(Feature) Mama Rossa condiments: Product of husband-and-wife chemistry

October 19, 2015 9:15 am 

By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata

MANILA, Oct. 18 (PNA) — While many entrepreneurs see food business as a booming venture, one couple saw a huge opportunity in simple ingredients which make food more flavorful – condiments.

Marka Sasa is a family-owned business that actually started in 1928. It is a brand name for liquid condiments such as vinegar, soy sauce and fish sauce.

As the business is now at the hands of the family’s third generation, Aleine Sacdalan-Ramos, together with her husband, Gerard, decided to continue and further improve the condiments business.“In wet markets, there is a demand for good-quality yet cheaper condiments. There’s a proven market in wet markets,” answered Gerard.

Their products are being distributed in wet markets, establishments that have food businesses, as well as in some fast food franchise and canteens.

In 2010, the couple started with new products – catsup and hot sauce. These thicker products carry the brand name Mama Rossa.

Trial and error

Thirty six year-old Gerard was a chemical engineer while Aleine, 35, was a pharmacist. Both of them used to work in multinational companies.

Gerard shared he was challenged by Aleine’s dad when he was still courting her.

“I went to their house, and her dad asked me how much I was earning. He did a computation and told me I was only earning this much in a month. Her dad’s advice was for me to try business,” Gerard said.

When the two got married, Gerard cited that coming from multinational companies, both of them already have the concept of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).

It was a trial and error when they first started creating the new products. However, his father-in-law was there to help them in the research and development (R&D) stage while they were developing the catsup.

”We started in the garage, we started as kitchen-based,” Gerard said. The couple said they only tried the formulation, and cooked the catsup in the evening since that was the only time they had.

The couple shared it was only the two of them who were making the catsup. “Before, we were only able to produce 12 gallons (in a night). Until time came the orders reached 50,” the couple said.

So how are they going to meet the demand? How could they increase the productivity?

Unexpected help

Through a set of friends, the couple was advised to try getting assistance from the Department of Science and Technology-National Capital Region (DOST-NCR). Their friends told them to try the agency’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Project (SETUP).

Under the program, the DOST provides assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by providing a loan which is payable in three years with no interest. It also provides various trainings, packaging assistance and labeling.

Aleine thought the application process for first-timers like them would be hard.

In December 2011, at 7 p.m., the couple sent a letter of intent to the agency via fax.

“We were surprised because somebody answered, immediately that night,” Aleine noted. “Can you just imagine, a government employee working beyond office hours?” she pointed out.

Everything went so fast according to the couple. A week after they sent a letter, DOST representatives came to their house for an ocular inspection.

In February 2012, their loan which amounted PHP1.97 million) was approved. They received the amount in May 2012.

The unexpected help became their productivity solution. In September 2012, the production became operational. Gerard shared they got four times increase in productivity, and the fuel efficiency they had increased by 60 percent.

A portion of these savings was used to pay the loan. The last payment will be made by the end of October. The couple cited they’re planning to get another loan, but they are yet to determine their needs.

”Lifetime partner”

The couple considers DOST as their 'lifetime partner for business'.

”They (DOST staff) are very approachable. They do things without asking for anything in return,” emphasized Aleine. The couple noted that anytime they need the DOST, the staff are there guiding them (e.g. guiding them in the correct adding of preservatives, in doing the right process). The two added that the DOST also provides free training for the owners and the employees.

As to how one can succeed in this kind of business, Gerard said one needs to take good care of the clients, employees and suppliers.

At present, Mama Rossa has nine employees. Aleine cited they want to increase that number, so they could also generate employment.

Also, the couple believes that continuous improvement is essential. In fact, even before creating the new product line, the couple used a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis.

As to what makes their products unique, Gerard said that for one, they use locally-sourced ingredients, which means it captures the “Pinoy taste”. Second, he cited that since he is a Bicolano, the formulation he used for the hot sauce is good. Finally, the couple emphasized that their love for food has equipped them with knowledge on what is delicious and what is not. Furthermore, they did some taste-tests with clients.

Above anything else, Gerard said they need to make their business their passion in order for them not only to generate income but more importantly, to enjoy it as a way of life.

“Don’t push through it if it’s something you don’t like,” he cited. (PNA)

BNB/MCCA

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