Dairy biz in the ‘New Normal’

The economic impact brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic affected many establishments. However, though the circumstance forced entrepreneurs to close their business, the pandemic also unlocked new opportunities for them. Among those were online selling of nutritious and healthy delights from carabaos milk, which not only provided income to sellers but also boosted the immunity of the consuming public against the virus. (Photo by Chrissalyn Marcelo)

As the Coronavirus took the world by surprise, businesses grapple with the economic disruptions brought about by the pandemic.

Many establishments were pushed to the losing end until shutdown became imminent due to unprecedented losses. In the face of a crisis like this, a commodity’s marketability in the food industry is determined by its health benefits to consumers. 

Carabao’s milk as a commodity remains resilient in this challenging time. Its nutritive value and noble purpose in the scheme of a social transformation presents a different story.

To extend the market reach of carabao’s milk products elsewhere from its primary source in Nueva Ecija, DA-PCC knows it has to engage online resellers to serve as additional market channels.

Data from the DA-PCC shows that its Central Dairy Collecting and Processing Facility processed a total of 91,615.80 liters of milk from March 16 to June 20. Of this volume, 22,252.52 liters were sold by 37 online resellers amid the community quarantine due to the pandemic, which is 17% of the total milk processed.

The online resellers registered a total sale of Php1,3335,151.09. These figures represent the amount of sheer dedication contributed by the online resellers who helped in the online marketing and door-to-door delivery of dairy products in Nueva Ecija, including San Jose City, Cabanatuan City, Guimba, Palayan City, Bongabon, and Rizal. The same case ensued in other areas in Luzon, such as Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Trinidad Benguet, La Union, and Aurora.

We took the time to sit down in a remote interview with these resellers, and we hope that their stories inspire many as they have inspired us.

What encouraged you to go into reselling carabao’s milk products?

Aaron Baligod, a young entrepreneur from Quezon City, recalled when he accompanied his mother to deliver fresh milk to a friend who has a kidney problem. Aaron witnessed how a sluggish person suddenly livened up with the product. In that instance, Baligod took a turning point to finally heed his mother’s advice for him to venture into selling dairy products as she is an avid drinker of carabao’s milk.

The same passion for helping others through a dairy business venture has prompted Wilson Flores, owner of Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City, to go into reselling carabao’s milk products. This was after he learned that the pandemic’s economic setback had plagued many farmers. Today, his bakery has become a go-to place for customers who want to get hold of the nutritious and immuno-booster carabao’s milk.

Joining in this advocacy of bringing carabao’s milk to more people is a retired geothermal expert, Almario Baltazar, Jr. Aside from having this as an additional source of income, Baltazar believes that marketing these products makes him a vital courier of excellent Filipino foods to more Pinoy family’s table.

This pride is recognized by the couple Alexander and Evadyn Paraguas of Balungao, Pangasinan. Alexander, who used to work with DA-PCC, knows that carabao’s milk products developed by the agency through its advocacy hub Milka Krem are authentically “fresh and natural”, as promised in its brand tagline. While thinking of reselling Milka Krem products, the couple reached out to frontliners in their hometown during the community quarantine.

In this roster of carabao’s milk advocates, Lorraine Sagun is the youngest, but her enthusiasm to engage in the dairy business venture is inspiring. Sagun is a third-year college student taking up BS Internal Audit from Bayambang, Pangasinan. While caught up in a lockdown due to the health crisis, she looked for opportunities to be productive while the opening of classes was put on hold. She buckled down to learn more about effective marketing and eventually embarked on reselling carabao’s milk and encouraged others to go into the dairy business themselves.

What were your marketing strategies?

Paraguas and Sagun recognize social media platforms’ power as a marketing strategy and highly recommended their use among other sellers.

 “We utilized the available content in marketing our products, such as sharing Milka Krem’s posts on our page. Surprisingly, we received an all-positive response from our Facebook friends,” Paraguas said.

Similarly, Sagun posted different carabao’s milk products on her social media accounts, where she received a lot of inquiries and orders.

 “I was able to establish a wider market reach not only in my hometown but also in the neighboring towns of Malasiqui, Calasiao, Dagupan City, Lingayen, Urdaneta City, Villasis, Alcala, Bautista, Basista, and select areas in La Union,” she shared. 

Flores, meanwhile, gifted the dairy products to his acquaintances who haven’t tried any of them yet, intending to turn them to become his regular customers.

“Initially, I would buy some of the unsold dairy products every week, then give them for free to my sister’s family and our bakers and staff. I considered this as my bonus for their hard work because even when there was a lockdown, we continued operating the bakery,” he said.

 The retail price of some of our dairy products is not within the budget of our customers. This is the reason why Baligod ensures that his works are still affordable for “all” kinds of customers, regardless of their socio-economic status.

“We relied on the distributor’s discounts from Milka Krem and placed a minimum markup, making our products relatively cheaper than the competing brands in the market,” he said.

Baligod’s team also offered free deliveries to limited areas in Quezon City to ensure that customers will have access to the dairy products despite the travel restrictions.

What would you advise to new and aspiring online resellers?

These dairy advocates’ unanimous advice: take pride and patronize first the local produce yourselves so that you may have a firsthand taste of Filipino’s ingenuity. 

“By being a patron of dairy products yourself, you are helping and supporting our local dairy buffalo farmers,” Flores said.

The Paraguas couple, on the other hand, reminded aspiring resellers or business people to be more patient in accommodating customer concerns and considering every feedback.

Baligod imparted wise counsel from his parents about being in business while in the time of a pandemic saying, “To be successful in this business, you should not take advantage of the current situation by adding a huge markup in the retail price. We are all trying to survive in these trying times. So, the only way for all of us to overcome this crisis is to think ‘we’ and not ‘me.’”

Being the youngest online reseller, Sagun said that the biggest takeaway from her experience as a neophyte businesswoman is the importance of saving money to have a fallback should something unexpected happen like this COVID-19 outbreak.

“To start a business, you’ll need financial backing to get it off the ground. I spent my savings on selling dairy products last May 7. I could now humbly tell you that my four-digit savings in my moneybox have already hit six figures in my passbook account,” she happily averred.

The pandemic seems to linger for a while more in the absence of a vaccine, which could bring economic uncertainty in the local dairy industry and the thousands of dairy farmers dependent on it.

However, hope is what these resellers have brought in the picture as farmers struggle to stay afloat. Their stories tell us that there is so much goodness in people, shining brightly even more in the trying times.

Why carabao’s milk?

“With the travel and health restrictions still imposed by the government due to the pandemic, online selling/ reselling has become a popular marketing platform, which provided business opportunities for the online resellers. Since carabao’s milk is very nutritious as it has a calorie content, which is a source of energy needed to sustain bodily functions, and is also rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus, online resellers find it easy to offer the milk products to customers thus providing them with good profit and better income.” MINA ABELLA