos and titas turn to her. She became everyone’s ‘Ate’ in a way.”

But today, we talk about coffee, which is another topic nearest his heart (aside from films, baseball, American football, basketball, and the comic book industry).Jiggy thinks coffee and breathes coffee because he happens to be consumer marketing manager for Nescafe Dolce Gusto, a job which he truly savors.

Was marketing a job he saw himself doing?

“I thought I’d end up with a TV network or a telephone company,” says Jiggy.” It was in high school when film making caught my interest but it changed when I took more management classes versus the communication classes in college. I took my BS in Communications Technology Management in Ateneo and it taught me to have that balance of IT, mass communications and management.”

How such a young (30), brilliant and hardworking person can be a mover in the coffee industry is not at all surprising.

More than a decade ago, coffee used to be a drink imbibed only by older people. Newsmen like Doroy Valencia and Max Soliven started the kapihan breakfast clubs which served as political forums in five-star hotels. Rewind further to centuries back and recall how cafes were the favorite meeting places and the center of Enlightenment by the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot.

But today’s modern coffee culture is embraced by young people who make coffee shops the center of their universe not only for bonding and socializing, but also for doing work on their Notebooks. Jiggy belongs to this restless and sleepless generation whose minds are fueled and kept alert by coffee.

PHILIPPINE STAR: Coffee used to be solely the drink of adults decades ago. But now the young people have imbibed coffee culture, and cafés and coffee shops have become their hangouts. How did this happen?

JIGGY CRUZ: It’s amazing that within a one-kilometer radius in Metro Manila, there are about 20 different types of touch points where coffee can be accessed and consumed, whether it’s a coffee shop, a vending machine, a supermarket or a restaurant. The category has really evolved over the years and even on television you’ll see so many different players in the market selling coffee or even a coffee-flavored product. Who would have thought that coffee could be part of a face wash? There’s coffee in a chocolate, in a cake, and even in ice cream. There have been different ways that coffee has entered the minds of the consumers over the years and I think for teenagers and young adults now, coffee doesn’t seem to be a beverage strictly for adults.

How many cups of coffee does a coffee marketing man like you drink daily? What are your favorite coffee flavors?

I don’t speak for all coffee marketers in the world but personally, I have around four cups in a day. I have two in the morning and two in the afternoon but right after lunch is a must for me. I drink all types of coffee but I’m more of a black coffee user and I don’t put any sugar or sweetener in my cup. Occasionally, when I feel like having dessert after lunch, I’ll opt to make a cappuccino or a latte macchiato instead. But my cup of choice is the Espresso Intenso variant of Nescafé Dolce Gusto.

What is the profile of coffee drinkers in the Philippines? What are their preferences?   

The most popular types of coffee in the Philippines now are the mixes. These are the ones you can get in sachet form and it contains coffee, creamer or milk powder, and sugar. A majority of the Filipinos prefer a hot, sweet and creamy cup of coffee.

Where does Nescafé get its coffee beans?

Nestlé responsibly sources its coffee beans from many different parts of the world. Vietnam and South America are just some examples. The Philippines is also a country wherein Nestlé gets coffee beans from. It even has a “Creating Shared Value” program called The Nescafé Plan helping farmers increase the quality and quantity of their yield by making good quality coffee plants available and by teaching them sustainable farming practices.

Having been with Nestlé for eight years, what have you discovered about coffee? And what have your trips to Switzerland (Nestlé’s home base) taught you about coffee?

I wasn’t a big coffee drinker before I started working and my mom would always say this to people. I only started drinking coffee when I started working and I missed out. I should have started drinking coffee earlier because it has become such a need for me. In the morning you really just want to warm up your stomach and wake up and coffee addresses both needs. It’s amazing to know that coffee is the most popular beverage next to water. I learned that a lot of people all over the world drink coffee. I was fortunate to have been sent to Switzerland for two weeks for training and it was a marketing seminar of all things Nescafé! It gave me a global perspective on coffee and I was proud to learn that a lot of other countries look up to the Philippines for coffee initiatives.

Your business executive manager for coffee, Donald Howat, said that the Philippines ranks high — number three, next to Mexico and Japan — among Nescafé drinkers in the world. Is it because Nescafe came to the Philippines much earlier than other brands that it has become also a generic name for coffee, the same way Pinoys say “Colgate” to refer to any toothpaste?

