Going beyond condiments

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MAGGI — as in the condiments, seasonings, and soups brand — is empowering home cooks and students with food security measures to face economic setbacks.

On the sidelines of a media cook-off on Nov. 22, Kurt Santiago, Service Pillar Manager of Nestlé Philippines (Nestlé has owned Maggi since 1947) laid out their advocacies which are tied to the slogan Ang Nagmamahal, Nagma-Maggi (roughly translated: “Those who love use Maggi”) for 2022, and their plans to scale it up in 2023.

In 2022, through the help of the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), the brand established the Maggi Sarap Sustansya Garden at the Nestlé Lipa Integrated Coffee Center (LICC). Since then, Maggi has been conducting vegetable planting demonstrations via Facebook Live and onsite visits. Maggi will soon be providing vegetable gardening workshops as an exclusive perk for active subscribers of its Sarap Sustansya Kusinaskwela group, which will also include a zero-waste demonstration on how vegetable cuttings can be re-grown, and how kitchen scraps can be used as compost. The project aims to benefit marginalized communities in urban and rural areas.

The project aims to achieve food security by promoting a garden-to-table movement. The DA-BPI provides seeds, fertile soil, and skills training to the beneficiaries.

“What we provide will be a little bit of funding,” said Mr. Santiago, in addition to the use of the land at the aforementioned LICC. The aim of the project is to provide these communities with their own ingredients to keep them safe from price shocks. “So that they don’t get exposed to the volatility of our economy,” explained Mr. Santiago. So they can save money: “They don’t need to buy all the ingredients they need when they cook, if they have the produce in their own garden.”

In 2023, they plan to scale it up by partnering with satellite offices of the DA-BPI across the Philippines (particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao).

Connected to that, another partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) seeks to harness the program and its skills to aid in special schools devoted to farming and agriculture in 2023.

NUTRITIOUS MEALSMeanwhile, the Sarap Sustansya Kusinaskwela (an educational platform available online) is expanding its wings to cover homemakers and young people in need of good food. For young people, they have conducted virtual cookoffs to teach students and those in need how to make nutritious meals. About a month ago, they conducted a demo with the Philippine Army Officers’ Ladies Club, in order to teach army spouses to make nutritious meals on a budget. According to Mr. Santiago, some army households living on a stipend have to do with just P100-P200 a day for their meals.

Speaking about these projects aimed to help home cooks on very tight budgets, he said, “We know that they’re the most vulnerable and most exposed to food insecurity. When commodity prices rise, they are the ones who probably would let go of their access to nutritious meals.”

The thrust is on education instead of more common handout programs because, as he explained, “One of the biggest gaps is in knowledge. They don’t know that they can cook nutritious meals on a budget.”

Another part of this program is the expansion of the Sarap Sustansya Kusinaskwela, which will come to TikTok sometime this year, to be able to reach more people.

Its website added a MyMenuPlanner function that simplifies meal planning for home cooks by recommending dishes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinner on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. It will also further streamline its recipe services to provide personalized content to its Facebook followers and its website subscribers.

PROCESSED FOODStill, it does concede that for all the talk about nutrition, the brand addresses the issues surrounding processed food. Mr. Santiago said that the brand rests on three principles: “Everything in moderation, variety, and balance.”

“We know that there is a lot of stigma against (processed) products, right?,” he said. “We offer recipes that have a nutritional value when they use our products.”

“When we teach them the recipes, the value exchange for the brand is if we train them, then they can make these meals more delicious with the power of our products — that’s when the usage comes in,” he explained about the projects’ benefits to the brand.

“The North Star of the brand is to cook the difference, one meal at a time, but we want to scale it up.”

For recipes, visit https://www.youtube.com/@maggiphilippines9761. — Joseph L. Garcia