MANILA, Philippines – Many Filipino dishes have calamansi as a main ingredient, with the fruit’s juice used either as a marinade, as part of a dish or a dip.
Cooking for a small family using calamansi involves slicing the fruit, squeezing the juice out then straining the juice to remove the seeds. Cooking large batches for a party could make this tedious chore a nightmare.
D-Lite Ingredients and Chemicals, a company established in 2011, is pushing powdered calamansi as an alternative to the squeezing and the mess involved with handling the fresh fruit.
The firm’s sales manager, Francis Ciabal, was at the recent Biotechnology Week exhibit held by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
D-Lite is a member of the Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines Inc., which participated in the exhibit.
D-Lite’s mother company, Global Partners Inc. (GPI), formulates powdered fruit and vegetable juices for other firms which then market the products under their own label; for hotels and restaurants; and for manufacturers of products that use the calamansi juice.
Among their products which are exported are powdered banana, pineapple, moringa and ampalaya.
D-Lite was founded by GPI owners Dale and Patricia Bandalan, now in their 60s, to market GPI’s products locally under the Juan brand for household consumers. The brand is already out in the United States.
“Our first product, powdered calamansi, it’s already out in the market. That’s it for now, but we have other powdered preparations of fruits and vegetables in the pipeline,” Ciabal said.
He added that D-Lite would also come out with “the first ever” green mango powder. “Before, every time you go to a fancy restaurant, you order a green mango shake. That is seasonal. Because we have green mango powder, it will be available all year round,” Ciabal said.
At the exhibit, one box containing 48 two-gram sachets sold for P40. Two grams of powdered calamansi, according to GPI’s website, is equivalent to the juice of seven fruits. The price of a kilo of calamansi in the market fluctuates between P20 to as high as P60.
Ciabal said their product’s only competitor is bottled calamansi puree, available under several brands.
“They’re very expensive, at P80 to P100 per bottle. They’re also full of preservatives and sugar, which mask the natural taste of calamansi. Their shelf life is four to six months, and will only last a week once the bottle is opened,” he said.
He said Juan’s calamansi powder can be stored for about 24 months. According to Ciabal, D-Lite has distributors who sell the calamansi powder locally to small restaurants, eateries, mini-groceries and selected neighborhood stores.
“Hopefully, by the first quarter of 2013, it will be available in leading groceries and supermarkets,” he said.
Ciabal said one bartender found that two sachets of calamansi powder could be added to light beer to make a shandy, while another bar uses the powder for sisig.
Ciabal revealed that Bandalan is actually a chemical engineer while his wife, Patricia, is a chemist. “When he retired, (it was) as president of Zesto. Fruits are his forte,” he said, adding that Bandalan turned to spray drying to produce fruit and vegetable powders.
He goes on to explain that spray drying is the same technology used in making powdered milk formula. “What it does is it evaporates the liquid part of the juice and what is left is the powdered particles of fruit. The flavor is encapsulated. When mixed with water, the aroma, the taste come alive,” Ciabal said.
He described the spray-drying machine as a tank that is about three to five stories high. Using pressure and steam, the puree is rendered into powder.
Ciabal said D-Lite’s trade secret is the temperature used in the process, which he claims makes Juan’s calamansi powder retain more of the nutrients from the fruit.
“Other spray-dried products lose more of their nutritional content,” he said, noting that the same powdered juice, produced by two firms, would have different textures or tastes because of the temperature used to make it.
Ciabal said that as much as possible, they try to get fruits from organic plantations and farmers, though “it is rather difficult. We really screen our suppliers.”
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