ONLY THE BEST

Filipino ar­ti­sanal ice cream brand Car­men’s Best just wants to be the best ice cream brand in the land

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHAR­LENE CHOW

Filipino ar­ti­sanal ice cream brand Car­men’s Best aims to be the best in the land

‘Best’ is a word that crops up most of­ten in our con­ver­sa­tion with Paco Magsaysay, founder of Filipino ar­ti­sanal ice cream brand, Car­men’s Best. Fit­ting, as it is part of his brand name af­ter all (Car­men is the name of his youngest daugh­ter). But it also sums up his brand ethos. Seven years ago, Magsaysay started his com­pany from scratch, look­ing to make “the best ice cream” us­ing the “best in­gre­di­ents”. To­day, Car­men’s Best is mak­ing its first foray overseas, with 12 of its sig­na­ture flavours avail­able in Sin­ga­pore at Carry On Cafe in Tanjong Ka­tong and via GrabFood.

“It’s like a cult fol­low­ing,” Magsaysay says. “I know if some­body has tried our ice cream based on how they talk to me. If they get ex­cited when I give out my card, I know they’ve tried our ice cream.” It may sound like a boast, but then again, this is a brand that has grown ex­po­nen­tially since it started in 2011. From just four flavours—salted caramel, but­ter pecan, Brazil­ian cof­fee and malted milk—Car­men’s Best now of­fers 25 flavours across over 250 re­sellers and out­lets in the Philip­pines. It is also avail­able on Philip­pine Air­lines and Qan­tas busi­ness class flights out of Manila.

As with most things, the brand tak­ing flight had some­thing to do with serendip­ity. “We were very lucky that a year af­ter we started, Häa­gen-Dazs pulled out of the mar­ket. We also had a new Pres­i­dent, Benigno Aquino III; our econ­omy was on the up­trend; peo­ple were trav­el­ling more and try­ing dif­fer­ent things. Our ice cream started to get a fol­low­ing.” Magsaysay adds that so­cial me­dia played a big part. “That was when Face­book was ramp­ing up in the Philip­pines, and we were boost­ing our pic­tures and in­for­ma­tion. We re­ally grew with so­cial me­dia.”

Ad­mit­tedly, says Magsaysay, in the Philip­pines and even now in Sin­ga­pore, the price point of his ice cream is “around 20 to 30 per cent higher” than pre­mium ice cream brands such as Häa­gen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s (in Sin­ga­pore, a 3.5oz cup goes for $7), but he is con­fi­dent that peo­ple will keep com­ing back be­cause of the qual­ity. “We un­der­stand that our ice cream is not for ev­ery­body. We don’t want to be the big­gest ice cream com­pany in the Philip­pines. We just want to be the best.”

QUAL­ITY SPEAKS A THOU­SAND WORDS

Just what is the great­est at­trac­tion of his ice cream? In a word, milk. Car­men’s Best is made with fresh milk pro­duced on Magsaysay’s own fam­ily farm in Bay, La­guna. The fam­ily’s trade was ac­tu­ally in cable tele­vi­sion, but in 2007, Magsaysay’s fa­ther de­cided to try his hand at dairy farm­ing. A year into its op­er­a­tion, Magsaysay came on­board. “They were throw­ing away milk be­cause they couldn’t sell it fast enough,” he says.

“The first ac­count I got was Aman­pulo re­sort in Palawan, Philip­pines. I thought, if the milk was so good and we can make some­thing with it, it would be ex­cel­lent. That’s

MAGSAYSAY BE­LIEVES IN BE­ING UN­AFRAID OF THE UN­KNOWN. “FOR ALL YOU KNOW, IT WILL BE WHAT DE­FINES YOU. THIS ICE CREAM HAS DE­FINED ME. WE STARTED FROM ZERO IN FE­BRU­ARY 2011. AND NOW WE’RE LOOK­ING TO EX­PORT TO SIN­GA­PORE. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE UN­KNOWN. FOR ALL YOU KNOW, THAT’S WHERE YOUR PATH IS.”

how we in­cor­po­rated Car­men’s Best Dairy Prod­ucts—not Ice Cream. We didn’t know we were go­ing to make ice cream then. We just knew we were go­ing to do some­thing with the milk.” To­day, the milk is pro­cessed in their own pas­teuri­sa­tion fa­cil­ity to make their ice cream, al­low­ing them to con­trol ev­ery step of the process.

