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Harina P.A.N. (Producto Alimenticio Nacional) is the first brand of boiled maize flour in Venezuela. The brand itself became a synecdoche, as even with other large competitors in the market, it is used as a noun to indicate any similar maize flour. This flour is similar to the main ingredient of the Italian polenta.
Harina PAN is used to make the maize flour dough also known as "masa de arepa" or "masarepa", which is used to make Venezuelan dishes such as arepas, hallacas, empanadas, and bollos. Also used in to prepare several Colombian dishes as well. Harina PAN is found in varieties made from white and yellow corn. It contains no additives and is considered suitable for those with restricted diets.
The acronym P.A.N. (Producto Alimenticio Nacional), in English ("National Food Product") had humble beginnings in the mind of the then President Carlos Eduardo Stolk who devised the idea for the name of the company's flagship product and coordinated for the fruition of the project which revolutionized the way Venezuelans fed their families.
The traditional preparation of arepa flour is very labor-intensive, requiring the pounding of maize in a large mortar. The precooked arepa flour was invented in the 1950s by Dr. Luis Caballero Mejias, a Venezuelan engineer who used the profits from his patent to finance a Technical Schools system.
In 1954, the Venezuelan beer and malted drinks company Empresas Polar developed an industrial production method, launching the brand in 1960. Its spokesmen said that had been the idea of Czech master brewer Carlos Roubicek, one of the first employees of the Polar Brewery, and Juan Lorenzo Mendoza Quintero, son of the founder Lorenzo Mendoza Fleury, taking advantage of the Remavenca machinery and the corn flakes manufactured in that plant to improve the beer flavor. In fact, Empresas Polar does not accredit Luis Caballero Mejías, for the development of the process that served for the production of maize flour.
The product rapidly gained acceptance among housewives because of the tremendous saving in labor and its high quality. The original slogan was "Se acabó la piladera", which means "No more pounding". Harina PAN has remained essentially unchanged since then, as can be seen from the original advertisements. The precooked flour was later mass-produced and sold in larger quantities.
For decades, Harina PAN has been an essential ingredient for Venezuelans, and more recently in Colombian cooking, with websites dedicated to locating the nearest distributor in several countries in the world. Pre-made arepa flour is specially prepared for making arepas and other maize dough-based dishes, such as Venezuelan hallacas, bollos, and empanadas. The most popular brand names of corn flour are Harina PAN in Venezuela, and Areparina in Colombia. Pre-made arepa flour is usually made from white corn, but there are yellow corn varieties available. To Venezuelans, it forms a part of their national identity, making up a large portion of their diet.