Virginia Chua’s pastries, made fresh at her bakeshop in Bacolod, were reaching many parts of the globe even though she was not exporting them. The balikbayans who had come to love her sweet concoctions served as her unpaid couriers. “Kung minsan may dumadating na lang sa amin, dala lang ang label at hinahanap talaga kami,” she says.
Discovering that her products were going overseas forced her to take a long, hard look at her packaging. Chua knew that she already had her recipes down pat; she just wanted her pastries to stand out if these were indeed being arrayed against a sea of foreign products. “Our customers are mostly balikbayans who bring our products abroad. Dapat i-improve natin ang packaging para maganda naman ang produkto natin sa labas.”
When she started her home-based business in 1974, Chua’s famous pastillas de manga (mango tarts) were wrapped only in transparent plastic, which easily crushed while in transit. To solve this, she sealed each piece in plastic cellophane to keep out the moisture, and then arranged each one in a box. Not only did her pastries look more presentable, but their shelf life lengthened by a month – from two months to three months.
Her experience with the balikbayans had encouraged Chua to go formally into export. She approached the Department of Science and Technology’s Packaging Research and Development Center (PRDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry’s Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP) for help in improving her products.
The DOST is now guiding Chua to lengthen her products’ shelf life to six months with the use of new packaging materials. PDDCP is helping her make her products visually appealing at all points of sale and to develop a strong logo for her brand.