About Tropical Traditions
The founders of Tropical Traditions are Brian and Marianita Shilhavy.
Brian W. Shilhavy, BA, MA
Brian earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible/Greek from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and his Master of Arts degree in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. He is currently the CEO of Tropical Traditions, Inc.
Marianita Jader Shilhavy, BS, CND (Certified Nutritionist/Dietician in the Philippines) earned her bachelor of science degree in nutrition in Manila. Understanding the nutrition of Filipino foods, Marianita worked for over eight years as a hospital dietician and nutritional counselor in the Philippines.
In 1998 Brian and Marianita returned to the Philippines with their three children and renovated Marianita's old family farmhouse. By this time the coconut industry was severely depressed due to the negative U.S. campaigns against tropical oils in the 1980s and 1990s. Coconut farmers could no longer support their families on the income generated from harvesting coconuts.
How We Discovered Virgin Coconut Oil
When I first read about the wonderful benefits of coconut oil, I asked my wife Marianita, who grew up on a coconut plantation in the Philippines, if there was a more natural way to extract the oil from the coconut, so that we didn’t have to buy the refined coconut oils found in all the stores in the Philippines. She said there was a method the older generation used to extract the oil by grating the fresh coconut, extracting the coconut milk, and then letting the coconut milk stand in a covered container for about 24 hours. After about 24 hours, the oil naturally separates from the water producing a crystal clear oil that retains the full scent and taste of coconuts. So we started making our coconut oil that way and using it for our cooking needs with our three children. We couldn’t believe how wonderful it tasted, and how great we felt. We had been living on Mt. Banahaw in the Philippines for almost two years by that time, and in the year 2000 telephone service was provided to our rural farming community, allowing me to put up a website about our Philippine Herbs. I decided to also put our Virgin Coconut Oil up on the website, not really expecting people to order it because it was a bit expensive since we had to hire people to make the oil, and shipping cost a lot because of the weight. We were so surprised when people started ordering, and then re-ordering it because they felt so great after using it! They told us there was no other coconut oil like it on the market. (See a sample of testimonies.)
Before long we had businesses contacting us asking how to order it in bulk. So we discussed how we could mass produce this kind of oil, and almost abandoned the product because we didn’t want to lose the traditional way of making it. In the end, we decided to just keep making it the same way, by having others in our coconut community also make the oil the traditional way. Many of our producers are in areas so remote, that if they did not use their coconuts to produce Virgin Coconut oil for us, no one would buy their coconuts because it would cost too much to transport them to manufacturing plants. In these areas, the coconuts generally just fell to the ground unused until we started training people to make our Virgin Coconut Oil. We were the first ones to export Virgin Coconut Oil from the Philippines to the US market. The success overwhelmed us.
Today, more than 6 years later, there are other companies now selling coconut oil again in the US, most of them mass-produced by machines. But we are committed to time-honored traditional practices that have produced healthy coconut oil for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Our producers have learned a lot of things over the years, since most of them have been producing this oil for over 6 years now. They have learned how to pick out the best coconuts from each harvest that produce the best quality oil, for example. Their most recent discovery came in 2007 when certain groups in rural areas had problems with water sources. Water is needed to make the coconut milk from which the oil is extracted. Using true Filipino ingenuity, they started collecting and using the pure nutritious coconut water from inside the organic coconuts instead. They noticed that the water separated from the oil much quicker, and that the end result was a higher quality and better tasting Virgin Coconut Oil. Independent laboratory analysis shows this to be one of the highest quality coconut oils on the market, having the highest levels of antioxidants. This enhanced Virgin Coconut Oil is now in the US market under the Tropical Traditions Gold Label brand. It meets our strictest standards to earn this designation. Today when you buy Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, you are buying the highest quality coconut oil we have to offer, and it is still made by hand and benefiting families in the rural areas of the Philippines where the coconuts grow.
