Carmen’s Best Ice Cream is rapidly sweeping the archipelago with its unique brand of thick, flavor-rich ice cream that provides its customers the taste of a father’s ingenuity, passion, and love for his family. Every pint of Carmen’s Best is the story of Francisco “Paco” Magsaysay, a simple family man who has turned heads with his brand of soulful, artisanal dairy treats that feature distinct flavors like “Madagascar Vanilla”, “Butter Pecan”, “Salted Caramel”, and the quirky “He’s Not Worth It”.
At a modest dairy farm in Laguna owned by his father, former Senator Jun Magsaysay, Paco was asked this question: what could you do with fresh milk and excess cream? At the time, the farm saw a surplus of perfectly good fresh milk and cream just wasting away or being thrown out. Faced with this challenge, Paco’s father turned to him and asked him to “do something with the milk”. Not knowing at the time that he was on the cusp of what would become one of the most recognized local ice cream brands, he started to turn what would have been spoilt milk into delectable, dairy desserts. It wasn’t, however, an overnight success as Paco had to deal with the problem of any fledgling start-up company: anonymity.
Paco recalls, “We were so new. We go to restaurants. We go to groceries and they’re like, ‘Who are you?’”
The first two years were tough as their unknown brand was met with hesitancy and doubt from would-be partners and business owners alike. Despite the undeniable quality and rich taste of Carmen’s Best, its status as a newcomer had made people cautious of its worth, at first. But soon, word had spread of its irrefutable quality and wide selection of world-class flavors. Now, Carmen’s Best is available in over 200 outlets in key cities nationwide as well as on outbound international flights of Philippine Airlines, Qantas and Korean Air.
Carmen’s Best Ice Cream is known for its quality, with its heart and soul relying on the type of milk being used to create this confectionary delight.
While some ice creams have a significant amount of air or vegetable fat, Paco makes sure that his customers are not cheated out of experiencing authentic ice cream by using only fresh cow’s milk sourced from his father’s dairy farm. It also does not contain water, extenders, preservatives or food coloring, and made more indulgent by generous helpings of imported ingredients.
His newfound passion for ice-cream making led him to take up a short course at the famed Berkey Creamery of the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences in 2013 to train with the best and learn from delegates of global ice cream brands such as Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Ben and Jerry’s, Hershey, Baskin-Robbins and Blue Bell Creamery. At the end of the course, Paco bagged the Keeney Beany Award, named in honor of Dr. Philip Gregory Keeney, professor emeritus of Penn State and legendary ice cream guru.
As a stickler for quality, Paco ensures that every pint comes up to the standards he upholds, never compromising the flavor for cheap or synthetic substitutes. He also makes sure that every flavor available has its own story, featuring a certain taste not found locally. Its pioneering flavors are Salted Caramel, Malted Milk, Brazilian Coffee and Butter Pecan, and have been expanded to include eclectic flavors such as Turkish Baklava, Secret Breakfast, Madagascar Vanilla, and the rather famous “He’s Not Worth It” which is their number one best seller in Cebu. Putting his own twist on a Mississippi Mud Pie recipe, this unusually named yet indulgent treat just hits the spot when dealing with the fallout of an unbearable heartache or if you simply want a little break after a stressful day.
Yet, despite its indulgent taste, Paco asserts that, “Our sugar content is lower than most commercially available brands out there, because we want the cream to stand out and not the sugar. That’s why it’s very satisfying when people tell me ‘You know Paco, I like your ice cream because it’s not so sweet’.”
Paco sets his sights on expanding his operation, particularly international delivery to our ASEAN neighbours and the Middle East. “I want to prove that our local ice cream is just as good, if not better, than more well-known international brands,” he says.
Moving beyond the quality of the ice cream, the other thing that is as important – if not more – is the reason behind Carmen’s Best. Named after his only daughter, Carmen, it is a proud testament of a father’s love for his daughter and their shared fondness for ice cream. The main reason why Paco would never compromise the quality of his ice cream is because it carries his daughter’s name. “I have a responsibility to protect my daughter from anything or anyone, in the same way I would want to protect the Carmen’s Best brand because it has my daughter’s name on it,” he explains.
Turning this into a family affair, Paco has also reached out to one of his sons, Jaime, to handle the social media aspect of the business, as well as exposing him to its day-to-day operations. His management team is composed of experienced professionals from industry leaders like Magnolia and Häagen-Dazs to ensure that premium quality and food safety standards are met.
All in all, Carmen’s Best is a story of a father’s love for his family and passion for great quality ice cream worth sharing with the world. Paco Magsaysay is a tenacious family man whose determination and zeal has allowed him to turn wastage into profit. Although its origins were rough, Paco did not waver from making an otherwise unknown brand name into what it is today. He never gave up on Carmen’s Best, the same way a father would never give up on his daughter.
“Although I didn’t have a Plan B, I figured out a way to make it work. I simply persevered despite the initial rejections, made improvements and adjustments when needed, had my fair share of stumbling blocks along the way, but found a way to overcome them. Six years into the business, we’re still here, and growing,” he said.
As anyone can see, Carmen’s Best Ice Cream is not just a pint of delicious ice cream worth gushing over; it is a story of tenacity, resilience, and a father’s love for and devotion to his unica hija.
Paco Magsaysay studied grade school at La Salle Green Hills and moved to La Salle University in Pennsylvania and has three grown children; Jaime, Mikey and Carmen who all attended La Salle from grade school to high school and Jaime till college.
UPDATE: Carmen’s Best is now at Alabang Town Center
News about the opening of a retail kiosk for Carmen’s Best Ice Cream quickly spread like wild fire in the internet. Paco Magsaysay calls it a “leap of faith”. He further adds, “ with the encouragement of friends and family, here we are, and we couldn’t be any more pleased with our decision. The ATC kiosk has allowed us to be more accessible to people who have never tried our ice cream. In less than a week in this location, the reception has been positive – both from our loyal customers and first-timers. My only regret is we should have done this two or three years ago!
Article originally published in 2018.