Elizabeth Ceniza : “We owe our growth to local indigenous fruits and vegetables”
An ex-jewelry retailer tells us how products grown in the backyard can help a great deal in starting a business
Although the Philippine herbal industry has been pronounced as a Php4 billion market, more consumers look at it as just mere second resort. Elizabeth Ceniza learned this the hard way, when she opted to leave a good position in a jewelry company to start her own herbal business.
“When I first started, people were discouraging me. They kept telling me that the herbal industry is an unsure way to make money, especially given the background that I have. I had no idea where to start,” said Beth, owner and president of Wonder Country of Nature Health Products.
It wasn’t just the money-making potential of herbs that inspired Beth to gamble everything that she had. Members of her family complained of different illnesses and were occasionally rushed to hospitals. So she deemed these as an opportunity to start on an intensive research about alternative medicine and begin on what seemed like a new chapter in her professional life.
Lito Abelarde, president of the Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines of the Philippines, Inc. (CHIPI) noted that the `alternative health products boom’ is not just a local phenomenon. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the global health industry is growing at a sturdy rate and is now valued at US$6o billion. Herbal products, most of which are marketed as natural food supplements, consist of either the fruit, root, bark or leaves of known medicinal plants which could be dried, crushed, powdered, and processed into herbal teas and capsules, and are sold as supplements to pharmaceutical drugs. Most of them too, can be found in ordinary backyards.
“Our small little backyard in Project 6, Quezon City, houses different indigenous plants, fruits and vegetables. And this was where I began. I wanted to start with little capital as possible, so I looked at what modest garden I had as an enormous investment,” said Beth.
Six primary ingredients to make up Wonder Country’s first fruit juice were picked after a few weeks of research: sampalok (tamarind), kamias (bilimbi), guyabano (soursop), Sampalok’s pulp alone is considered useful for proper digestion, a remedy for biliousness and bile disorders, and as an ant scorbutic. In native practice, the pulp is applied on inflammations, used in a gargle for sore throat and, if mixed with salt, as a liniment for rheumatism.
Local use of kamias has been known to cure skin diseases like postpartum and rectal inflammations, mumps, acne and localized rheumatism. The kamias flower, when combined with a pint of boiling water, can make a good tea that can combat cough and thrush. Its fruit has been used for a variety of maladies like beriberi, cough and prevention of scurvy.
The guyabano’s juicy ripe fruit, which is an excellent source of Vitamins B and C, is eaten raw. The unripe kind, however, is considered good for dysentery. In some cultures, the fruits and leaves are used for their tranquilizing and sedative properties. The decoction of leaves can be used for head lice and bedbugs and for inflammations.
The pineapple, on the other hand, is a tropical fruit that contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which helps in the digestion of protein. Pineapple can prevent blood clot formation because of its bromelain content. It is found to be helpful in cases of goiter, dyspepsia, bronchitis, catarrh, high blood pressure and arthritis.
The benefits of the mangosteen fruit revolve around the presence of antioxidants, which is well-known to slow down the aging process. There are also other natural supplements such as fiber, potassium, calcium, Vitamin Bi, Vitamin B2, Iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, to name a few.
Malunggay is best known as an excellent source of nutrition. Loaded with vitamins and amino acids, it replenishes the body and provides extra energy that is not sugar-based. Each ounce contains seven times the Vitamin C found in oranges, four times the Vitamin A of carrots, three times the iron of spinach, four times the calcium of milk and three times the potassium of bananas.
The Wonder Country fruit juice started in the Ceniza household and found its way in other homes through a good spread of word-of-mouth referrals, where Beth assumed: the product does work.
At present, Wonder Country has a full-blown line of health care products that include a fortified virgin coconut oil and herbal teas that are good against arthritis, asthma, cholesterol, diabetes, diarrhea, digestive disorders, dysmenorrheal, heart ailments, kidney problems, kidney stone, liver ailments, migraine, sinusitis, prostate problems, toothache, uric acid and urinary tract infections.
As part of its growth, Wonder Country has also began producing herbal drops that combat acne, burns, eczema, scabies, gangrenes, hemorrhoids, insect bites, mouth sores, open wounds and psoriasis.
But their best-seller so far, is the fruit juice, priced at Phpi2o (35o ml). This product accounts for 50% of their annual production; their volume capacity at 150o bottles a month.
As Wonder Country continued to grow, Beth decided to take up a space in the Agri Aqua Network Inc. (AANI) exhibit area in the East Avenue Gate of the Quezon City Memorial Circle, where she met fellow entrepreneurs who tried her products as well, and were amazed with what they can do.
A work in progress
“In this industry, I learned that the hardest hurdle is convincing the customers that we aren’t just the second resort. Every time I’m with a new client, I tell them that the product (fruit juice) is free from any chemical and is primarily six fruits in one, so there’s basically nothing to lose,” said Beth.
To further promote the products, she was convinced by her husband to join agri and food trade fairs, where she learned more about her own product and ways to develop it, as well as the market that were open arms to new and original ideas.
“After a year of production, my orders almost tripled so I had to find new contractors, most of whom I met from Quezon City; Montalban, Rizal and Caloocan City, to supply the bottles and the indigenous materials that the products are made of,” she added, “It has come to a point that my own backyard can’t hold out any longer so I had to source my materials elsewhere.”
She and her company of nine still see Wonder Country as a work in progress. And as more and more people are taking notice, they also gun for changes in terms of selling their product more efficiently. This includes a Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) approval, a more sophisticated label and packaging, and a stall in one of Metro Manila’s malls.
Wonder Country can be reached thru +632-926-9567.