“We believe having strong ties to our customers helps us tremendously because it is through them that we learn about new products, new ways of using products, and new diets,” says Honey. “Before our BGC branch opened, we noticed a growing number of customers on vegan and keto diets so we made sure that both stores had distinct vegan and keto sections so it would be easier for these customers to purchase items for their specific lifestyles.”
The in-store customer experience at Real Food has always been one of the company’s key core values and the partners pride themselves in the attention to detail at both of their locations. From the cute basket shopping carts, hand-painted murals, decorative accessories that adorn the store’s shelves, to the cheerful sales attendants who are regularly quizzed on their product knowledge and understanding, Real Food aims to deliver a regular dose of happy with every purchase.
Another way the store engages with its consumers is by offering workshops that teach customers a host of delicious and creative ways they can use the products it sells. Katrina Mañosa, who leads Real Food’s marketing and public relations initiatives, has organized a number of in-store activities including a popular smoothie workshop and plant-based workshops with Mesa ni Misis’ Juana Manahan. “In the future we plan to hold several more featuring different dishes or menu items. Possibly with popular chefs using our ingredients,” she says.
Responsibility toward the environment is also something that the four partners strongly advocate. Always conscientious produce is wrapped in banana leaves while customers are encouraged to bring their own eco bags and are incentivized to return their used glass bottles. Currently, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dried fruit are on offer in bulk bins to minimize unnecessary packaging and management is looking into other product categories where they can apply the same practice.
As originally envisioned, however, it is the wide range of healthy product offerings available under one roof that keeps the Real Food customers coming back for more. Because of this, the partners are constantly on the lookout for suppliers who share their passion for growing, raising, and preparing good, clean, healthy, and sustainable food—the type of food you would want to feed to the people you love. From day one, the four ladies knew that they wanted to source from as many local producers as possible and give back to the domestic industry. Before the first store opened, Nicole and Honey spent a lot of time scouring the market to find healthier alternatives for everyday food at local food fairs. Until now, they both make it a point to get to know each of their business partners and understand what motivates them.
The two also love to assist their suppliers whenever they can; this may be by introducing them to one another when they see how shared synergies may be beneficial to both parties or by feeding them ideas for potential new products and packaging. “When we started sourcing products to carry in the store, we had several suppliers with lackluster packaging. We felt that it wouldn’t cost too much to update a look so we would encourage and assist them in updating their look,” says Nicole. “But now you’ll see that we have so many incredibly presented products. It brings so much joy when our suppliers are able to highlight local ingredients and present them in a world-class manner, because they are truly world-class.”
Today, the majority of Real Food suppliers are micro enterprises and many of the items sold in the stores are made by small communities directed by social enterprises. The diverse offering includes organic and sustainable meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, as well as eggs and dairy products. Also available are a large array of healthy snacks, oils, sauces, tea, rice, legumes, and grains, including their bestselling adlai.
Of the four partners, Bea is the one least involved with the day-to day activities of the company but her family’s active lifestyle brings her into the store frequently. “As a parent, having Real Food products at home puts me at ease,” she says. “I know that there are always healthier snack options available. My kids know that they can freely choose snacks and groceries knowing that it is the healthier alternative.”
The former artistic gymnast and Olympian bronze medalist says that her dream for Real Food is for it to be the leading organic supermarket in the country and to be the go-to place for those who want to eat and live healthily—an aspiration surely shared by her partners. “Along with this dream comes the wish that more Filipinos will have the opportunity to eat healthily, and will have access to healthy produce. When people have access to healthy, nutritious, and delicious food—they also have the opportunity to live healthy lives. It would be great if Real Food could be a part of that change in the eating habits of many Filipinos.”
Photographs by ARTU NEPOMUCENO
Styled by JACQUI SALONGA
Produced by HANNAH LAZATIN, assisted by CHELSA GLORIA and NICOLE CRUZ
Makeup by CLAIRE SEELIN DIOKNO (for Nicole and Honey) and DON DE JESUS (for Bea and Katrina)
Hair by RICK DIOKNO (for Nicole and Honey) and GEORGE ALIBEN (for Bea and Katrina)
Shot on location at REAL FOOD BGC.