Sawsawan culture prevails over Filipinos’ love of fruit salad and sugary food
Frying food is one of the most common and preferred cooking methods in the Philippines because of its convenience and affordability. This holiday season, Packworks’ Sari IQ, in collaboration with Fourth Wall, a sociocultural research firm, has found out that products related to fried food are on the top of the shopping list of Filipinos in their favorite sari-sari stores.
A comparison data obtained from Sari IQ on December 1-14, between 2021 and 2022, showed that among all holiday season products, packaged sauce or “sawsawan” has the highest consumption rate, with a significant increase of 8%. Breading and coating mixed came second at 7%, while cooking oil, despite ranking in third place, remained statistically static with a 5% increase.
To explain this phenomenon, John Brylle L. Bae, Research Director of Fourth Wall said, “At a sociocultural level, Filipinos prefer fried foods because of its association to sawsawan and the culture it breeds. The sawsawan culture epitomizes the communal nature of eating for us, Filipinos – that is, eating is more than just consuming good food, but forging long-lasting connections with others.”
According to a 2016 essay by Andre Orandain, “Our [Filipino] cuisine is participative and communal. It asks and implores one to touch the food, not only to consume but also to partake. To allow ourselves to connect with the things we eat on a deeper, more spiritual level. It asks us to treat food intimate. [Therefore] The sawsawan is one of the most important facets of this trait. It defines the very structure of Filipino culture. It shows us how we adapt, how we change, how we are hospitable, and how we love to please. It is many things all at once, but more importantly, it shows how much of a reflection food is.”
Meanwhile, products related to fruit salads experienced no significant change. Evaporated milk increased by 2%, while condensed milk declined by -1%. Other fruit salad-related products have experienced drastic declines, including all-purpose cream at -11% and canned fruits at -16%, suggesting that Filipinos are giving up fruit salads on their holiday table this year.
Moreover, the demand for sugar and seasonings has considerably gone low. Sugar declined by -9% and seasonings by -33%, which shows that Filipinos are becoming more conscious about their diet – even during the holiday season.
“Our analysis further suggests that on holiday seasons, Filipinos are willing to forgo salads and sweets, but they are struggling to let go of fried foods. The aversion to sugars and salads comes from high inflation, growing concerns on diabetes, and increasing health consciousness. Meanwhile, the propensity for fried foods comes from practical considerations (convenient and economical) but also from a much deeper sociocultural consideration,” Bae explained.