By Lalaine M. Jimenea
BAYBAY CITY – It looks unimpressive on the outside. Just another bodega, really, but unknown to many, inside is the biggest virgin coconut oil supplier in the whole world, certified organic by at least three international standards setting organization.
Manny Licup, manager, says that unbeknown to Pinoys, virgin coconut oil sells like hotcakes all over the world “except the Philippines”.
And their company, SC Global Oil Corporation located at Brgy. Caridad here, is the first facility in coconut producing countries to produce “organic VCO” in exportable volume, hence they can safely say that they are the world’s biggest supplier.
They also produce organic refined cooking oil, he added, aside from organically grown banana chips that are also international bestsellers. The “Proudly Made in Baybay City, Leyte, Philippines” coconut oil that they sell abroad, he said, bears the brand name “BioCoco”.
Find the need, fill the need
The company’s formula to success is simple. Following the business adage “find the need and fill the need”, they identified the growing market for organic products as more and more people advocate for a healthy lifestyle.
Licup practically bared all their company’s trade secrets before a small group of businessman from Southern Leyte led by their chamber president Engr. Robert Castañares, adding they are not scared of competition.
Castañares led his chamber members, including that from the Baybay Chamber itself, on a field trip to Baybay City which they foresee is going to be the next industrial hub of Leyte Province, or the region itself. They want to broaden their horizons and link for possible business partnerships.
Many Licup’s presentation about SC Global did not disappoint them.
Licup said that SC Global is a family corporation. It was established in Baybay in 2006, but before the corporation ventured into the business, they decided first what direction their company will take.
They decided to pursue organic products that were then creating a ripple. They came up with their vision statement or slogan which is “Organic. At its best.”
With that in mind, they then established the plant which is now ahead of its competition.
His words of wisdom to the businessmen gathered were “to set your direction”. “It is always best to know where you are going. Set your direction, set your mark and follow through”, he said.
It was also learned that before the company when into organic coco oil products, they were among the country’s biggest copra traders. The company also owns the Universal Star Petroleum, which Licup said was known as the “silent fourth” vis a vis the Big 3 but little did the public know that sometimes Caltex and Shell would get their requirements from them.
He also stressed to the businessmen present that if they want to export products, that their goods must get international certifications. In their case, their coconut oil and banana chips are certified Halal (for Muslim countries), has the Jewish “Kosher” star and Eco-Cert.
And, getting these, they must ensure to retain it as the international market is strict and demanding. He said their clients would come unannounced and do surprise visits with their accredited banana suppliers and gather samples for chemical and pesticide testing. A less than desired result would set back their efforts, he said.
Licup also takes pride that SC Globasl takes its belief in healthy products and healthy environment seriously. He described the plant as having zero waste.
Every single particle of the coconuts they process are made into something, including copra cake and coco dust which they sell and are often used as feeds.
The same goes for their banana chip production. Those that are badly cut, irregular sized still have a market. “Nothing is wasted really”, he said.
Their bulk orders are also shipped in biodegradable plastic inflatable containers that are big as container vans. When it reaches its destination, it is then emptied, folded and thrown away.
Their venture into banana chip production was quite accidental. Around two years ago, the coconut industry flailed. To ensure that their workers are still gainfully employed, management began the enterprise with the help of the Department of Labor and Employment.
They found out it was lucrative, so they continued it. The foreign market, he said, loves coconut oil fried banana chips because it has that certain aroma and taste that only coco oil can impart.
Now, Baybay made banana chips are finding their ways into shelves of big supermarkets abroad.
SC Global is not resting on their laurels. They are now studying the market for coconut water and how to prepare it to pass international standards.
Nanimahong copras is sweet aroma to foreign buyers
Licup said it was funny how Pinoys dislike the smell of coconut oil. Often described as “nanimahong copra”, coconut oil is unacceptable to the foreign buyers if it does not have the aroma.
“If we didn’t prepare it the right way, expect our clients to call us and complain why it does not smell like coconut oil”, he said.
He added that coconut oil, unlike other oils, can be considered as the most stable of all. Albeit, it only supplies three percent of the world market, dominated by palm and soya oil.
Still, he said, there is a demand for it and as the population grows, it is natural to conclude there is still growing demand.
In fact, contrary to the “black propa” it was once subjected to, scientists are now beginning to swear that is a very healthy oil.
A recent study also indicates that coconut is the only oil that can penetrate hair glands and restore strength and luster, something that our lolas knew before many centuries ago but have somewhat got lost with the influx of commercial hair products.
He said most, if not all, food companies use coco oil because of certain properties not present in other kinds of edible oil. Among their biggest clients are Nestle and Abbott.
Not afraid of competition
Manny Licup, when asked why he was practically spilling their trade secrets, said they were not afraid of competition. He said that their next door neighbor, the Visayan Oil Mill has expanded their operations to coconut oil production also. However, he said, theirs is not organic while SC Global caters to a select market.
In fact, he said, the more coconut oil refineries in the region, the better because it will encourage farmers to plant coconut and discourage them from cutting still fruit-bearing ones to be sold as coco lumber.
He believes in the same philosophy for their banana chip production. The more chip makers, the more banana growers – albeit, he said, theirs have to be accredited and must ensure zero chemical intervention.
A healthy business atmosphere
Towards the end of his talk, Licup’s eyes twinkled as he teased Castañares that he might want to buy oil from them and brand it “Kuting Oil”. Engr. Castañares owns Kuting Reef, a popular beach resort at Macrohon, Southern Leyte.
He also hinted to the Southern Leyte businessman that they might want to consider inviting a big Malaysian investor who wants to put up a coconut oil refinery somewhere in Leyte but has been stalled for two years now. “They’re my friends”, he said, and what they want to bring in is P2-billion worth of investment. Sadly, he said, politics has marred their entry.
As for SC Global, he said they are lucky to have chosen Baybay City as their home. “We have the abundance of raw materials here and the local officials have proved helpful. When we came, they already had a working investment code. They helped us secure the permits. They even helped us have a direct power connection to Napocor”, he said, since the electric cooperative there could not meet their power requirement.
The Southern Leyte businessmen nearly fell out of their chairs when he said that they are still paying more than P3.00 per kilowatthour.