While many have ventured into the production of mangosteen juice—whether branded or unbranded—a biologist from Pagadian entered the industry with his own concoction.

By Julio P. Yap, Jr.

However, the mangosteen juice formulated by Joseph Milfred M. Arcenal (or Bobby, as he is fondly called) was originally meant for the consumption of family members and friends, and not for commercial purposes.

Arcenal came up with his formula after his father Alfredo retired in June 1997 at the age of 65 from being the head teacher of one of the primary schools in Zamboanga del Norte. The senior Arcenal underwent a checkup upon reaching 75 and it was found that he had hyperthyroidism and a heart problem, which were causing him to lose his appetite (and leading to weight loss) and suffer from low energy levels.

According to some experts, hyperthyroidism can also cause arrthythmia, which may lead to atrial fibrilation, stroke, and congestive heart failure. The younger Arcenal beleives that this might be the reason why his father has a heart problem.

Bobby Arcenal bought commercially available mangosteen juice in Pagadian City for R 2,000 per bottle and sent it to his father in Dipolog City, cautioning that it was only a health food supplement. He however noted that the juice contained active compounds which might help promote a healthier body, leading him to believe that it worked for his father.

Father and son decided to make their own version of the mangosteen juice for their own consumption at about half the price since wild mangosteen is abundant in the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Bobby processed mangosteen juice in Pagadian City, while his father processed his own in Dipolog City; the two compared developments from time to time.

To sustain their research phase, they had to produce their own version of mangosteen juice at semi-commercial levels through Bobby’s HERBio Food Products, selling these at Php350 per bottle at that time. They then decided to join a government-sponsored local expo event under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to test the market.

In May 2008, the Region 9 office of the DTI sponsored a Regional Trade Expo at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, where HERBio Food Products emerged as a “Top Seller” in the Food Sector, besting other exhibitors from the Zamboanga Peninsula.

After the event, Bobby realized that two problems needed to be resolved. First, they needed to secure the availability of mangosteen—the supply of which is seasonal—to meet the demand for the juice; second, they needed to conform with the requirements prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).

Thus, Bobby rented a BFAD-compliant processing plant in Pagadian City, and developed a system to naturally preserve the mangosteen concentrates for at least one year. He then developed his own guiding principle to make the processed mangosteen juice safer and healthier, and to process the fruit without using any preservatives.

He said that the mangosteen juice he produces does not contain processed sugar, as he only uses wild honey. The stabilizer he uses is extracted from a fresh “sea bird’s nest” and explained that this is rich in collagen.

Not all mangosteen fruits are created equal, said Bobby; the bitterness of the mangosteen peel can be neutralized by fermentation through IMO (indigenous microorganisms); and the aroma of the fruit was captured through infusion and blended with other wild and naturally-farmed fruits.

Now that the younger Arcenal has dedicated himself to the commercial processing of mangosteen juice, he said that he will further improve his formulation (and that of the other beverages he produces) to make them better. He acknowledged how the help and assistance of three government agencies—the Region 9 office of the Department of Agriculture, the provincial office of the Department of Science and Technology in Pagadian City, and the Dipolog and Pagadian provincial offices of the DTI—made his mangosteen product possible.

Taking into consideration the prospects of producing mangosteen juice in the country, Bobby said he will formally launch his product in the Metro Manila area in March of this year.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2016 issue.