Wonders of the
DTI-MSG-Knowledge Management and Information Service
March 3, 2023
Eating without guilt
Almost 12 years ago, the
doctors made it clear to Leyte-born Andy Albao that he would need to
adopt healthier diet options if he was to fully recover from his
kidney ailment. With his condition, he switched to an alternative
and healthier food sweetener, the coco sugar.
Soon, he and his family –
including his four children – began using coco sugar for their
dietary requirements. However, sourcing affordable coconut sugar was
difficult, and this is when Andy’s interest in developing coconut
At the time, Andy was
running a smooth business from Makati supplying industrial spare
Turning a quest into an
The need and drive towards
a healthier lifestyle led to the founding of Andy Albao’s
Corporation - CocoWonders in 2011. Andy’s personal interest in using
coconut sugar led to the company to produce 60 coconut products
including coconut jam, coconut chocolate spread and virgin coconut
Today, the entrance of the
administrative office premises of Coco wonders in Makati City is
adorned with a range of value-added coconut products indicative of
the many uses of the fruit.
journey to Europe
Set up with an initial
capital of 2.5 million pesos (approximately $135,000 today),
CocoWonders was already exporting coconut products to Australia
after obtaining the FDA certification by the third quarter of 2011.
Initially, the export revenue was approximately $10,000 per year.
Today, it stands between $50,000-$60,000 per year with 35 permanent
employees providing their services.
The company now exports to all major markets including Spain,
Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic in the
European Union, where CocoWonders enjoys a good following.
Approximately 40% of Cocowonder’s production is exported to the EU.
The European market holds a special place in Andy’s heart. “European
buyers are aware and have the purchasing power. In 2014, we began
exporting to Europe as well. We penetrated more markets than others
and have been awarded ‘Best SME’ by the Philippine Coconut
Association (PCA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) two years
in a row, in 2020 and 2021.”
Andy grows coconuts at a rented farm in Quezon, that are processed
at his production facility nearby.
All these years, the family has been working hard to achieve
excellence with two sons helping their father with accounts and
production. With progressive introduction of automation, today
approximately 70% of production is mechanised. While business is
going well, there are some challenges.
“The war in Ukraine resulted in lower sales, but we continue. Most
of the customers in Europe are health conscious and do not
compromise on that.”
Andy is hopeful that the situation will improve soon.
Do that which is needed
The Philippines is one of the major producers of coconut sugar in
the world. CocoWonders produces coconut sugar that is EU organic
certified and compliant with good manufacturing practices (GMP).
In fact, this is one of the first requirements that Andy recalls he
had to meet before beginning to export to Europe
“In 2013, I participated in Anuga Trade Fair held in Germany.
Customers did not buy from us because we were not EU organic
certified at that time.”
He then set himself the duty to correct this quickly.
“In 2015, we applied for organic certification. This opened the
doors for us to European buyers.”
Andy worked with Netherlands based Control Union Certifications to
obtain the required certifications.
Support from government
Andy fondly recalls the support he received from the Centre for
International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the export
trade promotion arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Certified endorsement from DTI to participate in the international
fairs, renting of appropriate exhibition space, and support with
visa requirements has always been useful, according to Andy.
Being a member of the Virgin Coconut Oil Producers and Traders
Association of the Philippines (VCO Philippines) was also
instrumental for Andy in maintaining a strong connection with the
DTI to receive support to participate in international trade fairs.
The company also improved its marketing thanks to government
He attributes his company’s achievements in the export arena to
being actively engaged with DTI to remain on top of the latest
developments for Philippine exporters.
Accessing the EU market through the GSP+
The DTI also enabled CocoWonders to register in the EU’s Registered
Exporter system (REX system), a system of self-certification of
origin for exporters wishing to benefit from GSP+.
DTI assisted Andy along with other exporters in taking advantage of
“Availing of the GSP+ has made me more competitive in the European
market. Customers don’t need to pay tariffs once we avail of the GSP+.
We don’t need to pay for Certificate of Origin every time we make a
shipment. Now we just include our REX number in the commercial
invoice, and we are sorted.”
As a result, exporting to Europe has become manageable for
Expanding through ARISE Plus Philippines
With the opportunities available for coconut producers in Europe,
Andy responded to the call for application launched under ARISE Plus
Philippines for MSMEs in Coconut flour and VCO interested in
receiving support on Export Marketing and Market Linkages, including
the EU market.
Offered in partnership with the DTI and private sector
organizations, the support package is providing CocoWonders and
others with comprehensive capacity-building through coaching and
training on branding, marketing, and export strategy and planning,
as well as preparation for trade fairs, including sales and
negotiations. Selected beneficiaries may also benefit from the
support to participate in trade fairs and other trade events,