BICUTAN, TAGUIG CITY—Various stakeholders from the food industry came together at the Food Innovation Dialogue held at the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL) Lecture Room on February 28, 2017.
The event, which was organized by DOST-MIMAROPA in partnership with the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) and other DOST regional offices (II, NCR, VIII, and XI), served as an opportunity to introduce the Food Innovation Center (FIC), and its technologies and products, to researchers, microenterprises, and possible investors from the business sector. A total of 97 people attended the event, 39% of whom were representatives from DOST agencies and regional offices. Thirty-one percent (31%) were entrepreneurs or proprietors of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), 16% were representatives from State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and 11% were from the business sector. Local government units and other government agencies constituted 2% and 1% of the participants, respectively.
The FIC is a prime example of “Science for the People,” supporting equitable economic development in the country. It is in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's 10-point socioeconomic agenda, which includes the enhancement of "innovation and creative capacity towards self-sustaining, inclusive development" by promoting science, technology, and the creative arts; and matching "skills and training to meet the demand of businesses and the private sector." Through this initiative, the country's microenterprises can acquire new capabilities, produce innovative products, and become more competitive in the market, be it local or international.
During her keynote message, Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara traced the beginnings of the FIC, which started as an idea to help farmers and food processers earn more from their produce. She recognized the capabilities of Filipinos to produce world-class food products, especially with the help of the FIC technologies.
"We have the ability to produce new kinds of food, but we just need to be enabled," she said.
With the ASEAN economic integration, industry partnerships with academic institutions, research and development institutions, and especially the business sector, are integral to the success and further development of the country’s food industry, added Dr. Guevara.
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) presents a unique opportunity for the Philippine Food Industry’s growth. The free flow of goods and services among ASEAN Nations has expanded the available market for local enterprises, encouraging product innovation and development.
The FIC will provide efficient and reliable technologies in the field of food processing and manufacturing that can assist food producers, processors, marketers, and entrepreneurs in MIMAROPA, in developing concepts, prototypes, and market samples at par with the products and services being offered by other countries.
During the Food Innovation Dialogue, DOST-ITDI Director Dr. Maria Patricia V. Azanza thoroughly explained the components and strategies of implementation of the FIC product development programs. Aside from four technologies – spray dryer, vacuum fryer, freeze dryer, and water retort – the FIC also offers expertise in the form of food technologists, machine operators, and university researchers who are experts in business, food safety, engineering, and intellectual property rights. She gladly shared her expertise with the participants, also detailing what local food processors can gain from the use of different S&T interventions offered by DOST. This includes higher quality and prolonged shelf-life of goods even without the use of preservatives, which can translate into higher sales. Currently, there are 10 FICs in the country, which Dr. Azanza hopes to establish six (6) more by the end of 2017, to achieve the goal of having one FIC in each region.
After Dr. Azanza’s presentation, representatives from the business sector gave insights on the current and emerging trends in the food industry. According to them, there is a real potential for FIC-developed products to occupy a niche in both the local and international markets.
Ms. Ngan Tian, president of PCCI-Las Piñas and Midwest Food Corporation, stated that the food industry is the most competitive industry nowadays as it meets multiple challenges in sustainability, competition, and profitability, especially in the face of globalization. She noted that for local businesses to survive, innovation and extensive market research is key. They must also take advantage of emerging trends such as e-commerce, health and wellness products, and organic food. Of the halal industry, she says that although it is difficult and expensive to get into, the huge market for it is worthwhile.
Mr. Bien Delgado, Executive Director of PHILFOODEX, concurs with Ms. Ngan Tian. As part of an organization of over 156 micro, small, and medium food enterprises engaged in exporting, he says that it is important to be aware of the global food and drink trends. He adds that there is an increasing demand for vegetarian, vegan, or other plant-focused formulations, convenience food/food on the go, and superfoods such as moringa, seeds, nuts, fermented food, coconut products, and exotic fruits. There is also an opportunity for modernized traditional food, as the number of Filipinos abroad continue to increase. Furthermore, a report from Bloomberg lists Filipino cuisine among the top 11 food trends of 2017.
In line with the Food Innovation Dialogue’s goal to commercialize FIC-developed products, FIC managers and personnel from Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) presented their most innovative products. This included the Cagayan State University, UP Diliman, Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT), Eastern Visayas State University, and Philippine Women’s College.
These products included Water Retorted Turmeric Blend Tea Tums, Spray Dried Nipa Vinegar, Spray Dried Calamansi, Vacuum Fried Mayahini (shellfish), Water Retorted Moron (sticky rice pudding), Freeze Dried Durian Twinks, Vacuum Fried Monggo Sprouts, Water Retorted Monggo Filling, Vacuum Fried Sweet Potato, Vacuum Fried Mixxed Veggies, Freeze Dried Gracilaria Seaweeds, and Vacuum Fried Mixed Beans.
After the product presentation, DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Director Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay presented the framework for an upscaled FIC where FIC technologies will be commercialized by bringing them directly to interested firms/partners, promoting innovation and technopreneurship at the same time.
“The main goal is to develop new products while maximizing the economic benefits for farmers,” said Dr. Abilay. Through the upscaled FIC, MSMEs can be empowered to create or adopt new food products at par with foreign goods, and able to compete in the global market.
The Food Innovation Dialogue was successful in engaging different stakeholders – from potential investors to prospective adoptors – in a conversation about the market viability of FIC-developed products and FIC technologies. It aimed to bridge the gap between research and practice by effectively communicating how the food industry can benefit from the FIC. To further promote understanding, microenterprises, potential investors, and other stakeholders exchanged questions and ideas during an open forum facilitated by Dr. Carl E. Balita, host of Radyo Negosyo and notable technopreneur. As one of DOST’s Science Ambassadors, he encouraged the participants to grab different business opportunities presented by the event. He also took the time to commend DOST for the agency’s technology transfer initiatives, sharing his belief that innovation without commercialization is only invention.
To give the attendees more of an idea about how products are developed and prepared in the FIC, a plant visit to the ITDI-FIC, known as the central FIC, was arranged. Mr. Rommel M. Belandrez from ITDI’s Food Processing Division explained the science behind the FIC technologies and enumerated what kind of products can be developed, all while the process of operating the technologies was demonstrated. Afterwards, guests were able to sample vacuum-fried products (kamote and mayahini), and water retorted tea tums (lemongrass-calamansi blend infused with turmeric and ginger).
Proprietors of small businesses or those who wished to start a food business found the event helpful, and expressed their wish to attend similar events. Even representatives from the business sector were excited by the possibility of adopting the technologies, or partnering with DOST to adopt the already developed products.