Sunday, January 01, 2006

Our Very Own Calamansi Juice

Zamboanga City (Darwin Wee) We have squeezed our own juice at home, whether it be lemon or orange from the backyard or fruits bought from the market.

But there's a wide range of juices available in shops, said Fe Hau, as she squeezes profits from her ready-to-drink concentrated calamansi juice.

"Instead of taking some time and energy in preparing calamansi juice, the concentrate is a lot more convenient and satisfying," Ms. Hau said.

The agribusiness division of the regional Department of Agriculture said at least P400,000 is needed to start a calamansi concentrate processing business. This includes acquisition of land as processing area, purchase of equipment, and other production costs.
But for Ms. Hau, her Zamboanga Tropical Kalamansi Juice business started with only P10,000 as initial capital investment. in 2000. She subsequently recovered the sum just a couple of months after, and now she makes between P240,000 to P300,000 a month.

Her production activities started in a small space at the backyard that gradually expanded with a loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Ms. Hau's calamansi concentrated processors have been producing ready-to-drink juice in 350ml. and 500ml. bottles and 200ml. in tetra pack for five years now.

The demand is higher in schools, which are one of her top buyers, aside from supermarkets and malls.

In schools where packaging matters to students, soda is easily beatable, she said. "Kids love the calamansi taste and as I observed even their parents encourage their kids to buy the product for health reasons."
She said the challenge is realy in marketing the idea of an alternative drink, despite strong competitions, where millions of pesos are spent by other producers for advertising just to be able to sell their products competitively.

"We are introducing this product and trying to market this very well because it is a health drink and this is a better than other beverages," she said. "I would like to see calamansi concentrate being promoted as an alternative to soft drinks."

Scientifically known as citrus microcarpa bunge, calamansi contains a good amount of ascorbic acid or Vitamin C. It is essential for the body's resistance to infection and also in the absorption of iron from foods.
One hundred grams of fresh calamansi juice contain 45 milligrams of ascorbic acid, supplying more than 60% of the recommended dietary allowance for an adult.

"Studies show that calamansi juice is nutritious and traditionally made into a fruit drink that helps prevent respiratory diseases," Ms. Hau said.
The citrus fruit helps circulate blood evenly and facilitates normal digestion. It also helps strengthen the bones and stimulate growth especially among growing children.

With simple technology, calamansi can be processed into a packed concentrated drink mixed with sugar, which serves as a natural preservative.
Ms. Hau said the extract undergoes at least 9 processing stages before it becomes ready-to-drink concentrated juice. These include sorting the fruits, and washing and sanitizing calamansi, and then the process of extracting the juice, filtering it, pasteurizing and finally to packaging and storage.

Based on a method developed by the Department of Science and Technology, a high juice yield and a good balance of sweetness are essential in the product.
The color is especially important in orange concentrates and bases. A good balanced flavor and color maybe obtained by blending juices.
Since Vitamin C is a most important nutritive factor in citrus juice, high ascorbic acid content is very desirable. It is also important that there be no excessive bitterness.

Ms. Hau also makes sure sanitation is on the top of her priorities. "The processing house must be clean and orderly. The working spaces are cemented with white tiles. Processors wear white clothes. The processing is manual, carefully following the formula of the Hazards Analysis Critical Control Point," she said.

On the average, Ms. Hau can make around 700 bottles a day, which sometimes reaches to more than 25,000 bottles per month.

From the original 6 employees, her workers increased to 13 and are all directly involved in the production, she said.

Ms. Hau said she is upgrading her product to expand its shelf-life. The Department of Science and Technology and the Industrial Technology Development Institute are helping her develop methods to prolong the shelf-life of the products. This includes changing her plastic bottles to the "heat-set" type that is capable of preserving the juice when exposed to heat.
Now, Ms. Hau said she markets her calamansi juice throughout the Zamboanga peninsula, and Davao, Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi provinces. And sells to as far as Cebu in the central Philippines.

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