It makes me feel proud the Philippines stands out in the Nestlé world as a top Nescafé market. Nescafé is also the most chosen brand in the Philippines. It is the world’s first instant coffee, introduced in 1938. Nescafé entered the Philippines during World War II, as part of the American soldiers’ ration. That was how the brand was introduced to us Filipinos. Through the years, Nescafé has become a part of many Filipinos’ lives, earning their trust when it comes to quality. When you have a good product, it becomes top of mind.

Tell us about your latest Nescafé Dolce Gusto flavors. And your Drop machine looks so sleek and modern, it doesn’t look like a typical coffee maker at all! Who designed it and what was the inspiration? What percentage of coffee drinkers like having their own coffeemaker at home now?

Nescafé Dolce Gusto is a portioned coffee system wherein you have a coffee machine that was designed to interact with capsules that contain 100-percent roast and ground coffee. We have a wide variety of flavors and we have an excellent black cup selection. For the short cup drinkers who love the shot, Espresso and Espresso Intenso are available. There are some who like to savor the smooth and intense flavors so our best seller in the market is the Lungo, which is a mid-cup size. But a dedicated and passionate group of people love the strong and big cup and this is where our Grande Intenso caters to that specific need. “White” cups are also available like Cappuccino, Vanilla Latte Macchiato and Café Au Lait. These are the flavors that have milk and the good thing about this is that you do not need to buy a separate frothing machine to make these recipes. An espresso capsule and a milk capsule are provided. Apart from Nescafé Dolce Gusto being a coffee machine, it also makes Hot Chocolate (That’s our Chococino flavor) and Chai Tea Latte for the non-coffee drinkers. Lastly, the system also makes cold coffee and we have the Cappuccino Ice flavor for those who love their coffee cold.

The latest machine we just launched is called Drop and, all bias aside, it is by far the coolest and most stylish coffee machine I’ve ever seen. I saw it back in January 2014 in Orbe, Switzerland where it was designed at the Nestlé Systems Technology Center. The design is inspired by coffee itself. It’s a coffee droplet rising above the coffee crema and it was translated into a machine. I thought it was simple yet genius! It has been made to elevate the user experience by making it more convenient and stylish to use. Consumers now get to have a touchscreen interface when they create their favorite type of coffee and it’s all automatic.

Nestlé has a lot of consumer products. Other than coffee, you have milk and iced tea. Which beverages have become staples in every Pinoy home?

You wouldn’t believe how many products Nestlé has all over the world. There are literally thousands! It’s overwhelming, to be honest. I’m really proud to be working for a company wherein three of its brands have made it to the Top 10 most chosen brands in the country. No. 1 was Nescafé, followed by Milo at No. 4, and Bear Brand at No. 7. Nestlé was the only company to have multiple brands in the Top 10 and I think it’s just proof that Filipinos choose quality. But other than the three brands mentioned, I’m happy to be working in a food and beverage company because I get to taste all our delicious high quality products ranging from Nestlé Breakfast Cereals, to Nestea, Nesfruita, Nido, Maggi, Nestlé Yogurts and Nestlé Ice Cream, just to name a few.

Your mom mentioned that when Ninoy was imprisoned, he refused to take the food and drinks provided by his jailers, for fear of being poisoned. Ninoy was always requesting for Nido instead.

I remember my Lola Cory telling me that story when I entered Nestlé. My Lolo Ninoy really had this fear that he was going to be poisoned when he was incarcerated. Little did the government back then know that one of the guards assigned to him was a godson, Voltaire Gasmin. My lolo trusted Tito Volts and since he had to have something in his stomach, my lolo specifically requested Nido milk because it was something he liked and it would somehow give him the nutrition he needed. I was also happy that I shared this story with Tita Kris when Nido approached her for an endorsement with Bimby. It just convinced her more! Plus Bimby, up to today, still drinks a lot of Nido. Tita Kris mentioned that they need to bring back cans when they travel.

What’s the biggest fulfillment from your job?

Quite frankly, I never imagined myself managing such a cool brand in a distinguished, trusted and respected company. I’m really one of the luckiest people to have been given a brand to launch from the ground up. I’m even luckier that I love to consume my products on a daily basis. It’s the first thing I consume. I’m really happy when I get to meet consumers of Nescafé Dolce Gusto because I get to talk to them about a product I really love. I get happier when they say that they love it too! It’s really fulfilling when I meet happy consumers because those are the people I work for.

Any futuristic scenarios on coffee and coffee drinking?

With the way the world is evolving, coffee can change at any time. But I think that a lot of people are elevating their taste preferences and that’s where premium coffee like Nescafé Dolce Gusto can answer those consumer needs.



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