Fila Manila taps into ‘pent-up demand’ for next generation of Filipino-American flavors

“The vision for Fila Manila is to represent the next generation of Filipino-American flavors. Everyone’s so excited about representation ​[especially in the AAPI community]I thought it was about time someone built the first Filipino-American food brand,”​ Fila Manila founder and CEO Jake Deleon told FoodNavigator-USA.

No stranger to the CPG world, Deleon spent time in category management and brand building positions for both Procter & Gamble and Starbucks, before striking out on his own to start an almond milk brand called Origin Almond which was sold at several major retailers including Whole Foods and Walmart.

However, as a refrigerated beverage product that relied heavily on in-store foot traffic (eg the Whole Foods customer picking up a beverage along with lunch from the hot bar), the brand suffered during the early days of the pandemic and was eventually phased out. in 2020 with Deleon able to sell the remainder of his inventory.

Fila Manila origin story

During the months-long lockdown period in 2020, Deleon decided to embark on a new entrepreneurial project tied closely to his Filipino identity. As a first generation Filipino American immigrant who was born in the Philippines and raised in New Jersey, Deleon was struck by how little representation there was for his home country’s cuisine in mainstream US food culture, despite being the second largest Asian American community in the United States (behind Chinese-Americans), according to US Census Data.

“My mind immediately went to the grocery shelf. If we’re such a large part of the American population, how come there’s almost 0% representation of Filipino food on mainstream grocery shelves? ​It was a huge disconnect,” said Deleon.

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