“At Fila Manila, our vision is to represent the next generation of Filipino American flavors. Filipinos are one of the largest API groups in the US with almost zero representation in grocery. And so, it's our small way of trying to impact culture and trying to add that much-needed representation with our delicious food. This year has been pretty transformative for us.”
A transformative year for Fila Manila
As part of a "transformative" year, Fila Manila has switched from glass jars to pouches and squeeze bottles for its sauces and condiments, Deleon said. The new packaging started rolling out in July, and Fila Manila will be available at Target, Whole Foods, Meijer, and Stop and Shop, he added.
The new packaging “immediately ... brings our prices down because our cost of goods is lower. But also, more importantly for us, it's really a sustainability impact. So, we're producing waste that's only about 10% of the weight versus glass with the same amount of product. We try to innovate not only in terms of product but innovate in terms of being responsible for the environment.”
[Editor's Note: Interested in learning about sustainable packaging options? Join FoodNavigator-USA for our virtual Futureproofing the Food System summit in November at which we will explore aspects of the circular economy along with advances in food-tech and the food as medicine movement. Learn more and registere HERE.]
Like many food and beverage startups, Fila Manila has also been navigating a tighter capital market and other challenges, which has required the brand to think beyond packaging to grow in the market. One way Fila Manila is doing this is by rationalizing its product portfolio and reducing the number of SKUs it offers, Deleon said.
“With the transition, we narrowed down our product line. For example, we used to have eight SKUs, and now we're focusing on just four SKUs. And so now we have four SKUs and basically focusing on these key flavor concepts that I believe represent Filipino cuisine and just doubling down on growing these single SKUs."
Global flavors continue still see increased demand
Fila Manila also is tapping into the growing demand for authentic global flavors, Deleon said. Today, consumers are going beyond broad categories like Asian food and looking for products that represent a specific country or region like Sichuan cuisine or Vietnamese Pho, he added.
“Asian cuisine could be a mix of 50 other cultures. It's Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino. ... Going in the future is this idea of individually focusing on these unique and special cuisines and cultures that make Asia, that make Africa, that makes South America really unique.”
To promote authentic brands and individual culture, Deleon founded a trade group called Founders Heritage earlier in the year that supports brands operating in global flavors through webinars and networking opportunities. Founders Heritage will also have a dedicated pavilion at the upcoming Natural Products Expo East event where brands will be showcasing their offerings.
“We know being an entrepreneur is hard, and we celebrate entrepreneurship of all kinds. But for us, there's always something magical we know when you communicate and when you bring part of your own heritage and heart out into the market. And that's exactly what we're doing. We try to find ways to support each other so that our similar missions get conveyed out into the market and executed in the same way.”