MERL’S NATIVE DELICACIES
Merl’s Native Delicacies is a family business that was started in 2000 by Mrs. Merlota R. Bolus, wife of Mr. Ferdinand Bolus, owner the business. At the time, the couple already had a ready-to-wear stall in the local public market but business was not profitable with the establishment of commercial centers in the province. Mrs. Bolus love cooking, and one day she tried preparing suman sa lihiya using a kilo of glutinous rice. The goodies were displayed in their RTW store and sold like hotcakes, the suman’s imported counterpart.
From then on, she prepared suman and sold them every day until the couple realize that Mrs. Bolus’s passion for cooking native delicacies can be a way to provide an alternative source of income for the whole family. Eventually, the family decided to concentrate on the suman sa lihiya with coco jam business.
As expected, the business experienced its share of ups and downs. In 2009, the firm produced a monthly average of 24,000 pieces of suman paired with coco jam in sachets and 900 bottles of coco jam. Though the number of suman orders grew, the business was limited by the old production equipment and accessories composed of two aluminium steamers, four heavy duty stoves, a 10 kf-capacity weighing scale, seven plastic crates, five impulse sealers, two casseroles, two cooking vates, three wooden working tables which limit their productivity and compromise food safety.
Although the firm used cooking kettles with mixer in the preparation of coco jam, the volume of produced per day was limited due to the long cooking time which took about three to four hours per batch at two batches per day. The firm’s workspace was also limited as the production area was also the family’s residence. Coconut milk was also sourced from the wet market that made it prone to microbial contamination and shortened shelf-life.
The downside from the said restrictions directly affected the firm’s market reach which was limited to Calapan City. Nevertheless, the couple was not hindered by these challenges. Day in and out, they kept thinking of ways to improve their production and competitiveness of their products to capture a bigger share on the local market.
MND decided to seek the assistance of DOST-MIMAROPA through SETUP to upgrade its production equipment and facility as well as to enhance packaging and label design in 2011. With these interventions, average volume of production of the firm on a monthly basis in 2013 recorded an average of 81,600 pcs of suman sa lihiya and 1,152 jars of coco jam or an equivalent percentage increase of 405.19% which directly result to increase in sales. Likewise, in terms of employment generated, an average of 53 workers were employed by the firm from 2013-2014. Generally, MND has gained popularity in the province as well as from other part of the country because of its delectable products. Parallel with these achievements, MND was awarded as 2013 DOST-MIMAROPA Best SETUP Adoptor 1st Runner-up and in 2014 as the Best SETUP adaptor in the region. At present, MND’s suman sa lihiya is dubbed as one of the best pasalubong products of the province. The firm now produces and average of 460,800 pcs or 38,400 packs (12 pcs/packs) of suman sa lihiya per month and 6,000 jars of coco jam. With the steady demand for its products, the firm had already established 250 retail branches in other places namely; Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon City, Cavite, Muntilupa City, Isabela, Taguig City and Pasay City and one (1) export market in japan. Additionally, the firm currently provide job opportunities to its 95 employed workers.