JORGE D. AGUILAR JR: He Fortifies Rice With Iron

JORGE D. AGUILAR JR: He Fortifies Rice With Iron
JORGE D. AGUILAR JR: He Fortifies Rice With Iron
JORGE D. AGUILAR JR. and his Iron-Fortified Rice and brown rice products.

Here’s the story of a man who took the challenge of commercializing iron-fortified rice (IFR) despite the higher cost that has to be passed on to consumers.

He is Jorge D. Aguilar Jr. who put up Nutrition and Beyond Corporation (NBC) after being convinced about the health benefits of the enriched rice by the nutritionists of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Actually, he came to know about iron-fortified rice as early as 2007 when he met Dr. Imelda Agdeppa and Marcela C. Saises of FNRI who explained that iron helps carry oxygen to the blood, making the body system work better. With adequate oxygen in the blood, people become more agile and less sickly. It also makes the brain function better.

Since Aguilar’s family has long been in the rice milling business, Jorge got interested in the technology. He did his own market testing soon afterwards and with the help of the local government, he was able to bring IFR into the local market.

But it was not easy to convince the ordinary consumers to buy the fortified rice because it costs P2 per kilo higher than its commercial counterpart. Nevertheless, he continued promoting IFR to consumers.

Convinced that there is a future in commercializing IFR, Jorge decided to put up Nutrition and Beyond Corporation, determined to make IFR production and marketing an honest-to-goodness business.

The big challenge is in marketing, according to Jorge. More people have to be convinced about the benefits of iron-fortified rice. Many have apprehensions that they might get an iron overdose if they eat IFR every day. That is of course unfounded. It is a myth.

With many of the mass consumers resisting to buy the higher-priced IFR, Jorge had a change in strategy. He decided to fortify the higher-priced varieties for the upscale consumers. That was a wise move. Today, he is supplying some of
the big supermarkets in Manila with his IFR.

Of course, it costs more to cater to the upper class market. That’s because the rice has to be vacuum-packed and stickers have to be attached to each pack. These add to the cost but that’s part of the business. Nevertheless, he continues to supply the town markets with IFR that is packed in ordinary plastic bags.

Promotion costs money but that has to be undertaken. A promotional activity like food tasting can cost P10,000 a day, according to him. That’s because the supermarket charges a high fee. Add to that the wages of the promo staff as well as some dishes that have to be purchased that will go with the rice.

A lot of people have yet to be convinced about the health benefits of eating fortified rice, according to Jorge. And the government can help a lot in the promotion. He is very happy to observe, however, that the market is expanding. Five years ago, he said, he was the only one supplying fortified rice in Zambales and Bataan. He notes that today, there are many other suppliers who come from other parts of the country. And he is happy that he has been receiving inquiries as far as Mindanao. Now, he is also eyeing the export market for his IFR.

Sometime back, Aguilar attended a seminar in Bangkok and he was both proud and surprised that the Filipino experts were well regarded by the foreigners in the said conference.

He also found that the FNRI-developed rice fortification produces better results and is far superior to those produced from other Asian countries which turn brown or orange when cooked. The FNRI technology has made IFR sparkling white, taste good, and smell good too. Laboratory tests also showed that Filipino IFR has better efficacy.

By the way, FNRI has been tapped not only by the government but also by large food manufacturing companies for research and technology assistance. Their R&D and services also benefit entrepreneurs, especially those in the food business.

Some of their services are Technology Commercialization and Transfer, Food Pilot Plant Services/Technologies Business Incubator (TBI), Food Processing Facility Development in the regions, Food Analytical Testing Services and many others. For details, log on to:
(Excerpted from an S&T Media Release)

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