Saturday, March 24, 2007

40. In the Foods Group

Brand assignments were reviewed regularly resulting in changes of assignments in what we called “rigodon”. The changes were done to ensure that fresh thinking was infused on the brands. Sometimes the junior brand managers who have shown exceptional performance were rewarded with assignments to “premier” brands.

From Toilet Soaps I was transferred to the Foods Group to handle the cooking oil brand Camia. I inherited the brand from Meckoy Quiogue. Meckoy is now the President and COO of GMA 7, which shares the leadership in audience following with ABS CBN’s Channel 2. GMA 7 reached parity position with ABS CBN 2 during Meckoy’s term. Marketing Manager of the Foods Group was the mild mannered Jes Dinglasan who later on became the CEO of a large distribution outfit. A guy named Frankie Gonzalez managed Royco soups. A bit offbeat and eccentric he called everyone “general”. His greeting to anyone he met was “Good morning general” and this was at any time of the day. Peter Garrucho looked after the non-distributive brands of margarine and shortening, Whiteband and Redband. Peter later on became cabinet secretary during the latter part of Cory Aquino’s term and was President and director of some the larger companies in the industry. We had Luvi Lim as our “kygmy”. “Kygmy” was an affectionate term for brand assistants borrowed from Al Capp’s bowling pin like creatures in Li’l Abner who thrived on being kicked around. Loveable little masochists.

At that time the price of coconut oil was subject to erratic fluctuations. This was creating havoc to price setting for Camia. Predicting the price copra could only go as far as your nose and the changes were from day to day. To manage the situation we had frequent early morning meetings to set the suggested retail price based on the previous hours’ price average and the historical cost of products in the pipeline. After agreements were reached the SRP’s (suggested retail price) were wired to all sales offices nationally. At first it was just the price of coconut oil that we were monitoring and basing our pricing decisions on. To get more flexibility we developed other formulations using palm oil, fish oil and the combinations of these with coconut oil at different mixes. With these added variables setting the price of cooking oil became much more complicated and involved. The formulations with the alternative oils and their combinations had to be consumer tested to limit the permutations to only those within the range that consumers will accept in terms of taste and price. To arrive at the optimum pricing of Camia it was necessary to monitor the prices of the alternative oils as well as coconut oil prices. I had to come up with a table to cope with the numerous permutations of variables of current prices and type of oils and their proportions which we used to discuss every morning to set prices of cooking oil. Regular attendees to this early morning meetings were Lito Jimenez of Oil Milling, Pepe Esteva or Louie Duran of Copra buying and either Coke del Villar or Ito Tuazon of Sales. It would have been so much easier if we had PCs then which can easily do the task using an Excel spreadsheet.

Later on, with the loss of a brand manager in the Personal Products group, an interim assignment to handle Personal Products brands was added to my responsibilities by the General Marketing Manager, Bert Timbol. This was not for long. With the recruitment of a brand manager for the Personal Products Group the brands I temporarily handled were given to the new entrant.

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