What makes Carmen’s Best ice cream a bestseller

What makes Carmen’s Best ice cream a bestseller

Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like ice cream? Or met any ice cream you didn’t like? Maybe not!

Meet Paco Magsaysay who not only loves ice cream but loves making it, too! Best of all, he’s the cool guy behind Carmen’s Best, which ice cream buffs swear is arguably the best artisanal ice cream in town.

When he thinks of ice cream (which is probably 24 hours a day, he even dreams of it), Paco only has happy memories, which never fail to melt his heart.

During all my travels growing up, there was one thing I always had to try — ice cream.

Paco Magsaysay

Cool Beginnings

To repeat a well-loved story, Carmen’s Best had its pristine beginnings when Paco’s dad, former Senator Jun Magsaysay, decided to put up a dairy farm with some friends. “I told him, ‘But Dad, we’re in cable TV, why do you want to put up a farm?’ He said that my Lolo Monching (President Ramon Magsaysay) had always wanted to put up a farm. When he was going to retire from politics, Lolo Monching said he wanted to put up a farm. By putting up a farm, my dad always wanted to stimulate the rural economy to a certain extent.”

Basically, the farm was intended to offer 100-percent fresh milk. How fresh is fresh? Boasting the only fresh milk processing plant in the Philippines, milk churned out of here is not pasteurized at ultra-high temperature (UHT) to prolong shelf life but only below boiling point so as not to cook the milk and keep the precious vitamins and minerals intact.

“We had to milk the cows every day and the fresh milk could not be sold fast enough so we were throwing away milk,” Paco recounts. “Dad asked me if I could help him sell the milk, sayang natatapon lang. I was so against the farm that I didn’t come here during its first year of operation. The first client we sold our milk to was Amanpulo. I was thinking that if Amanpulo, where the manager was a New Zealander, liked the quality of our milk, it must really be something special.”

Contented Cows

We visit this 27-hectare farm lying snugly at the foot of Mt. Makiling’s twin peaks in Bay, Laguna. Farm staffer Mark Angelo Borja gives us a tour of the place where we see some of the 200-plus heads of Holstein Friesian milk-producing cattle from New Zealand contently grazing. Yes, there is such a thing as a contented cow! As the cows are being gently milked, mostly by women on the farm, they’re comforted with the classical strains from a Mozart, a Bach or a Beethoven Symphony wafting in the air.

“Our milk is never spoiled, only our cows are,” says Paco.

When Carmen’s Best Dairy Products was incorporated in 2009, the company was just making milk, cheese (kesong puti), yogurt, and pastillas, which Paco thought was pretty boring.

“When we got into ice cream, I said we’d just make ice cream and nothing else. So, we made ice cream, which is better than any ice cream I’ve ever tried. On Feb. 1, 2011, we started selling it. October of 2011, Haagen Dazs pulled out of the market. We didn’t have any intelligence, the Russians were not telling me anything,” Paco says with an impish laugh. “We had no idea this was gonna happen. In fact, when we tried to study our history, we had no data to analyze what flavors would sell.”

So serious was Paco about making and selling ice cream that in 2013, he took an ice cream course at the Pensylvania State Ice Cream School where he earned the program’s coveted Phil Keeney (the emperor of ice cream) award.

Papal Approval

Carmen’s Best started with the usual chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors and then moved on to the more complex salted caramel, malted milk, Brazilian coffee, and butter pecan. Today, it has grown to 40 flavors and is sold in Metro Manila (it just opened a kiosk at Alabang Town Center) and in the provinces such as Pampanga, Dagupan, Tarlac, La Union, and Baguio. Its popularity has simply spread by word of mouth — make that contented mouths!

Carmen’s Best is now served on board PAL’s business class flights to the US, Canada, London, and Japan. During Pope Francis’ visit in 2015, His Holiness enjoyed the best of two flavors — malted milk and brown butter almond brittle — when he flew back to Rome.

As much as he treasures his ice cream, Paco values his relationship with his partners. “I always tell my son Jaime that the reason people entertain or even talk to us is because of his lolo and his lolo’s dad; because if we didn’t have a clean name, they won’t even entertain us.”

A Mouthful Of Flavors

Inspired by Paco’s travels abroad, every Carmen’s Best has a mouthful to tell. For instance, the pistachio almond fudge and butter pecan were flavors he grew up eating while he was living in the US. The malted milk was inspired by the Horlicks tablets that Paco loved popping into his mouth as a kid. The baklava with layers of filo topped with nuts and honey was a Turkish delight he ate a lot of while in college in Houston, Texas.

And what’s the secret behind Carmen’s Best’s Secret Breakfast? It’s inspired by San Francisco’s hottest artisan ice cream, Humphry Slocombe, that’s spiked with whiskey and cornflake bits. Bourbon for breakfast, anyone?

There’s nothing like ice cream to sweeten one’s day and so, specially for broken-hearted women, Paco came up with a fun flavor which he called, yes, He’s Not Worth It — a rich, dark chocolate Mississippi mudpie-inspired ice cream smothered with Oreo cookies, pecans, walnuts, and caramel fudge. He may not be worth it, but this ice cream is certainly worth every calorie!

For Carmen’s Best, the best ice cream can only come from the best-quality fresh milk — rich and creamy, it’s pure indulgence — and the finest ingredients from here and abroad (Paco certainly wouldn’t shortchange the quality of his ice cream or scrimp on the ingredients as he wouldn’t risk the reputation of his daughter after whom Carmen’s Best is named). So, when the flavor says pistachio, it means real pistachios from Sicily, known worldwide for their quality. When it says chocolate, it means premium Swiss chocolate. When it says vanilla, it means honest-to-goodness Madagascar vanilla beans. When it says Rocky Road, it means it’s chockful of chewy marshmallows and pecans. When it says green tea, it means the most s-tea-mulating machang minus the bitter taste.

As of now, Paco hopes to get more resellers for Carmen’s Best around the provinces which are underserved. He’s also looking at exporting his ice cream to Singapore and Taiwan.

I dream of coming up with a world-class ice cream that’s made in the Philippines and sold in different countries.

Paco Magsaysay

Now, that would be the coolest thing yet!

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