Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Coco Nectar Vinegar
Linda Corsiga, proprietor of the Sorsogon Food Enterprise (SFE) shows off their products during the Orgullo kan Bikol trade fair held at SM Mega Mall in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila. She remembered an Australian friend told her that Bicol is a paradise for bees because it is coconut-rich.
One of the crowd drawers during the recent Orgullo kan Bikol trade fair held at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila was the booth of the Sorsogon Food Enterprise or SFE. The booth itself made from indigenous materials was artistically designed and has a touch of class. But the main attraction were the products themselves - Lola Conching Organic Coco Nectar Specialty Vinegar which are unlike the ordinary vinegar that now proliferates the market.
According to Linda R. Corsiga, the owner and Manager of SFE, their vinegar products have both nutritional and medicinal value and the natural herbs that are mixed with them are health promoting “neutraceuticals” (nutrient supplements that act like pharmaceuticals) and are considered “functional foods” or foods that are nutritious and at the same time can prevent diseases.
The coco nectar specialty vinegar comes in two forms as: a) filtered and pasteurized labeled as “classic” and b) unfiltered and unpasteurized, with the “mother vinegar” or film like gels floating inside the bottle termed or labeled as “virgin”. The vinegar has also four variants based on its four natural flavors namely: the raw wild honey; chili and ginger; garlic and lemon grass. These natural herbs as we know have nutritional value and are health-promoting. These specialty vinegar carry the brand name Lola Conching, after the name of the family matriarch who started the production of organic coco nectar vinegar as a backyard industry in the 50’s in Bulan, Sorsogon. But it was only sometime in 2003 when one of Aling Conching’s daughter, Linda decided to venture into vinegar production as a small family enterprise under name the Sorsogon Food Enterprises. This enterprise was conceived not only with the end view of gaining profit. It committed itself to the cause of lessening people’s exposure to chemically-treated food and to help protect the environment by propagating organic agri/aqua culture and espousing organic practices and natural methods in food production.
With the growing public awareness on the hazards of chemically –treated foods, consumers are looking for alternatives- the natural or organically produced foods. It is no wonder SFE products are much in demand. Among SFE’s market outlets in Metro Manila are: Rustans’ Supermarket, Waltermart, Gateway, Shopwise and other Organic shops in various parts of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces including the island of Boracay. Lola Conching’s vinegar has even reached as far Minnesota, USA. But ironically, in Bicol where these vinegars are being produced , only one small store in Bulan, Sorsogon serves as the market outlet for these products. Lola Conching’s vinegar is not yet known among most Bicolanos. That is why, SFE’s participation in “Orgullo kan Bicol” regional trade fair is one avenue for promoting their products, not only to Bicolanos but to all health conscious consumers.
Linda herself hopes that eventually their products would find more market outlets in the region because Bicolanos deserve no less. She says that her specialty vinegar are truly “orgullo kan Bikol” or pride of Bikol.
Linda who has a diploma in education used to teach in high school but a better job opportunity and a brighter financial prospect in the private sector beckoned, so she decided to pursue a new career path. For 13 years she worked at the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank as accountant and administrative officer. But through the years of living a comfortable life in Metro Manila with her husband and children, she keeps on returning to her roots in Bulan, Sorsogon where her family has some 10 hectares of coconut plantation.
When she resigned from the WB she decided to go into business. She remembered an Australian friend had told her that Bicol is a paradise for bees because it is coconut- rich. Coco flower is a major source of nectar which honey bees love. She then trained at UPLB on bee culture and soon after started with 45 bee-colonies. But this business venture did not progress because most of the bees died. She attributes this to the fact that she was not personally around to oversee the culture of the bees which she entrusted to her laborers.
But this did not dampen her enthusiasm. She then decided to pursue the vinegar production which her mother had started way back. Having learned her lessons from her experience in bee culture she set out to pursue this new business “hands-on” and with all the necessary preparations. First, she made an intensive research and study about vinegar production, trained and consulted with the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Coconut Authority. The Sorsogon Food Enterprise thus, was established in 2003.
Today, SFE has 12 people in its employ at its plant in Sorsogon. Four of them are the tuba or nectar gatherer who are now considered vanishing breed. The others are the bottlers, the labellers, the packers and the bottle cleaners. Every two months a truckload consisting of 10,000 bottles of vinegar is transported to Metro Manila.
The coco vinegar is produced by cutting off and shaving twice daily the top of the newly formed coco flower until the sap starts to drip out. These sweet ‘drippings’ are the same nectar that honey bees sip and turn them into honey in their hives. A bamboo collection vessel is placed where the sap will drip into, and a tuba harvester or “mangete” collects it once or twice daily. Natural fermentation takes a minimum of 60 days after which, the naturally sweet tuba (coconut toddy) has aged and has turned into the naturally best-tasting vinegar, without adulteration. When it reaches its natural acidity level, it is then bottled, without preservatives or chemical additives, free of artificial flavorings, colorings and dyes and sealed fresh to preserve all its natural goodness.
The SFE vinegar has been tested by two reputable BFAD-recognized laboratories which confirmed its purity and excellent quality as indicated by its Percent Titratable Acidity (PTA) and Permanganate Oxidation Number (PON). It was also tested for its vitamin and mineral content. Tests reveal the presence of beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and sodium. It has potent supply of potassium, which promotes cell, tissue and organism growth. The DOST has also certified that SFE vinegar has a minimum shelf life of one year.
Lola Conching vinegar are available in two glass bottle sizes, the 750 ml priced at P75 and the 350 ml priced at P45 which is a little bit expensive than the ordinary commercial vinegar available in most local market. But the price difference is insignificant considering the nutritional, health, and medicinal value one can derive from these organically produced coco nectar vinegar. It is ideal for cooking, dipping, marinating, salad dressing and pickling. If not diluted with water, it is itself a preservative.
But other than its culinary uses organic vinegar is touted to be “the Home Remedy for the 21st century”, according to Cal Oley, for the following reasons: it is high in cancer–fighting oxidants; a natural appetite suppressant; reduces cholesterol to prevent heart disease; helps retard osteoporosis; slows the effect of aging; reduces the frequency of headaches; helps cure many common ailments, from dandruff and menstrual cramps to acne and sinus and congestion. It is also a good bleaching agent.
It is about time we substitute our ordinary table vinegar most of which are often laced with acetic acid and or other chemical additives with this organic coco nectar vinegar.
"Other than its culinary uses, organic vinegar is touted to be ‘Home Remedy for the 21st Century’ for it is high in cancer-fighting oxidants, is also a natural appetite suppressant, it reduces cholesterol, helps retard osteoporosis, slow effect of aging, reduces frequency of headaches, and helps cure many ailments from dandruff and menstrual crumps to acne, sinus and congestion."
Go Natural: Shift to organic
Coco Nectar Vinegar
By Emily B. Bordado
Official publication of the Department of Agriculture RFU 5
Vol. 14 No. 4
Small & Medium Business
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