You’re helping Filipino farmers, too!
“I love bread,” a quote by Oprah Winfrey that has been reproduced through a meme shared by millions of carb-loving earthlings. What is not to love about bread? Years before, it was the saving grace from the sky that helped Israelites survive. Today, with the pandemic still ongoing, many ensure a steady supply of bread in the pantry.
Now, if you’re looking to try continental and artisanal breads, we’ve got a store you should check out. Conscious Collective MNL is a distributor of sustainably-grown food products. Starting out with producing spices, the brand now has baked products ranging from New York bagels and French madeleines to lemon pound cakes, walnut batard, and rye. These baked goods are made with all natural ingredients and zero preservatives.
“We believe sustainability should be a way of life,” says Conscious Collective MNL’s Guada Reyes. But apart from being a business model, the brand’s sustainability initiative also branches out to the prime players of the food industry. Conscious Collective MNL aims to bring the freshest food to the Filipino table while also uplifting the people who cultivated it. Your every purchase is for a good cause. And that makes the carb-loading even more enjoyable!
In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Guada shares how Conscious Collective MNL grew from a passion project into a full-blown lifestyle brand, and their secret on getting ahead of their food competition.
What’s the story behind Conscious Collective Manila? How did it start?
Conscious Collective Manila is a passion project born out of pure love for everything good and healthy. It originally stemmed from a shared love (with a couple of friends) for my uncle’s products which includes spices and leafy greens. Many agreed with us that his products were of highest quality. His cause for wanting to help farmers also served as an inspiration. Apart from growing his own spices and greens, it became his advocacy to uplift lives by training local farmers on sustainable, advanced farming methods and making sure they yielded the best results out of every harvest and profited fairly from their produce and mishmash of products.
How did your skills as a fashion stylist help you co-manage the brand?
Being a fashion stylist and consultant came hand-in-hand when branding and imaging come together. We discovered that functioning as a lifestyle brand would best appeal to our market. Putting together a style guide and producing a mix of lifestyle images and product shots came naturally for me. I could not have done this alone without my partners, Conch Tiglao, a writer and our very own wordsmith and spreadsheet master. Then we have The Conscious Mama, Luisa Beltran-Pua, our muse/model and marketing mom.
Apart from providing healthy food, what are the other missions of the brand?
Our initiative through Conscious Collective MNL is to aid local farmers and small community businesses—linking them to consumers and a larger market in Metro Manila. One of our goals is also to also help consumers be more conscious of the food they eat and the products they buy.
How is it operating during the pandemic? What are the challenges and the adjustments you made?
The pandemic actually gave us more drive to help sustain the livelihood of partner farmers and small community businesses. When buying their commodities, you are not just buying healthy products, you are helping sustain the livelihood of our partner farmers, their families, and small community businesses, as well.
The biggest challenge during the pandemic is delivery and figuring out ways to get these perishable products from the farm and small community businesses from various towns in Batangas to our customers in Metro Manila, as quickly and as fresh as possible. We’ve found a system that works and we are continuously improving our methods along the way.
With so many food competitions now, what do you think is the key to make a brand stand out?
As consumers ourselves, we are conscious about what’s in our food and opt for healthier choices. Therefore, transparency is what we believe helps make our brand stand out.
We hope to raise awareness about the benefits of natural food and ingredients—to help people be more conscious about what they eat and drink. After all, we believe that eating well is key to looking and feeling good!
We are truthful with the ingredients, and distribute products that pass, not just our taste test, but our health standards as well. This small-batch bread line that we offer (including their cakes and biscotti products) by Sarbon Artisan Bakery is a great example.
We also believe that you should be conscious about how your greens are grown and how the spices are produced. Villa Fuscagna Farms’ herbs, spices, and greens are grown organically. No fungicides, pesticides, or herbicides are applied to the crop–ever! Their fertilizers are natural and their vermicast, in particular, is produced on site with the assistance of several hundred thousand African Night Crawlers.
Their pepper goes through a heating process. Even going beyond the requirements set by the Philippine’s Food and Drug Administration and certification by the Department of Agriculture. The critical additional step that they take is to treat all products with heat at 100 degrees centigrade for eight to 12 minutes (before packing and sealing). This does not affect the taste and longevity of the spices’ shelf life but ensures that 99.9 percent of any bacteria, pathogens, and food-born viruses are killed.