Neil Santillan and Daisy Miranda travelled from Davao to London to receive the prestigious award from the Academy of Chocolate on 25 July 2018.
27 July 2018 LONDON—When former Filipino TV producer and graphic designer in Qatar Neil Santillan travelled home to his native Davao City one holiday, he noticed the vast expanse of land in their family’s property dotted with cacao trees. With no background in farming, he was unfamiliar with cacao and so began his love affair with chocolate.
Five years later, Neil and his wife, Daisy Miranda, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) whom he met in Qatar, started MS3 Agri-Ventures Corp. (MS3), a brand dedicated to processing and producing some of the Philippines’ finest cacao products ranging from drinking chocolate to chocolate bars. Just a year after the brand made its debut, MS3 has garnered international awards affirming the world-class quality of its products. It has also produced close to 9,000 chocolate bars within the first year since it was made available in Mindanao alone. MS3 is now available in major supermarkets across Mindanao.
In 2017, MS3 was recognized as one of the Asia’s best Halal chocolate brands at the Asia Halal Brand Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On 25 July 2018, MS3 won a Bronze Award for Drinking Chocolate (water emulsion) during the prestigious Academy of Chocolate Awards where it competed with 1,200 other chocolate brands worldwide. The Embassy’s Economic Officer, Consul Rommel A. Romato represented the Embassy during the awarding ceremony. The Academy of Chocolate Awards is hailed as the Oscar Awards of chocolates.
Philippine Ambassador Antonio Manuel Lagdameo believes that it is only a matter of time before Philippine chocolates will be embraced by chocoholics the world over. “The love for chocolates transcends culture. Philippine chocolates hold tremendous potential in terms of culinary diplomacy. After all, the best way to another culture’s heart is through the stomach.”
“The secrets to our success are passion and determination,” said Neil, who drew inspiration from intricate patterns of the Tausug patadyong when he designed the packaging of MS3 chocolate bars. “We did not expect to win this prestigious award because we are new to this. But because of our commitment and dedication to produce high-quality products, we had the honour of winning this award. As a Filipino, we are proud that a Filipino brand received global recognition.”
MS3 is a Davao-based brand that uses premium cacao grown by local farmers in Mindanao. As part of the couple’s commitment to share their dream of creating a world-class chocolate brand to their community, they make sure to give local farmers the best rates and profit margins. The brand is also keen on its social responsibility initiatives as MS3 offers scholarships to the children of the farmers who are helping them grow the cacao.
“We want this brand to empower our farmers and also fellow OFWs,” said Neil. The couple encourages fellow OFWs to invest in the brand and to help them develop their own business and create jobs for more people. According to Daisy, OFWs are their priority investors.
MS3 has been aggressively joining trade fairs since it first broke into the market. Neil and Daisy are processing their export certificate requirements with the hope of making MS3 available to chocolate lovers around the world.
MS3’s award-winning drinking chocolate is gaining popularity across Mindanao. The couple has also received various inquiries on when MS3 will be made available overseas, especially in the Middle East.
MS3 chocolate is poised to penetrate the Asia-Pacific and European markets in the next two years.