A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification is expected to stir up the market for wine, tea, and juice using Roselle, a highly nutritious plant of the gumamela family sought after by consumers in the US and Europe.

Cocobless, the company that manufactures the products, is obtaining an LTO (license to operate) from FDA in order to market Roselle products and reach out to consumers who are increasingly becoming more health conscious.

“We’re expecting a FDA LTO (license to operate) in two to three months. By then we’ll be able to distribute our products to major supermarkets,” said Meland G. Dilodilo of Cocobless. The Roselle products are being promoted by Verve Health Solutions (VHS).

VHS’s Roselle products wine, tea, and juice have recently been exhibited at the Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR)’s Techno Forum.

These products are made mainly from the leaves and calyces of the Roselle plant. It will also be available in the future as chips which can be used as an ingredient in salads and pastries, and even in capsule form.

“We’re really developing products that are indigenously grown and that have high nutrition value craved for in the market,” said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

The company also needs the FDA LTO in order to distribute Roselle products to institutional or corporate buyers and to major export markets.

“You can’t go to the export market until you have capacity in tonnages. As of the moment, we go for the local market, and once we have built up our capacity to produce and manufacture, we will be targeting the global market” said Dr. Naomi Joy Dilodilo, Meland’s sister and Cocobless co-founder.

While still on a small scale production, Cocobless aims to grow its operations by putting up facilities for spray drying , vacuum drying, and freeze drying, which needs approximately P3 million to P10 million to set up. It currently utilizes a technology comparable to these processes involving simple machines.

One of the current projects of Cocobless is the analysis of its Roselle products for nutritional information and expiry date. This is a requirement for food distribution. It also has plans to collaborate with Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) and SGS on packaging and labeling.

Market

Roselle (Rosella sabdariffa or wild hibiscus) has a growing global market because of its known medical value.

Malaysia supplies much of the Roselle raw materials in the world. Australia is also a producer of finished goods like the Roselle tea. These products are exported to the US and Europe, with Germany as a major buyer.

Cocobless Roselle products, particularly the RosellaWild Hibiscus Tea, will be marketed to health and wellness clinics and hospitals. One of these will be the “Wellness and Rejuvenation Clinic” at Cityland Shar Towers in Pasig which Meland and Naomi currently supply with their healthful low glycemic coconut sugar.

Roselle products are also planned to be available in health stores, gifts and souvenir shops and as corporate giveaways.

Other markets for Roselle are sports and nutrition centers like Fitness First, dermatology clinics, coffee and tea shops. Cocobless also plans to export worlwide in the future.

Roselle calyces

Health Benefits

Don Mariano Marcos State University (DMMSU) researchers found out that Roselle, with its rich protein content, can help cure kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition among children caused by a lack of protein and energy.

Nearly all parts of the Roselle plant—seeds, leaves, and calyx– are known to be rich in vitamins, particularly Vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system.

A study of 3,100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs, and supplements showed that it had one of the highest antioxidant (flavonoids including anthocyanins) levels.

Roselle, which was historically used by Egyptian pharaohs for its nutritional and health value, has been widely studied for its effect on hypertension. Some studies have demonstrated that Roselle, taken in certain doses, is equivalent to the effects of the anti-hypertensive drug captopril.

Other benefits include its effects on cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and weight control, making it also suitable for diabetics.

Founder

VHS is a company formed by doctors led by Naomi.

Naomi’s profession has inspired her to advocate herbal products beneficial to people’s health. She finished BS Biology at the University of the Philippines, Doctor of Medicine at the Manila Central University, and specialty training at the UP Institute of Opthalmology.

Dr. Naomi Dilodilo with the Roselle flower

Dr. Naomi Dilodilo with the Roselle flower

She is one of the featured entrepreneurs in the BAR-funded book “111 Successful Agri-Enterpreneurs.”

Incidentally, she started venturing into health products only by accident.

One day, she witnessed how a calamansi farmer pleaded for the sale of his goods for only P50 for one sack containing 25 kilos. That is how desperate life must be for Filipino farmers. They have to get their fresh goods sold right now, or they will perish in a few hours.

How could she help solve this problem?

She started venturing into transforming fresh goods into finished products by learning different fruits and vegetable processing and preservation techniques offered by the Bureau of Plant Industry. She is also into research and product development of different agricultural products that is abundantly available in the country.

Free, Spray Drying

Cocobless uses processes that preserve the nutrient content of Roselle in its finished products. Freeze drying is an example of this process.

It involves dehydration of a raw material by freezing to a temperature of -20 degrees centigrade, making them suitable for storage and transport.

“The way to retain the antioxidants is to process the Roselle plant without it having to lose its color since a change in color will usually signify a change in the nutritional content,” said Naomi.

Spray drying is another method to preserve nutritional content, involving the use of heat to a temperature of 58 degrees centigrade (compared to boiling’s 100 degrees). The first step is to puree the raw material and the dry it to form a solid.

