Calamansi juice goes mainstream, now sold in Wal-Mart, Cost Plus stores

All-Natural Calamansi founder Victor Elizaga

All-Natural Calamansi founder Victor Elizaga

It takes a village to raise a child or grow an idea. Nothing can be farther from the truth for Victor Elizaga, founder and CEO of Pacific Fruit and Beverage of California. It was the Filipino community’s support for his All-Natural Calamansi juice drinks that got them on the shelves of major retailers, including Cost Plus World Market and Wal-Mart.

“The Filipino community in the U.S. has embraced All-Natural Calamansi beverages much as they did our famous boxer, Manny Pacquiao,” said Elizaga, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It’s not common for a Filipino to make it big in the U.S. business world, so when Filipinos discovered that All-Natural was Filipino-owned, they are extremely supportive.”

His All-Natural Calamansi juice products have acquired access to a national distribution network, and are now sold in Wal-Mart and Cost Plus. An entrepreneurial feat considering that many manufacturers would move heaven and earth to get the attention of these retailers much less their network of stores.

“It is easier than ever now to find All-Natural Calamansi nationwide through Cost Plus and at Wal-Mart,” he said.

For Filipinos, calamansi juice is as much a part of everyday life as orange juice is for Americans. Any Filipino will tell you about the multi-purpose uses for calamansi or this Philippine citrus fruit similar to lime. It can function as a stain remover for clothing, it works as a tenderizer for meat, and is prescribed by doctors for its medicinal value. Rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, and other vital nutrients, calamansi juice infuses the lives of Filipinos with vibrancy in many ways.

“I had some pretty severe joint pain and my doctor told me to take calamansi juice and it really helped,” Elizaga said.

Either lightly sweetened with honey for drinking, mixed in with the soup or main course, or in a bottle as a condiment, calamansi juice is a staple at every meal.

“For me, calamansi juice reminds me of growing up,” he said. “When I woke up every morning, there was always calamansi, fresh-squeezed, just the way I like it.”

One of Elizaga’s favorite uses for calamansi juice is ‘sinigang,’ a sour broth made with prawns, radish, eggplant, and a calamansi soup base. “My mom used to make it.”

It is this sense of coming home that Elizaga wanted to capture when the idea of marketing a calamansi beverage in America first came to him. Knowing the longing he and many of his fellow immigrants felt for their favorite fruit juice, Elizaga set about finding a way to make it available to his community abroad.

Though there were other bottled versions of calamansi juice already on the American market, none reflected the true flavor he remembered from childhood. “They’re either too sweet or too watery,” he said.

With a focus on allowing the natural health benefits of the calamansi fruit, All-Natural juices are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. They’re also based on real juice formulations, said Elizaga: about 16 whole calamansi fruits per 16-ounce bottle – sweetened with only honey and cane sugar. “Ours is just the right combination of sweetness and fruit.”

When All-Natural hit the market, the discerning Filipino community right away could tell the difference from other products. It was the “vote of confidence” Elizaga was looking for.

Why keep a national treasure like calamansi juice a secret?

“It’s a hidden gem,” explained Elizaga. “It’s very Filipino. Just like ordering Thai iced tea in a Thai restaurant, I want calamansi juice to become associated with Filipino culture.”

Yet, as Elizaga pointed out, no one has yet attempted to take it to the mainstream market. This is why he has established distribution channels to get this Filipino favorite into the hands of as many Americans.

Through a company called Digital Concepts 2.0, All-Natural Calamansi products are now available in all 130 Cost Plus stores across the U.S. and select Wal-Mart locations. It is sold in several flavor combinations, including mango-calamansi. The company has also created a Calamansi Concentrate and Calamansi Seasoning.

Go to the All-Natural Facebook Fan Page and share it with your friends. Don’t forget to enter the regular contests! Find Cost Plus World Market and Wal-Mart locations near you.

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