Ramar Foods Innovate and Re-Brand Filipino Food to Reach Broader Markets


Primo and Evangeline Quesada grew sales of Ramar Foods in tandem with the growth of the Asian population in the United States. The 2010 U.S. Census reported that 5.6% of the population was Asian, either alone or in combination with one or more races. The Asian population grew 45.6% from 2000 to 2010.to 17.3 million. The Filipino population increased 44.5% to 3.4 million. It is the second-largest Asian group, after Chinese (4 million).

“We built the company selling to small, independent Asian stores where they just sell Asian groceries,” said Ronald, who is involved in marketing and creative services.

He described the evolution of the Asian shopper who moved from Asian grocers to large chains for general merchandise but continued to shop at Asian groceries for the specific fish, produce and dessert items that the big stores don’t carry.

“There are now Asian markets that are trying to be a one-stop shop. So it’s like a supermarket format. You’ll even have non-Asians shopping there because the location is better but they can still get what they need. They also offer the more exotic stuff like our ice cream,” Quesada said. “I call them medium-chain groceries. These are the stores like Seafood City, Island Pacific and 99 Ranch.”

“We sold enough ice cream tubs in 2014 to make me think that every Filipino had us in their freezer at least once during the year. But I think there is going to be a limit to how much more we can grow by just targeting Filipinos,” he said.

That’s the reason Ramar Foods now is going into mainstream supermarkets, including Whole Foods, Ralph’s (Kroger’s division in California) and H-E-B stores in Texas. PJ Quesada called the northeast, New Jersey and New York “a nice little area for us.” Kings Supermarkets in New Jersey and Morton Williams stores in Manhattan carry the brand.

As Ramar pursues the mainstream, the chains have recognized interest in ethnic offerings.

“They’re also interested in offering ethnic aisles in the grocery or even in their freezer space. So they have a Hispanic section, Asian section. Some stores, especially the ones in really diverse neighborhoods, they’re giving us doors in their freezer for our products. We’re really excited about that,” Quesada said.

Courting the large chains meant reframing what Magnolia was all about. Conversations with brokers and retailers used to start with: “These are Asian ice cream flavors.”

“What we would say to retailers is, ‘This is the No. 1 ice cream brand in the Asian demographic space.’ And that’s something we thought they would find valuable. And they did, to a point. But once we realized we were positioning it as an Asian ice cream, they weren’t really sure what to do with it, where to merchandise it, etc. So we shifted to talk about it as being tropical, because the Philippines is a very tropical country. When we started talking about it in a tropical sense, it started to make sense to the buyers and also to the consuming public. The potential market size started to really develop. We’re still in the early phases of that,” he said.

Moving from a grocer’s ethnic door to the ice cream door is where the company wants to be. But, as PJ noted, “It’s a lot more crowded in the ice cream door.”

Management also realized it needed a new package design if it were to compete with mainstream ice cream brands. The new designs make references to surfing and the beach. A package of lychee ice cream notes that it is “as refreshing as a killer curl but a lot creamier.” The coconut flavor is “so intense you’ll feel like one dropped on your head.”

Besides Magnolia, Ramar Foods has another brand called Primo Sorbetero, named for Primo Quesada. This line of ice creams and sorbets is made and currently sold in Europe, with other countries in the works.

Read the rest of the story.
News story from DairyFoods.com.