New graduates see huge potential for carabao milkFriday, June 29, 2012 05:16 AM Views : 833 ANGELA CELIS
A group of fresh graduates from the Ateneo de Manila University hopes to take advantage of the strong demand for carabao's milk in the Philippines by producing fruit-flavored carabao's milk.
AB Management Economics graduates Samantha Marie Libunao, Isabel Lynda Lagunzad, Anna Bianca Continuado, Clarisa Belo, Kristine Nicole Domingo, Ana Margaret Chu, and Paulynn Lentejas are behind the new brand "Haw Blends".
They sell the fruit-flavored milk in 250ml bottles for P45 each. The flavors include blends of mango, banana, strawberry and chocolate.
The group is partnering with a community in Nueva Ecija as their source of milk and is working to get a grant from the government.
But to get the brand in the market, the group is initially using a toll manufacturer.
Libunao, vice president for marketing and sales of Haw Blends, said there is a huge demand for carabao's milk in the local market.
"At present, only one percent of the total demand is answered by the local supply of carabao's milk. We would want to take advantage of this opportunity as we eventually commercialize our product," Libunao said.
Libunao said that the lack of supply pushes local milk distributors to import milk.
Data from the National Statistics Office showed that importations of dairy products in 2011 grew 18 percent to $843 million from $715 million in 2010.
For the first four months of 2012, however, imports of dairy products dropped 3.2 percent to $273 million from $282 million during the same period last year.
"Carabao dairying shows great potential as it will not only be able to answer the need for a provision of a livelihood for the community, but it can also address the issue of high importation costs," Libunao said.
The group pooled a capital of P40,000 in June last year.
Libunao said that market testing was done to see if there was demand for the products.
"Since we don't have yet the capacity to produce internally because we still need the financial resources to acquire the machines, we partnered with a toll manufacturer to produce the products for the meantime," Libunao said.
The carabao's milk that was sold in a 250ml bottle was priced at P45 each and came in three flavors: strawberry-banana, choco-banana, and mango-banana.
Libunao said that from November 2011 to January 2012, the group sold 3,500 bottles of carabao's milk.
Assuming that each bottle was sold at the market price of P45, the group may have earned nearly P158,000 during the three-month period.
Libunao said that the products were sold in different bazaars, through partnerships with bakeries, and direct selling.
"Dairy products made from carabao's milk are priced relatively higher, so most of our target markets are from the A, B, and the upper C segments," she said.
The group has yet to go into full operation, as it awaits the 25 module carabao grant from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), which will signify that Haw Blends and its partner community are ready to go into full production.
"Studies and preparations on the community such as technical training, construction of the carabao shed, scheduling and pertinent processes must be first assessed so we can get the grant for the certification to start the business venture," Libunao said.
The group works with the community in Puncan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija.
"Provision of livelihood opportunities for our partner community will be made possible as they will be our supplier in the near future and the milk will eventually be sourced from them," Libunao said.
Libunao added that this also aims to promote the province of Nueva Ecija as the country's dairy capital.
"Nueva Ecija has been well known as the country's pioneer producer of carabao's milk. The cooperation of the PCC, the institution responsible for the screening of the carabao module application; Central Luzon State University (CLSU), which gives technical training for carabao dairying; and of course, our partner community, Kapuncan, an eco-tourism cooperative situated in Puncan, Nueva Ecija, will make such social enterprise possible," Libunao said.
In the near future, Libunao said that the group plans to venture into pure carabao's milk production, and to diversify into other dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream, and pastillas.
Haw Blends is one of the top 10 winners in the 5th BiD Challenge Philippines organized by the Philippine Business for Social Progress.
The group received P100,000 from Citibank.