Based in the Philippines, Mount Mayon is a snacking company that has been working with pili nuts for nearly 15 years. During this time, co-founder David Weil said the snacking group has been ‘developing our systems to get the best nut possible’. He describes Mount Mayon as ‘the original pili pioneers’.
Native to southeast Asia, the pili nut can be challenging to work with. Tough shells mean mechanical de-shelling machines often crush the nut kernel in the process, resulting in high levels of waste.
Mount Mayon therefore relies heavily on hand-processing and traditional Filipino techniques combined with its ‘unique natural processes’, including a proprietary 'SlowDry' method. “Activating nuts is an ancient and traditional practice that involves the soaking of nuts in brine and letting them dry in the hot sun. Our process is based on this but, without giving away our secrets, we strive to produce the best natural nut possible. There is a lot of hand-processing from harvesting to final production,” Weil revealed.
Mount Mayon nuts are grown without ‘harmful chemicals’ and are certified as free from pesticides.
Introducing pili nuts to the world
It is fair to say that pili nuts are relatively unknown in markets like Europe, Weil noted. However, he suggested that recent years have seen an increase in awareness. This is reflected in the accolades Mount Mayon has received – from the Guild of Fine Foods’ Great Taste Awards to the International Taste and Quality Institute Awards in Brussels and the Snacking D’Ors Awards in Paris.
Growing recognition has gone hand-in-hand with increased distribution and availability globally. Mount Mayon pili nuts are now sold in the France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The company is ‘about to launch’ in Japan and Spain, ‘with more countries being added’ to the list, Weil told us.
He believes that they bring a unique dimension to the crowded snacking space. “There is plenty of space for them to go on the snack aisle. They can rival any nut because they are a great alternative in taste, flavour and texture as well as having good health benefits.”
Pili nuts also boast a favourable nutritional profile and ‘remarkable’ health benefits, the snacking entrepreneur continued.
Weil then reeled off a long list of healthy attributes: “They are 100% natural, high in heart-healthy magnesium, low on the Glycaemic Index, rich in healthy fats and Omega 9 oils, the lowest in net carbs of any nut, naturally high in protein and fibre, healthy for the skin and with the highest levels of vitamin E.”
‘Not all pili nuts are equal’
While the use of pili nuts as a raw material presents a point of difference in western snacking categories, Weil was quick to emphasise ‘not all pili nuts are equal’.
“It’s like saying all red wine is the same but there’s a big difference for example, between an expertly produced vintage red Burgundy that’s been carefully perfected over many years by passionate vintner families versus something from a warehouse, rushed to market to cash in on a trend and that is barely digestible.”
Mount Mayon, he continued, has ‘set the bar’ for pili quality, branding and corporate responsibility.
“Mount Mayon pili nuts, in particular, stand out because of their delicate taste and texture as well as their careful flavour development,” Weil claimed.
“Our flavours are developed through a long process, often taking up to a year or more to get the right balance and ingredients to best complement the taste and creamy texture of our nuts.”
Flavour combinations on the market include Himalayan pink salt, Ecuadorian cocoa and Kyoto matcha.
And flavour innovation continues apace. “We have been trialling a completely new direction in our snack and gifting product that has everyone really excited. We are developing further innovations, which we have been working on for over a year and hope to launch in 2020,” Weil shared.
Heritage and authenticity are important for the Mount Mayon brand’s premium positioning. This is reflected in the company’s commitment to sustainable sourcing of its nuts.
“We work with growers and we helped set up the Mount Mayon Pili Cooperative,” Weil elaborated.