Pili nuts are well-known for their outstanding health benefits, such as having the highest vitamin E content of any nut as well as being rich in magnesium – but Pili Pushers has opted to maximise the health benefits of their products by curating botanical-infused flavours.
“We currently have five different variants of pili nuts: Unsalted and Himalayan Pink Salt for those who prefer the authentic umami taste of the nuts, and also Cinnamon & Raw Honey, Ginger & Turmeric, as well as Raw Cacao & Coffee,” Pili Pushers Co-Founder Terry Tong told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“These flavours were created with purpose - we didn’t want frivolous flavours such as barbecue, but instead flavours that were enjoyable yet had added health benefits.
“So Cinnamon & Raw honey was crafted for an immunity boost, to help with influenza; Ginger & Turmeric was created to aid detox and digestion with curcumin from the turmeric to relieve inflammation and provide stomach relief, whereas the Raw Cacao & Coffee is meant to provide an antioxidant boost – we use raw cacao which is processed differently from raw cacao at low temperatures to retain its rich antioxidant levels.”
For its flavours and products, Pili Pushers won the internationally-renowned Great Taste Awards for three years in a row from 2016 to 2018.
The firm also maximises the healthy potential of the nuts via its processing method, which involves additional, time-consuming pre-sprouting and dehydration steps.
“The pre-sprouting or soaking step actually leads to the process of activation, and is really an ancient practice [but one that many] firms opt not to take up,” said Tong.
“Activation is when the nuts are exposed to water so as to remove phytic acid (an enzyme that prevents sprouting), and this make it easier on the gut as phytic acid can bind with nutrients in the body and make nuts or seeds less digestible.
“We have also opted not to roast the nuts as pili nuts have very high oil content, and this would oxidise under the roasting process; and nutrients such as the high Vitamin E and magnesium content would also be destroyed.
“So we go dehydrate the nuts over low heat for a few days instead to lower moisture content so as to prevent mould from growing – and if we are adding the flavours, we dehydrate, add the flavours, then dehydrate again.”
The nuts are also each cracked by hand, and the pre-sprouting is also done manually. From start to finish, each batch of pili nuts takes some 62 hours to process, far more time-consuming than that of regular nuts, and ends up with a shelf life of roughly one year.
Pili Pushers’ pili nuts can be found on the firm’s online store and all major online platforms, as well as health food shops SuperNature and ZenXin Organic, retailing at S$7.90 (US$5.87) per 250g pack.
Natural though not organic
Pili Pushers’ nuts originate from the volcanic region of Bicol in South Luzon, Philippines where these are wild harvested and not farmed.
“We work with independent farmers who collect these basically from the volcanic soil in their backyard, where the pili trees have grown for centuries – these are not farmed hence no fertilisers or pesticides are used,” said Tong.
“As such, the nuts may be of natural origin but are not certified organic as they grow in the wild – no claims can be made for the nuts harvested this way to be organic.”
That said, pili nuts can still fit in to many dietary regimes today, from keto to paleo to plant-based.
“Pili nuts can provide a good source of Vitamin E as an antioxidant and magnesium, which is a master mineral needed for over 300 body processes, from calcium absorption to hormone production and more,” he said.
“Magnesium is not as common in our diets as it used to be due to overfarming – one-third of the population in the US is magnesium-deficient, and with processed foods getting more and more common in Asia, magnesium deficiency here is inevitable too.”
Challenges and way forward
The biggest challenge for pili nuts remains its high price due to longer processing, less supply and other such factors, so Pili Pushers aims to provide more education and promote the benefits of the product as widely as possible.
“One of these ways is to promote via different recipes or different consumption formats – for instance, blending our unflavoured pili nuts into a nut milk is incredible creamy and saves the hassle of soaking the nuts like you would for homemade almond milk, and we also have recipes such as replacing butter with pili nuts in cauliflower mash which gives that creaminess due to the high fat content,” said Tong.
“There are options for both sweet and savoury items, to make lattes, smoothies, hummus and more.”
Moving forward, the firm will continue to focus on developing more new health-focused flavours, though it will not be looking at supermarket expansion just yet.
“We are still evaluating this as a very different model applies for supermarkets, but exploring new flavours will be the focus for now,” he said.
“We are already selling in North America, such as on Amazon US and in Canada. There is certainly large potential here as a good keto snack due to the pili nut having the highest fat content and lowest carbohydrates of any nut, and the keto trend has really taken off there.
“Overseas expansion and distribution is definitely something we are interested in – [anywhere there are] conscious consumers who value the extra effort put into the processing is definitely of interest.”