Apart from start­ing with high qual­ity fresh milk, Magsaysay says they do not pump as much air into their ice cream as com­peti­tors. As a re­sult, their prod­uct is a lit­tle heav­ier in weight than oth­ers, but in ex­change, it re­tains a full, dense, creamy, lus­cious tex­ture. The brand also does not be­lieve in hav­ing a base mix, mean­ing each flavour has its own alchemy of in­gre­di­ents that in­clude fine pro­duce from around the world, such as choco­late from Switzer­land and vanilla bean from Mada­gas­car. “We do every­thing from the ground up. It costs a lot to make each flavour. It’s like cus­tom-made ice cream ac­tu­ally. Each one has a dif­fer­ent foun­da­tion.”

FARM­ING FEATS

If cre­at­ing their ice cream flavours are more of an art, their farm­ing tech­niques come down to a science. Car­men’s Best is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing with a com­pany who will help them use spe­cial, higher qual­ity se­men to im­preg­nate milk­ing cows that have been sin­gled out as their top milk pro­duc­ers.

“Es­sen­tially, this is us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion to give them a bet­ter gene pool as they get preg­nant. There is also what is called ‘sexed se­men’, which means there is a higher than 50-50 per cent chance that the off­spring will be fe­male. It’s good to know if they can be­come milk­ing cows be­cause it’s ex­pen­sive to feed the cows as they tend to eat up to 10 per cent of their body weight!” Magsaysay adds that they give the cows “the best feed” they can give them, us­ing a cut-and-carry type of farm­ing where they lease prop­erty and farm­ers grow grass for them to feed their cows.

We got the op­por­tu­nity to try some of the flavours that Magsaysay is launch­ing in Sin­ga­pore, and we must say that the ice creams were as lus­cious and creamy as he de­scribed. Pis­ta­chio, one of their most pop­u­lar flavours, came lit­tered with Si­cil­ian pis­ta­chios; while malted milk had a rich, Hor­licks flavour com­ple­mented by studs of Mal­te­sers; and Brazil­ian cof­fee was nutty, smoky and aro­matic, like a fresh pour of spe­cial­ity cof­fee.

Two of the lat­ter flavours were among the orig­i­nal four flavours launched in 2011. Magsaysay says malted milk came about be­cause in the Philip­pines, it was com­mon for kids to eat Hor­lick tablet sweets. “As chil­dren, we would play games pre­tend­ing that we were dy­ing and could sud­denly ‘be­come strong’ with just a Hor­licks tablet. And I love Mal­te­sers, so we added that in. As for Brazil­ian cof­fee, 20 to 30 years ago, Häa­gen-Dazs’ cof­fee ice cream was my favourite Häa­gen-Dazs ice cream. I told my­self I had to make a cof­fee ice cream that could com­pare to that.”

Magsaysay owes the in­spi­ra­tion for the orig­i­nal four flavours to two sources, A Per­fect

Scoop by David Lei­bowitz for the salted caramel and malted milk, and a Ben & Jerry’s recipe book for Brazil­ian cof­fee and but­ter pecan. “I ac­tu­ally sent a mes­sage to David Lei­bowitz say­ing that his recipes are what we use for our ice cream. He was non­cha­lant but I thanked him for his help in my busi­ness.” Magsaysay says they stuck close to the recipes, but in the end, it is not the recipes, but the method they use that mat­ters most. “That’s why I’m open to telling you the recipes we use.”

De­pend­ing on mar­ket de­mand, Car­men’s Best may soon launch flavours just for Sin­ga­pore. But Magsaysay cur­rently has his sights set on the ha­lal mar­ket, hav­ing at­tained the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion about a year ago. Malaysia, In­done­sia, Hong Kong and the Mid­dle East are all pos­si­ble next desti­na­tions.

“In the last seven years, I have been do­ing a lot of talks about en­trepreneur­ship and start­ing busi­nesses from scratch. I al­ways tell them not to be afraid of the un­known,” Magsaysay re­flects. “For all you know, it will be what de­fines you. This ice cream has de­fined me. We started from zero in Fe­bru­ary 2011. And now we’re look­ing to ex­port to Sin­ga­pore. Don’t be afraid of the un­known. For all you know, that’s where your path is.” In short, the best is yet to be.

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