From being a small importer of tuna byproducts to becoming one of the leaders in the Philippine seafood industry, Mida Food Distributors has come a long way.
In 1997, Lourdes “Chingling” R. Tanco was based in Indonesia and supplied products to her clients in the United States. Once, during a buying trip to Bali, she visited a market and discovered that vendors were chopping off and discarding huge tuna heads.
“I bought them at a low price and began sending them to the Philippines,” she recounted recently. In no time at all, she was sending 20 tons of tuna and other byproducts per shipment.
“At the time, the price of tuna heads in the Philippines fluctuated from P90 to P250 per kilo. We managed to stabilize it at P110 a kilo,” Tanco said.
Although it was the consumers—many of whom grilled the heads or cooked them as sinigang—who benefited, tuna sellers from General Santos City were not as pleased.
“They got mad at us because we were able to stabilize prices for 10 years,” Tanco pointed out.
Seizing the opportunity, she and her friend, Mida business operations director Chona Valles, grew the company to include cold storage facilities so they could bring in more premium seafood items.
Now, the company offers a wide selection of seafood in collaboration with its sister company, Mida Trade Ventures. A full line of seafood specialty items in supermarkets is sold under the brand Pacific Bay.
The mix includes peeled and deveined shrimp, tuna belly, tuna steaks, scallop meat, salmon steaks, clams, crabstick, cream dory fillets, Atlantic cod portions, bacalao loins, soft-shell crab,
gindara steaks, Chilean sea bass, and halibut fillets and steaks.
“We initially didn’t want to do the importing. We were looking for someone else to do it but since we couldn’t find anyone, we decided to do it ourselves,” Tanco said.
Aside from the retail business, Mida Food also supplies premium seafood items to hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
For a taste of some of Mida Food products, Tanco recently hosted lunch at Gallery Vask that traced the company’s growth in the past 20 years. In a nod to Mida Food’s humble beginnings, the meal started with Aromatic Tuna Tartar with avocado and cilantro.
This was followed by Grilled Tiger Prawns with strawberry gazpacho, Panfried Halibut wth Pork Ragout and Crispy Iberico, and Seafood Risotto. Dessert was a palate-cleansing dessert titled Different Textures of Calamansi.
Valles’ son, Enrique, joined the company in 2009 and was integral in ushering Mida Food into the present.
“Before he came on board, the company’s website was very wordy, very ‘Adam and Eve’ with all the history. He was the one who streamlined it and made it more appealing,” said Tanco.
The younger Valles was also the one who decided to put more images of cooked seafood. “Before it used to look like an episode from ‘CSI’ with all the uncooked fish,” the elder Valles quipped.
Enrique Valles, who is now Mida Food’s president and CEO, had been working at the Hilton London as sales and marketing manager before coming back to the Philippines. “That we have lasted 20 years is a true celebration, a testament to how evolved our seafood industry has become,” he said.
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