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THINGS that helped Francisco “Paco” Magsaysay stay in the ice cream business include courage and a certain persistence (dedicating the business to someone important would also help).
During last week’s The Future of F&B conference at the Conrad, Carmen’s Best founder Mr. Magsaysay discussed what to him are important pointers for food entrepreneurs, but his points seem to resonate in any industry.
Mr. Magsaysay founded Carmen’s Best in 2011. In 2022, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. acquired a 51% stake in Mr. Magsaysay’s company. The Carmen’s Best Group consists of Carmen’s Best Dairy Products, Inc., Carmen’s Best International Dairy Co., Inc., Real Fresh Dairy Farms, Inc., and The Laguna Creamery, Inc. The group is also behind Holly’s Milk, the country’s sole brand of “locally pasteurized and homogenized fresh milk.” Mr. Magsaysay’s group retains a 49% equity interest.*
Mr. Magsaysay began the brand when his father (the son of the former president Ramon Magsaysay) acquired a dairy farm in Laguna in 2007, developing the ice cream some time later.
“Don’t be afraid of the unknown,” he said during his talk, which he had to deliver remotely due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 a day before. “I say this because it’s human to be afraid of the unknown.”
“You get yourself in a position that you’re not too familiar with, that’s when you learn the most,” he said, recalling that when he started Carmen’s Best, his previous work experience was in the tech industry. “It was quite a change. But since I loved what I was doing, I decided to take the plunge headfirst. I haven’t looked back since then.”
Contrary to most business advice, he also eschews having a backup plan, or a Plan B. “What you’re going to go through, starting a business from scratch, is so different. It’s going to take a lot of your time,” he said. “If you have a Plan B, there’s a good chance that you will transfer to that Plan B.”
He said that if he did have a Plan B, Carmen’s Best would not exist to this day. He only gave himself two options: to make it work, or for it not to. “But since I named it after my daughter, I felt like I couldn’t let her down,” he said.
“When I look back, I think the fact that I named the company after my daughter gave me that extra push to keep on persisting and trying my best to succeed and making the company work.”
He also says that one must not always do what is expected, but to do what is necessary. He applied this to his choice of target market then, which included customers in the A and B income bracket. “I felt that there was no local ice cream maker that was catering to the A and B market. I decided that I would cater (to them), given that fact that I wanted to use the fresh milk from our farm. We were only starting with 100 cows… I was limited with the amount of milk I could work with.”
He said that normally, when people begin a product, they offer it to the largest market, which is usually with the C, D, and E income bracket. “But what I did was, I did something that I felt was necessary.”
Having made that decision, he said that it surprises him now when people from all walks of life approach him and tell him how much they enjoyed his ice cream. “It’s become an aspirational product for people in the Class C category. They’ll buy the ice cream maybe for special occasions or for when it’s pay day,” he said. “Even though they don’t buy it as regularly as the A and B market, I never imagined that the C market would buy our product. I’m glad that it’s caught on.”
That reflects the importance of finding a niche. “You just have to be clear who’s the market you’ve targeted, and to be true to your product. If you say that you’re making the best ice cream, you better be making the best ice cream.”
Their secret continues to be the use of real, fresh dairy cream, and not vegetable fat-derived mellorine. “Once you use vegetable fat, you can’t even call it ice cream,” he said, which is why some selections from brands have “frozen dessert” on their labels instead.
“You know what you have is good, and you know that you’re not fooling anyone and you’re not lying to anyone.” — Joseph L. Garcia
* See the BusinessWorld story athttps://www.bworldonline.com/corporate/2022/06/28/457857/mpic-enters-agribusiness-takes-51-of-dairy-firm/