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Monday, 15 March 2010 16:23

Darling Food Products is among the few big food  processing  companies in Cagayan de Oro City. From a very small market share, the company has now captured the big department stores in the city and the wholesalers in some parts of Mindanao and the Visayas.

Darling Food Products started its operation way back in 1986.  Armed with her knowledge and skills from the NMYC meat processing training she attended, the owner, Mrs. Aileen Lazo,  produced  a 3kg chorizo out of P150.00 capital.  She sold the chorizo to her neighbors and friends.  These friends and neighbors loved the taste of the chorizo and Aileen started getting orders from her friends' friends and neighbors' neighbors.

In 1988, at the midst of Ororama Superstore suppliers strike,  the purchaser of the said store invited Aileen to display her products.  Thus, her once-in-a-month production became a daily basis.  The increase in production prompted Aileen to apply for a business permit from the Deprtment of Trade and Industry (DTI) and  she named her business DARLING FOOD PRODUCTS.

The business name, according to Aileen, has an amusing story.  She said that at that time when  demand and order of her products started to peak, she could not memorize the names of her customers and dealers anymore; thus, to be safe,  she simply addressed everyone as darling.  Of course, the endearment aptly describes the personality of Aileen who is very amiable, sweet, friendly which undeniably earned the hearts and stomachs of her customers.

Blessings continued to pour in and Darling Food Products growth was unstoppable.  More orders came in and customers increased.  The company then decided to expand its products and added pork tocino, beef chorizo, beef tocino, chicken tocino, bacon, corned beef and longganisa.  Along with these products are chorizo macao, premium meaty hotdog, regular hotdog, chicken longganisa, ham and the seasonal ham which includes pear-shaped ham, fiesta ham and brick ham.

The increase in production led to some problems encountered, like increased production cost.   The   small-capacity equipment they were using could not keep up with the production volume.  This prompted he company to seek the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading (SETUP) program.

Through SETUP, Darling Food Products was able to acquire equipment that include a  bowl chopper, the food/meat slicer/cutter, and the cold storage facility.  The meat slicer has reduced their meat trimmings from 7kg  to 3 kg per production.  These equipment not only increased the company's production volume to meet the supply demand of their customers, but it also improved the shelf-life and packaging of its products.

Along with the acquisition of the equipment, DOST continue to give technical assistance to Darling Food Products through the conduct of trainings on cleaner production technology, environmental management system, good manufacturing practices and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Manufacturing Productivity Extension (MPEX).   These trainings not only improved the operations of the company but were also very helpful in complying with regulatory requirements the NMIS,BFAD, DOH, and DTI when they apply for certain accreditation.

Today,  the company has an average monthly production of 12 tons  and 50-kg daily production (at least three products per day), depending on the season.  It employs about 40 workers, some of whom are  on contractual basis who work on per order/daily basis.  Ten of them are on an 8-hour shift.  Workers are hired from within the community and some are pioneers who have been working for the company for many years.

They have also added new products that include the lechon manok de hamon and the chikaron which come in various taste:  chikaron yummy (orange), chikaron chili regular and special (green), chikaron  tsarappp (yellow), chikaron tsarappp (blue) and chikaron big and tsarapp big.  The chikaron  was named, as Aileen puts it, “maka-chika ka sa kalami."

For now, their market outlets in Cagayan de Oro City include Plaza Fair Limketkai, Ororama Super Center, Gaisano Mall, Gaisano-Carmen, Gaisano-Osmena, Cogon and Gaisano Suki Club; Big R Supercenter, SM,  and hotels and restaurants in the city.  For Bukidnon, the products are sold at Gaisano Valencia, Valencia City, and Gaisano-Malaybalay City.  In Iligan City, outlet is Gaisano Mall.  Gaisano-Butuan in Butuan City is also an outlet.  In Davao City, market outlets are  NCCC Supermarket-Main, NCCC Supermarket Maa; NCCC Supermarket Centerpoint, and Gaisano Mall, Sunscor Supercenter.  Market has also reached Cebu City and there are also wholesalers in Zamboanga City and Dipolog City.

