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From world-class to the world: Fil-Ams welcome Mekeni to the US

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Taking pride in the world class products of Mekeni. Pruds Garcia brandishes two Mekeni products from the shelves of Island Pacific Supermarket in California, USA

By Monsi A. Serrano

Who would have thought that a backyard business In Balubad, Porac, Pampanga started by the couple Felix Garcia and Meding Santos Garcia in 1986 has conquered the US market? Yes, you read it right, Mekeni products are now in the US! But it wasn’t a walk in the park.

Just like any start-up, Mekeni’s journey wasn’t easy,

As background, with 5 growing children, the Garcia couple, Tatay Felix Garcia and Ima Meding Santos Garcia decided to find a way to supplement their income as public school teachers didn’t receive that much. So the idea of having piggery and poultry came into their minds and their entrepreneurial spirit was imbibed by their children, Adrian, Pruds, Lito, Doods and Nards.

More than the resiliency attributed to Mekeni by their community and even other business owners in their province, it is faith in God and faith in the people working with them that makes the company successful amidst the challenges they encountered.

Battered by Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, challenged by Foot and Mouth Disease in 1994 and Asian financial crisis in 1997, and then the controversial ASF that they were accused of but later on was cleared by the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company and by the Food and Drug Administration. Not to mention the global pandemic that disrupted many businesses.

Speaking to THEPHILBIZNEWS, Mekeni Food Corporation President Pruds Garcia said, “There are many things we learned in the crises we experience in our business. In our case, we learned how to adapt quickly. When a crisis comes our way, we welcome it and treat it as an opportunity to improve how we will respond to that.”

“At the same time, we always find ways how to prevent a crisis to happen and this is the reason why we decided to invest in the ISO program. Modesty aside, Mekeni is the first recipient of ISO 22000 Certification for hotdog processing in the Philippines and in Asia. The second in the world. But the reason why we embarked on this is that we want to show to the world ang galing nating mag Pilipino (We want to show to the world what we Filipinos can do and our skills). We didn’t even think that we would be the first in the Philippines and in Asia, and second in the world. Our objective is how we can make our business better and produce products that are world-class. Something that we can feed to our own family,” he explained.

From the Philippines to the world

Not many Filipinos know that Mekeni’s first venture outside the Philippines was when Japanese investors chose them to supply pickled ginger to Japan in 2014. While their core business is meat processing, the partnership with the Japanese investors paved the way for another but different opportunity outside the meat processing business. This time it was non-meat, something that Mekeni has never done before.

“There is one thing we espouse in Mekeni, that is, not to be afraid to take a risk. Of course, a calculated risk, Garcia said. “Pickled ginger business opportunity is something that we never thought we will do. First, we have never ventured into something outside the meat processing business. Second, we don’t know how the processing on the pickled ginger works, and lastly, where we will source the ginger.”

But Mekeni’s Japanese partners assisted them in creating the pickled ginger palatable to the Japanese market. Apart from that, the idea of helping local farmers was the main reason why Mekeni took the chance.

The pickled ginger business was a totally different venture. It was an idea broached by the Garcias’ Japanese friend Satoshi Tateno who said why not supply pickled ginger to Japan since both Pruds Garcia and Satoshi Tateno have an advocacy to help Filipino farmers.

“It was a leaped in the dark. Our strength is in processing world-class meat products that are close to the heart of the Filipinos. Pickled ginger is something way beyond our core comptency. However, Mr. Tateno was very confident we can do it and he also promised to help us in all the minute steps of making world class pickled ginger and the rest is history,” Pruds added.

More than producing world-class quality food products that continue to bring honor to the country, Mekeni Food Corporation is remembered and recognized as a Filipino family-oriented company that offered employment opportunities to the lesser privileged which contributed in building a happy, committed and productive community despite the major calamity.

Mekeni lives up to its name of always being open and welcoming. Through the years, they have gladly welcomed both challenges and opportunities, relying on their faith in their people and an even stronger faith in God. So whenever awards and recognitions are accorded to Mekeni, it is not only the company that takes pride in its own achievements but also the whole community shares in the joy and honor given. Because Mekeni believes that their best asset is the people who stick with them through thick and thin.

Now celebrating its 36th Year, Mekeni continues its mission to provide employment opportunities and contribute to the improvement of life within and beyond the community and the recent feather on its cap is capturing the US market which was described by Pruds as a plan of God.

“It was something we include as a plan, but never expected to be that soon. But who are we to refuse God’s plan right?, Pruds added.

He also noted that this new development in their world-market journey is a testament to their commitment to uplift the lives of Filipinos and bring pride to the country.

“This is another step for us to introduce our own Timplang Atin to the rest of the world. When we introduced our first batch of Mekeni-branded products to the US, we want Filipinos abroad and foreigners alike to have access to the world-class quality and taste we offer,” said Pruds.

Our Mekeni Kikiam and Fish Balls are available on the West Coast also through its partnership with Island Pacific Supermarket, one of the area’s biggest Asian/Filipino supermarkets.

The products were widely accepted by the Filipino community on the West Coast. Stocks immediately ran low just a few days after the new products were announced by Island Pacific on their Facebook page.

A Fil-Am customer of Island Pacific fills his shopping cart with Mekeni products

Meanwhile, Marilou Uy, Mekeni AVP for Export said, “We received a lot of positive feedback from families, friends, and friends of friends in the US about our Mekeni products in the US. Some even asked us to bring more Mekeni products to the US, which for us is elating and inspiring.”

“This is a major feat for a brand like Mekeni that started as a backyard business of a simple family. This milestone is a celebration of the efforts of the whole Mekeni family through the years,” Pruds said.

Mekeni is grateful for the trust and confidence of the Filipino people in their brand and products and also the valued customers in the Philippines and the world.

With their commitment to build people, Mekeni hopes and prays that they would sustain their passion, commitment, loyalty and pride in both triumphs and challenges. It is their faith in their people and most of all their faith in God that makes them what they are now, 30 years of world-class quality food products and dedicated people.

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