Food coloring, other uses

Roselle is found in many countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. Interestingly, Roselle is indigenous to the Philippines.

It is a good food coloring agent with its very bright dark red color. Because it is of natural color, it is an excellent substitute to FC Red, a chemical compound for food coloring.

Roselle is also prepared in the form of flowers in syrup in countries like France and Australia. It is used as rice and fish flavoring in Senegal, while its green leaves are the main ingredient in Burma’schin baungkyaw curry. The Roselle tea in Sudan is used to relieve coughs. A recipe in Andhra in India prepares Roselle by frying it with other leaves and made into Gongura Pacchadi, a famous Andhra food.

The leaves are used to cure sores and wounds. Other uses are as diuretic and for dyspepsia relief.

Trial planting

Roselle is under trial planting at the Kalingap Marikina Watershed Farm, with an allotted seven hectare area.

“We will expand planting after the trial, “ according to farm leader Dave Santos. The farm is located in BosoBoso, Sitio San Jose, Brgy. San Jose, Antipolo City. Our goal is to save Marikina Watershed. We want farming to be a part of people’s livelihood so that they won’t cut trees just to use these for charcoal,” said Santos.

This activity is part of caring for the watershed at the Marikina Watershed Association.

The Bureau of Plant Industry is providing the seeds of three Roselle varieties, namely Amparo, a Thailand variety, and an indigenous variety.

Cocobless is partnering with farms that are identifying what specific varieties are appropriate for specific locations.

Other potential farms are ones maintained indigenous people such as the Dumagats in Botolan. Another is located in Montalban, Rizal tended by the San Rafael Parish. A 20 hectare farm is located in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija and another one is located in Botolan, Zambales.

Soil erosion control

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has completed a project that used Roselle as a tool to control soil erosion.

It was used in an Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) Upland Farm project as an intercrop with agroforestry crops from July 2002 to December 2005. The sites were Atimonan, Quezon and Los Banos, Laguna. The study observed its use for soil water conservation.

Roselle was chosen for its environmental and health benefits such as site stabilization, productivity enhancement of the area, use as food ingredient, and as material for nutriceutical products.

The ERDB project involved technology generation from seed germination, nursery establishment, survival, flowering and fruiting of Roselle. In addition, food processing techniques were also studied.

In a DENR project, there is a potential 3.5 hectare area for planting.

Malaysia

Dr. Naomi has been involved in a project in Malaysia involving a food company that uses Roselle for chutney, drinks, concentrate, and chili sauce. She is currently based in Malaysia as a member of the academe—a medical lecturer at the the Allianze University College of Medical sciences in Penang, Malaysia.

“Malaysia is very much into research and innovations,” she said. “Malaysia gave me the opportunity to have a peek into the world of innovation, especially when it comes to agricultural development.”

Now on her third year since 2010, her exposure to R&D (research and development) in Malaysia is helping her upgrade their company’s products locally.

Having come from the same Malay race, Malaysians do not find Dr. Naomi so different, and they trust her with their knowledge on R&D. She proved herself as an outstanding staff and emerged as the only non-Muslim awardee of “Gold for Innovation Platform”, an award given by the University of Technology Mara of Malaysia. “Most of the Roselle that is marketed worldwide comes from Malaysia,” she said.

Business development

The company is strengthening its marketing efforts, since the weakness of most R&D (research and development) operations is on the business aspect.

“I realized that sustainability is a key concern in R&D. So, business development is a must for an agricultural enterprise. You have to create a demand for a raw material in order for it to be sold in the market,” she said.

This demand should be created both for the raw material and for the value added products that use this material. This way, the problem of perishability for farmers is solved.

Cocobless

The Dilodilo brother-sister team up is not totally new to marketing innovative products.

They have earlier developed nutritious noodles that are now sold in SM Hypermart supermarkets. Their variants are moringa, sugarbeet, squash, and carrots and ube.

Their business started with coconut products, particularly coconut crystal oil and home remedy kits. They also produced coco pandesal and specialized baked products that made use of healthful, low GI (glycemic index) coconut sap sugar instead of sugarcane-based sweeteners.

Other products are coconut flour, fresh yogurts with active probiotics, coco noodles, coco juices, and seaweeds.

The business gives livelihood to farmers. Virgin coconut oil and coconut sugar comes from farmers in Aklan and farmer-cooperatives in Marinduque.

The Dilodilos’ Cocobless manufacturing facility is located in Valenzuela City. Like its Roselle business, it’s still in the early stage of development.

Cocobless itself produces coconut sugar which is used in Roselle Calyx tea and Roselle leaves tea.

About Verve Health Solutions

Founded by a group of medical professionals who believe that nutrition should play a greater role in the maintenance of health, Verve Health Solutions aims to spread this message to the world. Harnessing the best nature has to offer, Verve Health Solutions provides an alternative for healthy, vibrant, and meaningful life.
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For any questions, please call Mr. Meland Dilodilo, 0917-847-8405; for interview requests, 0921-338-3816

By: Bureau Agritechinc