Aware of their production volume capacity, their vision is to  focus on expanding  their market share in Cagayan de Oro City, and in some parts of Mindanao and the Visayas.  They don't rule out the possibility that someday, in God's time,as Nino puts it, they will expand to Luzon and Manila, and yes, to export their products.

One of their highest dreams is to put up a hotel as this business venture is also in line with their present product line.  They look forward to hiring more people, giving more jobs in the community.

“We can also help the government answer the problem of unemployment, Nino said.

 In the meantime, to keep up with their production demand and to comply with the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) requirement, they want to upgrade their facilities, specifically on the acquisition of a stainless work area and the additional cold storage facility so that they can stock more raw materials especially on lean season.  They are hoping that DOST would once again extend to them the SETUP assistance to address  this need.

The impact of the company's growth and success  did not escape the notice of the award-giving bodies.  To date, Darling Food Products have garnered several awards, namely:  2005 Ramon Magsaysay Outstanding Filipino Worker Award, First Place; 2009 Top Five Finalist for Best Meat Processing Plant; 2008 National Finalist for the Best in Business Excellence (small enterprise category) Award; 2008 National Finalist for the Best Meat Establishment Award; 2007 Best Meat Processing Plant, First Place; 2006 Best Meat Establishment, First Place; and the 2005 Best Meat Processing Plant, First Place.

All these awards clearly show how far Darling Food Products have gone, from a kitchen-based meat processing business to where it is now…and world-class meat business enterprise.

What is the secret of their success?  Putting God in the center of our life, of our business operations, Nino quickly snapped, sounding like his mother Aileen.

Darling Food Products is a business partnership with God.  We believe we are only stewards.  God owns this business.  We are only stewards here.    We should take care of it…and always, we ask God for His guidance in our operations.

It is not unusual to see the workers gathering in the morning for their Bible reading/sharing.  They also start their day's operation with a prayer, and end it with a prayer, as they believe that they also have a responsibility for the spiritual formation of their workers.

The success of the company, Nino added, is also because  all the members of the family participate and are involved in the business operations.

The once single-proprietorship endeavor is now a family-run business.  Food technologist son, Nino, takes charge of the operation and production while wife Lourizza, who is also a food technologist, takes charge of the quality control and the office operations.  Daughter Laurence is in-charge of sales and marketing.  Their parents, Aileen and Roberto, oversee the operations and the financial control of the company.

Asked what advice he can give to other SMEs, Nino has this to say:  Don't hesitate to seek the assistance of DOST.  DOST people are just waiting for us to approach them,  reach out to them.  And when we shall have received the DOST assistance, all  that is expected of us is our full commitment and to also share our blessings with others.

And this is what Darling Food Products is doing is sharing its blessings with others.  Nino is a member of the Regional Food Safety Team and finds time to conduct meat processing training to other would-be meat business  entrepreneurs.     He says he doesn't mind doing that, fully aware that people he trains could be his company's future competitors.

There's a wide market for everyone.  At this time, we could not supply the demand and we need more business-minded people to fill in the gap.  Besides, this is part of our company's fulfilling our social responsibility, and our way of thanking God for His overflowing blessings.

And couple, Aileen and Roberto?  Well, they are busy doing their apostolate work, travelling to many places, giving lectures and seminars, free of charge. For them, the financial reward they receive from being a business partner of God should be returned to God, by serving others.

Thank you DOST.. thank you TESDA, DTI, NMIS, DOH, BFAD and the other government agencies and offices that continue to assist us.    Thank you, too, to all our workers.  Without you, Darling Food Products will never be where we are now.  We owe our success to you.  Most of all, I thank God.  He is alive in our business, in our company.  He is always there for us, being the owner of this business, Nino closed.  #   (Tess Superioridad Baluyos)