Friday, September 13, 2013

The Surprisingly High Price of Natural Living in The Philippines and the Gaping Business Opportunity Behind It

What is "organic" or "natural" is expensive.

It's amazing and puzzling really, but it's true. 

As a citizen of a developing country, my transition to natural living is not as simple and affordable as I thought it would be.

Since my journey into DIY-natural living has started, I've come across some price and resource access difficulties. And I thought it was as easy as going to the supermarket and buying them like other groceries!

Also, since I've been a DIY convert, I've also opened my eyes to wonderful business ideas that can result to social changes.

Shocking Prices and Dismal Availability of Materials 

The first problem in my natural living journey is access to materials/ingredients. I cannot get many of the supplies I needed initially. Where can I buy bentonite clay and raw cocoa butter, for instance? SM does not sell them, as well as the local wet and dry market.

I'm in the Philippines and I thought I can order some of the organic products from, but sadly, these companies with the materials I need do not deliver to the Philippines.

I was depressed for a few seconds. Depression is unheard of in the Philippines, even if many of us do get depressed. We Filipinos are generally happy people who like enjoying the present, so depression is not, well, enjoyable, so it lapses too swiftly.

To learn more about where I can buy these natural products, I asked my friends through Facebook about these products and they said that I should go to Healthy Options at SM Mall of Asia. Some suggested Rustan's and Glorietta. Who knew that looking for bentonite clay (et al.) can be so hard?

As for the price of natural living, oh the agonizing price! Each of them range from P300 upwards, some are more than a thousand a bottle and they're in such tiny amounts, especially the essential oils and other oils. 

I was almost discouraged to continue my DIY-natural-living lifestyle. I wanted to be more practical in life, not practically penniless!

Whatever the price challenges, I still invested money (swipe you go credit cards, tsk tsk) on my new natural living lifestyle. I know that these small amounts would go a long way anyway.

I realized now why not so many people are willing to go natural and DIY. The time, money, and energy involved can be unnerving at first, but in time, it gets easier. 

With your stock of materials that you can use for many and different products, you'll soon realize that the investment is worth it, especially considering that you're doing this to promote good health and practical living for yourself and your family. 

For example, Vitamin E oil is expensive, but it can be used to make many products. You can also compare DIY projects to commercial products, and the latter are more expensive than the former. 

My long-term computations assert that natural living is still more practical than my former lifestyle. Yes, long-term is the way to go for us practical parents and individuals. 

On Purchasing Natural Products: Physical Places and Places to Click

I just went to Healthy Options at SM Moa, and thankfully I got some of the products I needed. They're, as expected, much pricier than those available online, considering import duties and their other expenses. I'm looking into for better prices and found other options, but I haven't bought from them yet because of budgetary concerns.

While looking for affordable local organic products, I'm so happy to stumble into Kikay Corner's website because she brought me to Liquid Castile Soaps by Casa de Lorenzo. They sell numerous kinds of oils and castile soaps. I can't wait to try local organic products! Hopefully, we can see more of these firms/people offering local products like raw 100% cocoa butter, beeswax pastilles, baking soda in larger packages and the like in the future.

I looked up Castile Soap, Witch Hazel, Bentonite Clay and Vitamin E oil at Galleon's website and theirs are quite more expensive than Healthy Options. If you're near a Healthy Options shop, they have cheaper products, but they don't have all the stuff. Galleon has numerous products that cannot be bought in the Philippines, so you can try their website too.  I'm planning to buy 100% raw cocoa butter from them.

Healthy Option's Castile Soap is also cheaper than Casa de Lorenzo's. I was quite surprised. I thought local products would be cheaper. Still, you can try their castile soaps because I heard they're great too, and they offer Calamansi Castile Soap, how cool is that! I also bought several essential oils from Case de Lorenzo, and they're a reliable supplier. 

As for baking soda, I'm so thankful I found Queen's Baking Soda. It's a lot cheaper than Arm & Hammer's but not so accessible. Even in SM Supermarkets, baking soda is hard to find and they only have Arm & Hammer's brand, at least during the times I went there.

Divisoria offers the cheapest baking soda at Php 25-30 though. Tabora street is the place to go for inexpensive baking soda.

Apple cider vinegar is expensive. I use Bragg's and I like it better than other brands. Too bad there's no better or equally good local version. 
organic product DIY natural living castille soap witch hazel bentonite clay vitamin e oil pure
Products Purchased from Healthy Options @ SM MOA for making Homemade Products like Homemade Natural Bug Repellent Spray

The High Price of Imported Natural Products: Opportunities for Local Natural Products

As for the other imported products, I'll find a way to replace them with local counterparts. That would take a good deal of experimentation, but I'm willing to do it. I've nothing against imported brands but they are very expensive and hard to find, and I want to support local products too.

Furthermore, I believe there's a large business opportunity for a natural-living market in the Philippines. Do you know that virgin coconut oil is available by gallons to Americans, but not here in local Philippine supermarkets? Do you also know where some of these virgin coconut oils are sourced? From the Philippines! But we Filipinos cannot buy in bulk because our local supermarkets don't sell them! 

At the same time, coconut oil can be made into many products, from shampoo to deodorant to lotions (the list is almost endless), but they're not being widely made and popularly used/marketed in the Philippines. 

Why oh why?

I see plentiful coconut trees here, even in the cities, and more so, in numerous provinces, but we do not have a thriving coconut-oil industry that can make different coconut products, including hygiene, beauty, and medical products! The government and business community are seriously under-investing on something so local to us, and yet has potentially striking local and international business potential!

Gaping business opportunity! My mouth is agape too!

Oh don't get me started. I can get so frustrated when I talk about this. Many coconut farmers and workers are dirt poor, when they can turn their coconuts into diverse products that can truly improve their lives. That they remain poor when they are middle-class-in-the-making breaks my heart. My mind screams: This is nuts! 

I wish I can do more for our coconut industry, as well as our agricultural industry, but this is all I can think of for now. Starting a blog that uses their products and pushing the demand for coconut oil and other local products through promoting healthy living. 

Hopefully, I can also motivate entrepreneurs who have the money and networks needed to invest in the R&D and marketing that can turn the coconut industry into one giant, middle-class-making industry.

Small Beginnings, Large Dreams

Natural living is mind-boggling pricey. 

Natural should be practical, not 

However, the high price of natural living in the Philippines can be reduced- through investment, R&D, and marketing that can increase the demand for these products and reduce their prices.

It wouldn't harm us to also dream that, one day, other changes will also happen in the Philippines- a wonderful transformation in the development of the local coconut industry and other agricultural industries, followed by more wonderful social transformations in the life of many of the poor.
How's your trip to organic beauty and living and DIY flying? Any similar challenges? How about DIY triumphs? Please do share them with me and let's exchange ideas and learn from one another!