The Tropical Traditions Line of Organic Foods and Healthy Products
Later, when our family was forced to leave the Philippines, we had to adapt our eating and lifestyle from living in a rural agricultural area of the Philippines, where we had access to a local public market and fresh farm goods produced in our community and the areas surrounding it, to buying food on the shelves of stores where we had little or no knowledge of those who produced the food. As we settled back into life in the United States, I sought out healthy food sources that I felt we could trust to meet the nutritional and health needs of our family.
Finding good food sources and healthy products is an ongoing endeavor, and the products sold through Tropical Traditions are the products I have trusted to meet the needs of my own family. I won't sell you products that I won't use personally or give to my own children. With meats and dairy products, it is not enough to simply be "organic." We believe that animals raised on pasture are preferable to animals in feed lots eating organic grains and organic soy, and so we give preference to animals raised on grass and sunshine, and farmers practicing sustainable agriculture.
How are Products Chosen for the Tropical Traditions?
We have a strong commitment to family farming and organic standards. But the organic label is not enough for us. We research and find out where the products are produced, and how they are produced. We find that some organic standards too loose for our trust, so we look beyond what is claimed on a label. We find out as much as possible about those who provide the products. And if a certain quality of product does not exist, we will work with others to produce that product and offer it to our consumers. We did that with Virgin Coconut Oil in the Philippines, and we are working on several other products both here in the US and outside the US that we plan to introduce to you soon.
One of those is our Pastured Poultry chickens raised on Cocofeed. When we began looking for a good source of chicken raised on pasture, we found that all the organic chickens available to us were fed a high concentration of soybeans, and this concerned us. So after two years of research, we finally came up with an organic feed that was soy-free and utilized the coconut pulp that was left over after the coconut oil was extracted from it. In May 2006 we introduced these chickens to our customers.
We want you to feel safe when shopping in our online store, so we have a commitment to you to not sell anything that is harmful to the best of our knowledge. All of our foods are either certified organic or meet quality standards that are equal to or higher than organic certification. This is quite different from most health food stores, where you have to be "on your guard" as most of them offer conventional products right alongside organic products, because they want to offer a full selection of products to compete with regular grocery stores. We would rather offer fewer products, and stick to our high standards, so that you can feel safe when shopping here.
Fats and Oils
We believe strongly that there is much confusion in the area of fats and oils in the US today. We believe that there is too much soy in the American diet (soy was not a major component of our diet prior to World War II), so we do our best to make sure that soy is not an ingredient in any of the products that we sell (other than fermented soy sauce as a seasoning). We also believe that there are too many polyunsaturated refined oils in the American diet, and as a result an overabundance of the Omega 6 fatty acids in our food today. We believe the traditional fats and oils that have been consumed in traditional cultures for hundreds if not thousands of years are still the healthiest fats and oils available to us today, including coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, sesame oil, and butter from the milk of pastured animals.
When Abraham Lincoln served as president of the United States in 1862, 48 percent of the people living in the U.S. were farmers. Today, that figure is less than 2%. Along with the age of industrialization and technology we have, by and large, lost many of our community family farms and, with that loss, also the loss of many traditional farming skills. Few would argue that our food sources here in the U.S. have suffered as a result, as a consumer-driven economy seeks to support its lifestyle of ease and comfort with cheap foods produced by fewer people providing the labor back on the farms.
But there are new market trends and demands from consumers who are now placing greater value on traditional skills, and healthier food produced "the old fashioned way." The 21st century sees a whole generation of "baby boomers" heading into their senior years, with complex health problems that did not plague their parents' and grandparents' generations, in spite of all the "medical advances" the 21st century brings us. Traditional ways of producing food are coming back into the spotlight, as some are questioning whether those responsible for filling the shelves of our grocery stores and supermarkets truly have our best interest in mind, or represent our core values.
Tropical Traditions is constantly adding more products to offer its customers as we move forward and find people producing products that meet our high standards. We are already working with farmers to be able to drop ship products directly to your home from the farm. In time, we will also setup regional centers where you can pick up local food produced close to your community. In early 2006 we launched our Healthy Buyer's Club that allows individuals and families to purchase bulk retail products for a significant savings. Join us today as we seek to restore traditional ways of producing healthy food and healthy products!
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