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What now, Mama Sita's?

I've done a leisurely tour of the public markets and supermarkets in Gingoog, Carmen, Magsaysay, Nasipit, Buenavista and Butuan City, and found in the vegetable stalls packets and packets of Mama Sita's food mixes. Having stayed in Gingoog during the past three months, cooking for friends such Pinoy dishes as kare-kare, caldereta and sinigang has been easy: get the meat or seafood and vegetables ready, toss in the mixes, and in a jiffy, I fed my impressed friends who asked for third helpings.

Back in Manila, I had lunch with Clara Lapus of Marigold Holdings, manufacturer of Mama Sita's mixes and sauces and was given a big basket of products plus an update on the continuing success of the company. New recipes are now added to my cooking library ndash that of calamares, Oriental crab rice, chicken lollipops, banana blossoms burger, and so forth and so on.

Worth sharing or retelling,is Mama Sita's story. Back in 1980, Teresita "Sita" Reyes, eldest daughter of Dona Engracia "Aling Asyang" Reyes (matriarch of the famous Aristocrat Restaurant) asked her son-in-law Dr.

Bartolome Lapus, a scientist, to formulate a sinigang base that she could take to her children and grandchildren residing in the US. She was concerned that her grandchildren would be so used to American food, they would not know the taste of Filipino food.

Mama Sita would always cook native dishes for her Filipino and foreign guests during her frequent visits abroad. The first Mama Sita's product in paste form was Biglang Sinigang which was exported to San Francisco in the early 80s and enjoyed success among Filipinos in the area.

It was easy to use as one simply had to mix a spoonful of the product with water to produce sinigang broth that tasted as fresh as if tamarind or Sampaloc was just boiled, pureed and mixed in. The product's success gave Mama Sita the idea of developing a line of mixes and sauces to be used for preparing favorite Filipino dishes.

She put her son-in-law in charge of RandD, and the first company products were produced in the Reyes' ancestral home in San Juan. The first products were made with the use of a makeshift equipment, made by Dr.

Lapus' brother, an engineer this eventually became modernized, strictly following Mama Sita's rule ndash that only natural ingredients, and no artificial substitutes, would be used. A few years later, the company, named Marigold Holdings, rolled out dried mixes and bottled sauces: Kare-Kare Mix, Adobo Mix, and the bottled Barbecue Marinade.

These were followed by the Palabok Mix and the Sinigang Mix in powdered form. These were introduced in the international market in 1996, and of course, local supermarkets and local market stalls.

The company also started to cater to institutional accounts like hotels, restaurants, airlines and shipping companies. For these accounts Mama Sita's products are packed in one kg-packs, 1/2 or one gallon bottles, and 20-liter packs.

From the first five products the company introduced in the early 80s, Mama Sita's now boasts of an extensive product line made up of dry mixes and sauces. The dry mixes include annatoo (achuete) powder, barbecue marinade, breading mix, pang-gisa and mixes for lumpiang shanghai, sinigang, tocino, menudo, ginisang munggo, palabok, kare-kare, adobo, caldereta, chapsuey, pansit bihon, pinapaitan, and sweet and sour mix.

Constantly finding solutions to meal preparations by convenience and responding to market demand, the company launched recently a completely new line called Fresh and Chunky. A take on the mainstream dried mixes but in paste form, it also includes a new tomato sauce line.

Packed in foil pouches, the sauces contain only fresh ingredients. The variants include tomato sauce, sweet and sour, menudo, caldereta, kiddie spaghetti, kare-kare and sinigang sa Sampaloc.

Mama Sita's products are available not just in Asian and Filipino stores abroad but also in supermarket shelves in North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and European countries. They are also distributed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, India and Pakistan.

The Middle East is the biggest market with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, Kuwait, and Qatar as major consumers. Knowing that Filipinos enjoy taking back to their adopted countries some pasalubong, Mama Sita's has come up with a pack of essential mixes called Survival Kit Pack.

This contains five pouches of dried mixes that include adobo, kare-kare, sinigang, menudo and palabok or chapsuey. Enclosed is a recipe pamphlet.

The kit is most welcomed by OFWs hankering for Filipino food, and is sold at the airport and in Filipino-Oriental stores like SM Kultura, where balikbayans often shop. The company has published three cookbooks to further encourage local and overseas Filipinos and foreigners, in cooking Pinoy dishes.

These areLutong Bahay, Homestyle Recipes,andDiscover Mama Sita's Flavor of the Philippine Islands. The latter is intended for the Middle Eastern market and thus has no pork recipes.

Mama Sita's successes have not allowed Marigold Holdings people to sit back and take things easy. Mama Sista's Foundation, headed by eldest daughter Clarita Lapus (whose husband is Dr.

Bartolome Lapus), is educating farmers on proper farming techniques to come up with quality produce that the company buys and uses for its various products. Clara gave me a pouch of achuete seeds to grow in our family farm in Gingoog: "This way, the company is assured of constant and high quality inputs all the time while at the same time doing their share in contributing to improving the farmers' quality of life.

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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 31, 2018
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