THE SALADSTOP Group is giving a new healthy choice for Manila diners with the opening of another brand in the Philippines called HeyBo.

According to a release, the name is a portmanteau of “hey,” and a truncation of “bowl.” HeyBo specializes in warm grain bowls “with a focus on the use of local flavors.” During the opening at Central Square BGC, Taguig — the first international and flagship outlet of HeyBo — on Aug. 11, guests were treated to the new brand’s bowls.

Kampong Table is a bowl of mixed grains, roasted lemongrass chicken, crispy tempeh, soft-boiled egg, oriental cabbage salad, and a lime wedge, served with white bean and cauliflower dip and green chutney. Muscle Beach is composed of tri-color quinoa, sous-vide chicken breast, charred carrots, broccoli, creamy avocado, and mixed seeds, with a beetroot chipotle dip and yuzu soy.  Shibuya Nights is an Asian-inspired bowl with green soba, baked salmon, grilled mushrooms, soft-boiled egg, oriental cabbage salad, and furikake, with avocado edamame dip and beetroot miso. Sunday Roast is a hearty mix of tri-color quinoa, char-grilled steak, a roasted pumpkin wedge, charred corn, tomato salad, and garlic breadcrumbs, with beetroot chipotle dip and balsamic butter.

For vegetarian options, there’s El Patron, with mixed grains, a vegan Mexican patty, sautéed capsicum, spiced black beans, a tomato salad, and tortilla chips, with an avocado edamame dip and smoky sriracha, while Spice Trade is a savory mix of cauliflower lentil rice falafels, spiced chickpeas, fried eggplant, carrot salad, and Murukku chips, with red pepper dip and tzatziki.

HeyBo also has flavors unique to the country, carefully created to satisfy local cravings. Humba Wamba has garlic black rice, braised pork humba, charred corn, fried eggplant, winged bean salad, and spiced peanuts, with a white bean and cauliflower dip and pineapple tamarind. Off The Hook is a harmony of garlic black rice, halibut adobo, Thai basil tofu, charred corn, and coconut lime spice, with red pepper dip and a moringa vinaigrette.

FILLING A NICHESaladStop first arrived in the Philippines in 2014, having been established in 2009 in Singapore then spreading into key markets in Asia. Adrien Desbaillets, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, noted that the arrival of another brand was simply interrupted by the pandemic. Another brand, an outlet selling rice rolls called Wooshi, may also be seen in the Philippines quite soon.

“We’re looking into opening that in the Philippines as well,” said Mr. Desbaillets in an interview with BusinessWorld. “SaladStop was a brand that we knew the niche we would fill,” he said. “HeyBo is in a way, easier to launch because we understand the market so much better.”

Opening another brand focused on healthy eating is also a reflection on how well the Philippines is providing more options for health-conscious consumers. With SaladStop, he said, “We’re going into areas of Manila and in the outskirts that a few years ago we would have probably found to be a little bit difficult. Now, I guess, the healthy food segment has grown so much.”

Mr. Desbaillets pointed out that most of the ingredients they use are sourced from local farmers, and their utensils are made from biodegradable materials. Sustainability is one of the pillars holding up the company, considering they just opened a carbon net-zero store in Singapore. “It’s just the impact that we do. It’s part of our DNA. It’s how some are built, what we as people within the company are strong believers in: trying to… change the conversations around sustainability and do it in a very authentic way.”

That’s nice — but does morality make the food taste better? “Yeah. Local is better. Simple,” he said. He elaborates: “It’s a belief in terms of how we develop our menu. We know that we can work with local farms and it takes 24 hours for a product to reach the store. It’s just going to taste fresher.”

In the Philippines, HeyBo and SaladStop are both licensed by the SSI Group, Inc. — Joseph L. Garcia

Joseph Emmanuel Garcia