Friday, September 25, 2009

Real creamy goodness

Published last September 9, 2009 at the op ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

I love ice cream. It’s my comfort food. I don’t know if there is any kid in this country who does not consider ice cream a treat. When I was a child growing up in the province, ice cream was not something that was readily available and the very few itinerant ice cream vendors that went around our town passed through our street only once a day. Thus, we kids had half an ear perpetually on the watch out for that oh-so-familiar and much-awaited tinkling of the mamang sorbetero’s bell. What a sight we must have been—emerging from playhouses or climbing down trees hastily putting on rubber slippers and running off to welcome the man who would make our day.

Kids of this generation are luckier. Not only is ice cream readily available today, there are also lots of variations to choose from. There are also new ice cream products that are coming out that’s not only giving the more established brands stiff competition because they offer something new and something better in terms of both quality and price.

Anyway. What got me writing about ice cream were two incidents that happened recently, both having to do with ice cream or at least variations of it. I have written in the past about the need for stricter and more comprehensive oversight of the food industry business, particularly those at the micro enterprise level such as those engaged in the production of dirty ice cream and some of its variants such as ice scramble, ice candies, ice drops, etc. Many of the stuff that is sold in our streets are really unsafe for consumption. The conditions that attend the manufacture of these products are abysmally substandard. I had the opportunity to revalidate these observations recently.

Last Saturday, I was invited to a small family affair in one of the side streets around the maze of the Blumentritt area, which turned out to be near the place where various assortment of palamig are produced. I spotted a couple of men shaving ice right on the sidewalk beside a canal. Given the fact that they were going about their work without any regard for sanitation—they were half-naked, their hands and feet were filthy, and there was mud and dirty all over the immediate vicinity of their workplace—one would have thought they were shaving ice to be used as preservative for fish products. Actually, they were shaving ice to be used for ice scramble, the local equivalent of snow cones.

As if the filthy conditions were not enough, I also noted that the ingredients they were using were not only devoid of any nutritional value, they were also of dubious quality. Into a pail of ice were thrown food coloring that looked like brown sugar and artificial flavor—that was it.

I am told the same conditions attend the production of the many other food products that are sold in our streets. When we come to think about it, it’s a little ironic that we worry a lot about the other things that supposedly pose danger to the public such as for instance the safety of our transportation systems but we don’t worry enough about what are being sold to and ingested by our children on the streets.

The sad thing is that there are actually better options out there except that not many people are aware of it, or in some cases ignore because of misconceptions. For example, many people think branded ice cream that’s sold in scooping stations are more expensive compared to dirty ice cream that’s sold in the streets. There’s also this fallacy that food that tastes better and served in better packaging is for the rich, not for the masa. And this is where the other ice cream incident comes into the picture. There is an ice cream brand in the market that is affordable yet is of superior quality.

I’ve been hearing about this new ice cream brand that a lot of people swear by because it is so creamy and yet is reasonably priced, but I never really had the chance to experience it until last weekend.

I first heard about the brand from my nine-year-old nephew who is a fan because it is available at a store near his school. This nephew, who also loves ice cream so much he insists that it qualifies as dinner on its own, is quite an expert on ice cream. We were in a supermarket a couple of months back and I noted his frantic search among the various freezers that contained ice cream products. He was looking for his favorite ice cream brand, and was sorely disappointed because it was not available in that supermarket. The ice cream he was looking for was Creamline ice cream. I initially thought it was a local franchise of a global brand but I have learned that it is proudly Filipino. It’s manufactured right out of Angeles, Pampanga from where the Clark Air Base used to be. However, the milk that is used to produce Creamline ice cream is imported from Europe and Australia, which probably accounts for the fact that the ice cream is creamier.

But what I really liked about Creamline ice cream is the fact that it is less sweet compared to other brands. I know; the general definition of ice cream is that it is supposed to be sweet but then again, it doesn’t have to be cloyingly so.

Creamline opened an ice cream house at Nakpil Street at Malate, right beside the Philippine Women’s University, last July. It’s just a couple of blocks from where we live but unfortunately, I never really got to patronize the place until last weekend. The kids in the house are regulars of the ice cream house, though. The Creamline ice cream house offers a delectable menu of ice cream dishes that are also distinctive for their Pinoy touch. Their topseller, for instance, is a chocolate concoction called Pinatubo Overload, and it is a mountain of chocolate-flavored ice cream piled on top of each other and drizzled with lots of syrup and other goodies. Their version of the classic Banana split is called Banana Split Fiesta, and it is a delightful take on the halo halo—in addition to the banana slices and the ice cream, it has nata de coco and other ingredients that make halo halo a favorite. And all these at only about a third of what they would usually cost at the more traditional ice cream houses in malls.

According to the store manager, Jon Rivera, Creamline is able to offer quality ice cream at very affordable prices (all their products including popsicles and other retail products) costs lower than competition because of the company’s efficient production process and a unique marketing strategy—they enter into distributorship, dealership, and retailer agreements with various individuals. For a small investment of just about P3,000, housewives can already sell Creamline ice cream from their stores or even houses. It’s a variation of the current business trend of going straight to the market instead of having too many middlemen.

Coincidentally, I learned that Creamline ice cream had a formidable team of people behind it who have put at stake their outstanding reputations. The chairman of the board is Sonny Vistan, formerly the most senior ranking Filipino executive at Citibank, former president of Landbank and Solidbank, and recently, former chairman of United Coconut Planters Bank. People in the banking industry know Vistan as a man of unquestionable integrity and that’s another reason to trust Creamline ice cream. It’s guaranteed to deliver what it promises, in this case, real creamy goodness at very affordable prices.

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