Bicol Region is not only a home for active volcanoes including the world-famous perfect–cone Mount Mayon, beautiful beaches and beauty queens but also for a signature indigenous nut called pili. This nature’s gift pili nut combined with talent and perseverance has turned one enterprise into what it has become today.
The Humble Beginnings
The C.O.P. Pili Sweets and Pastries is an inspiring entrepreneurial story showcasing Bicol’s best-tasting pili nuts and how applying own strokes of creativity and innovation can create positive impact to the family and community. Located in Daraga, Albay, the C.O.P Pili Sweets and Pastries is a food processing firm engaged in the production and marketing of pilinut candy variants and pastries. Like most businesses in the Philippines, it is family owned and managed by the couple Erwin and Cindy Pere?a.
Long before the government’s intensified balik-probinsiya campaign, the couple moved from Manila to Bicol in 2000 because of the city’s rising inflation rate and higher standard of living, and made them explore opportunities in their home province. Ms. Pere?a, a graduate of BS Food Nutrition at University of Santo Tomas with the help of her Bicolano husband came to a decision of venturing into a pili nut business in 2006.
“It’s never easy to start and run a business”, said Ms. Pere?a. The couple went through the dilemma and challenges faced by start-up business such as access to finance and market.
The firm’s bestseller is wrapped in the name “Wrapsody”. It deviated from the traditional pili coated products as it is made from layers of dough, chopped pilinuts, sweet caramel syrup, butter and sugar. It is packaged as a delectable pilinut-filled pastry and enjoys wide acceptance of customers and even exposure to social media.
Other product line includes the Y-nut Roasted Pilinut that comes in different variants: 1) roasted pili nut with garlic and chilli, 2) roasted pilinuts with salt and pepper, 3) roasted pilinuts with sea salt and 4) glazed pilinuts with honey.
Business is intended for courageous and risk-taking people since establishing and maintaining an enterprise cannot be without its shares of problems and difficulties.
The company produced approximately 190 boxes of Wrapsody and other products on a 5-day production. Due to technical constraints, the company had limited production due to high product rejects. Roasting was done manually and baking utilized old oven that caused burning of products placed near the edges of baking trays and consumed a lot of fuel.
Further, new products needed to undergo laboratory tests to comply with Food and Drug Authority (FDA) requirements that entailed additional cost on part on their part. The lack of packaging labels prevented the company from venturing into larger markets that required compliance with the mandatory label requirements
The couple, however, were keen observers of existing and potential problems, and constantly on the lookout for business opportunities.
The firm has also been consistently receiving awards and citations such as Trendy Award during the International Food Exhibition 2008 at SMX Convention Center, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI Region V)’s OK Bikol Fair and Pinoy ME’s Convention last May 2012.
S and T Intervention
In December 2012, the firm availed of Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) assistance for the project “Upgrading Pili Processing”. The firm was granted a funding assistance of P991,600 for the acquisition of appropriate packaging materials and production equipment such as heavy duty roasting machine and twin deck industrial oven. Nutrition facts analyses for four products also formed part of the S&T assistance.
The firm actively participated in series of training activities and workshops on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)/Food Safety, business plan packaging, trade fairs and the likes. DOST also assisted in the marketing aspect through its SETUP Display and Marketing Information Center.
What Lies Ahead
The SETUP innovation system support assistance resulted to an increased production volume from 190 boxes to 520 boxes per week reflecting 174% increase for the wrapsody alone on the 3rd quarter of 2013. It translated to gross sales of P760,320 on the same period. In addition, the firm provides continuous direct employment to eight (5 – full time; 3 – part-time) persons in the locality. Products are sold mainly at Legazpi and Naga City Airports, Savemore’s Legazpi and Naga, and at their house in Daraga, Albay. Additional market outlets include DOST V’s SDMIC in Rawis, Legazpi City, Rustan’s Shang -Rila Plaza, Mandaluyong and Resorts World Manila, Pasay; and SM Stock Exchange Outlets at SM North Edsa, Makati, Aura and MOA. These products are fast gaining reputation as favourite pasalubong items of local tourists and balikbayans.
For sustained promotion drive, the couple would like to participate in more national and international fairs and exhibits with the help of government and non-governmental organizations. On its part, DOST affirms its commitment to provide technical assistance as deemed appropriate and necessary for the firm.
As stiff competition becomes the name of the game in the years to come, C.O.P will constantly think differently and innovatively to gain comparative advantage and niche in the pili nut industry. “We intend to create further awareness of our products and eventually tap its export potential and penetrate international markets”, the couple said.
Truly, the reward of hard work and passion is enjoying its sweet success. As they say, “no reward may be even sweeter than victory” and this has been exemplified in the story of C.O.P Pili Sweets and Pastries (PMU, DOST V).