Pioneer Filipino herbal company eyes export markets in Japan, EU

By Melody M. Aguiba
Published: May 21, 2013

A pioneer Filipino herbal firm is exploring exports to Japan and European Union for its “ unique” natural health products like “Roselle Fiber Strips” as it had established more than 20 hectares of herbal farm in Negros Occidental.

Herbanext Laboratories, Inc. (HLI) has tapped consolidator Brandexport Phils. - Inc. to market abroad its products which have already created raving markets in the Philippines. It has 16 plus distribution centers mostly in Visayas at present.

It is a pioneer and perhaps the only company manufacturing Roselle products in the Philippines.

The company, started by 2005 TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) awardee Philip S. Cruz, has an existing 13-hectare herbal farm in Bago City (Negros Occidental) and another 10 hectare-farm five kilometers away from Bago City. Its processing plant is also in Bago City.

“We are positioning ourselves for export under Brandexport. There’s a very good demand in the market in Europe and Japan because our product is new, and they’re always looking for new products,” said Lope Adrean Gutierrez of HLI in an interview at the International Food Exhibition.

Top among its products is Roselle, a plant with deep red flowers belonging to the Gumamela (Hibiscus) family but one that is edible. It is highly nutritious with rich antioxidant content. HLI has seven other Roselle products aside from fiber strips — syrup, preserves, sweet chips, tea, jam, herb cooler, and slimming drink.

HLI had a boost in its entrepreneurial effort when it obtained a loan from Department of Science and Technology’s SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program).

SETUP loan usually involves P1 million. The company’s spray dryers, encapsulators, boilers, and other laboratory equipment were acquired through SETUP.

For its farm, it has three potential expansion areas — one south and one north of Negros Occidental and another farm in Davao. It has at least a 10-hectare standby area for Roselle.

HLI has succeeded marketing under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-registered Daily Apple brand. It also has organic certification from France-based ECOCERT.

Unfortunately, it goes through delays in FDA registration.

“Right now we’re in talks with distributors in supermarkets. There are just delays in FDA release of CPR (certificate of product registration). We encounter some delays because FDA is undermanned. FDA regulates too much the registered ones, but they don’t regulate the unregistered. There’s not much monitoring of the imported,” Gutierrez said.

Roselle has South American roots, but it is grown extensively for tea in Malaysia. It is a good food coloring agent with very bright dark red color that is an excellent substitute to FC Red, a chemical compound for food coloring.

The company has other herbal products (mostly tea) from Lagundi, Ginger Salabat, Tsaang Gubat, Ampalaya, Cat’s Whisker or Balbas Pusa, Banaba, Centella/Gotu Kola, Lemongrass, Moringa or Malunggay, Graviola or Guyabano, Holy Basil, Pecah Beling, Mugwort, and Mint.