Doing business in the Philippines can be quite different than doing business elsewhere. This is particularly true when trying to introduce a totally new concept such as Farm to Hotel marketing, which cannot be easily Googled. Our community of Family Farmers made our first connection with a Parque Espaňa Residence Hotel in Alabang, in Metro Manila. Chef Chris of The Coffee Kitchen at the hotel expressed an interest in carrying our local farmer products because our concept of locally produced, high-quality products directly from the farm fit the message he was trying to convey with his customers.
Chef Chris is a young, aggressive chef in the culinary scene. Chef Chris was featuring locally grown coffee such as Excelsa and Liberica varieties in his coffee line. He focuses the customers coffee experience with his tableside presentation he makes with his coffee cart. In some ways reminiscent of the Japanese tea ceremony or the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Chef Chris realizes that some customers will put value in the experience of drinking coffee, not just grabbing a cup of java to go.
The concept of featuring locally produced farm products and what value it brought to the hotel in terms of revenue is not easy to introduce to the hospitality community. It was very fortunate that the General Manager of the Hotel, Ms. Agnes Luna, had a personal connection to agriculture, coming from an area where family farming is way of life. She understood what Chef Chris was trying to accomplish. Even more importantly, Ms. Luna gave Chef Chris the latitude and support to give it a try. With her support, middle-management got totally behind the effort.
The scene is set for family farmers to showcase their farm produce.
The scene is set. It is now up to our farmers group to make it a smashing success. We knew our product line was excellent. Products from our farmers group have been sold locally to a number of people through direct sales. Sales are relatively easy because we know our product line and we know what we have done to improve our products and make them superior to other products available to potential consumers. When you have that kind of confidence in your products, testimonials from people who’ve tried them, sales are easy even though the products might be quite a bit more expensive. You may not sell a case of your product, but margins are such that profits still make it worthwhile.
The opening of The Coffee Kitchen on December 7th, 2013 featured our community of family farmers with the hotel management in concert with our efforts. Press releases were sent out, media contacts were made, and notices were sent to potential customers living in this high end section of Metro Manila. The venue would be a Saturday morning opening with a small farmers market in front of the hotel followed by presentations in the coffee shop.
Philippine Family Farmers selling their farm product in front of the hotel.
What we know about this new form of agriculture is important. We know that consumers are no longer looking for just commodities like apples, oranges, tomatoes, and rice. There are a growing number of consumers looking for products and they are willing to pay more for these products.
We also know that these types of products cost more to produce. They are no longer lost in the value chain with other commodities but retain some sort of “added value.” We also know that if our business plan allows for a PRODUCT to be produced, not just a commodity, it has the potential to bring higher profits.
Direct from the farm: from fresh eggs to homemade vinegar to soap made from milk and more.
Farmers just aren’t farmers any more. They are producers of value added products and these producers do their business closer to the value chain. In many cases producers may, such as in our case, become the value chain for the consumer. A secondary business sprung to life, R Basicneeds, which serves as our transportation and brokerage arm. But more on that another time.
And finally, our way of doing business relies heavily on relationships we build with our customers. This is done through trust and conveying accurate information about who we are and what we are trying to do. Intangibles like these add profits to a Producers bottom line.
The opportunities are limitless. Farm to hotel marketing is not always an option for all family farmers but yes, it is an option. The knocking continues.