Ethnic foods cater to international market, Filipinos overseas

Few have the time, energy and inclination to prepare a dish that takes hours to prepare. One such dish is laing, a staple of Filipino cuisine that has gained wide acceptability throughout the world.

Owners of Moondish Foods Corp., Anna and Rufino Manrique decided to make available the goodness of this native specialty to Filipinos residing overseas at any time they desire.

The ready-to-eat laing was launched during recent Asian Ethnic Food Exhibition. Local as well as international wholesale buyers were tickled by the idea of canning one of the national food favorites. Almost all major supermarkets in Metro Manila now sell all six variants of ready-to-eat laing.

Laing is a native Filipino dish that has coconut milk and taro leaves as its main ingredients.

Before setting up a food business, Moondish owners Rufino and Anna Manrique were social workers, helping poor families in depressed communities. The couple decided that setting up a business is another way of helping the urban poor by providing them with employment. They set up a small business that catered to the needs of people in their neighborhood in Las Piñas City (Metro Manila).

“We heard that the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology had already developed several products that were ready for commercialization. The institute was only looking for individuals who are willing to invest some time and money to bring these products to market,” related Anna. “Of these ready technologies, what appealed to us was the technology of canning laing,” she confided.

“Right there and then, we realized that canned laing has great potential not only locally, but also overseas. There are many Filipinos living abroad who would like to have a taste of Philippine cuisine as often as they can,” Anna Manrique said.

“Short of advertising in media, we tried to get as much exposure for our canned products as often as possible. For instance, we have information about our products placed in the WINNER global portal, thus foreign buyers can view them and contact us for orders. So far, our efforts have paid off. Aside from the local market, which is basically Metro Manila, we have also managed to get orders from importers from Guam, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the United States,” Anna said.

The Moondish normal production capacity for laing is 2, 400 cans per day. It can be scaled up when big orders come.

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