Getting to know all the products that were catered at the event DOST organized. 

Given the results of the recent awards organized by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) with the support of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), the DOST’s Food Innovation Centers (FICs) may be the newest places to find the latest innovative and nutritious food products.

Most innovative food product for water retort technology: Tea Tums took first place while Uved placed second.

Recently, DOST’s ITDI and PCIEERD recognized the Most Innovative Products developed by Food Innovation Centers (FIC) technologies and found exciting new products developed using in-house equipment such as the water retort, vacuum fryer, spray dryer, and freeze dryer.

These awards are part of DOST’s program for developing the competence of FIC managers and technical personnel, particularly in product development and innovation. The DOST aims to achieve this by providing more detailed training on important aspects of food processing such as product development, food safety and regulations, food packaging, nutrition labeling, product costing, and marketing strategies.

“We have done a project on building up the confidence of our personnel in the FICs. As such, we would like to culminate this project by looking at the competence of our personnel in terms of their development of prototypes which we would find most innovative,” said Dr. Maria Patricia Azanza, DOST-ITDI director, after the initial screening, which came up with five food products from each technology.

The finalists were further tested in terms of innovativeness, market viability, consumer acceptability, and soundness of process. Judges came from the academe, public and private organizations, and institutions.

THE WINNERS – For the Most Innovative Products for Water Retort Technology, the winner was Tea Tums, developed by students and professors of the University of the Philippines Diliman. These are healthy ready-to-drink juices made from lemongrass, a calamansi blend infused with turmeric, and ginger. All ingredients are known to have potential health benefits. Cagayan State University-Carig Campus placed second in this category with Uved, a traditional Ivatan food made from banana roots. The product is attractive to health-conscious consumers and travelers. It was also developed with a longer shelf life so tourists visiting Batanes can buy it as pasalubong.

Region II bagged awards under the freeze-drying technology category. Gracilaria, a kind of seaweed mass produced in Buguey, Cagayan that can be used as flavoring or processed as seaweed chips, took the award for the Most Innovative Product. Arius, which took second place in the same category, is a tree that can grow anywhere in the Philippines but can only bear fruit in Batanes due to climate conditions. Its fruit yields natural food colorants that can substitute for imported berries.

Most innovative food product for Freeze Drying Technology: Gracilaria took first place while Arius placed second.

For spray-dried products, the Most Innovative Product award went to Sea Grapes Powder or lato of the Zamboanga State College of Marine Science and Technology in Region IX. It claims to have a natural salty, peppery taste which can be used as flavoring for chips, noodles, and baked products. It can also be mixed with beverages. Bukolyte, a powdered form of coconut water (made from young coconuts) that has no artificial flavors and preservatives added, was developed by the Philippine Women’s College-Davao in Region XI and took second place in this category.

Lastly, the Most Innovative Product for vacuum frying technology went to Crispy Sprouted Monggo of Region II. The product is said to contain more nutrients compared to ordinary monggo. It can provide energy and help strengthen the immune systems of lactating or pregnant women. Fried Mayahini or barinday of Eastern Visayas State University in Region VIII took the award for the second Most Innovative Product for this category. In the process of frying, Fried Mayahini retains its natural and nutritional qualities; thus, it can be an alternative to the unhealthy chips available on the market. 

For the special awards, Region II received the “FIC with the Most Number of Qualifying Products” with their seven food product entries. Another special award, the “Industry Choice Award,” was given to Regions II and IX for Crispy Sprouted Monggo and Sea Grapes Powder, respectively. This award recognizes product/s that scored high in the following criteria: novelty, consumer appeal, manufacturing feasibility, and competitive pricing.

THE CHALLENGE – Commercialization of these food products poses the biggest challenge after the awarding ceremonies. Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, recognized this challenge in her closing message. To the judges, she said that they can do much in helping promote these food products as they came from different sectors of the society. “I believe that we have the products to make the Philippines food secure. Making these available, affordable, and accessible will only happen if we have the FICs,” said Dr. Guevara.

WHAT ARE FICs? – Food Innovation Centers were developed in 2015 and house five DOST-developed technologies: vacuum packaging machine, water retort, vacuum fryer, spray dryer, and freeze dryer. The spray dryer transforms liquids into powder instantly, while the freeze dryer produces dried materials while prolonging shelf life and allowing for a more convenient way of transporting these materials. The water retort machine improves the shelf life of food products even in non-refrigerated conditions, and the vacuum fryer creates crunchy products that are low in fat and high in fiber with minimal changes in color and flavor.

As of 2016, DOST has established 10 FICs nationwide; these are located at the NCR and in Regions 2, 4B, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11, with the main FIC located at ITDI, DOST Compound. FICs are open to scientists, technologists, and academicians who are in need of the said technologies.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2017 issue.