Universal Robina Corporation (URC) traced its beginnings all the way back to 1954. John Gokongwei, Jr. was doing very well then as a trader/importer. He had learned the trade when his father died before the war, and had worked hard through the war and postwar years to prosper. However, while he thrived, he took a long hard look at his company, and correctly predicted that trading would remain a low-margin business.
On the other hand, a successful manufacturer controlling its own production and distribution would command more profitable margins. Mr. John decided to construct a corn milling plant to produce glucose and cornstarch, Universal Corn Products (UCP), the first building block of the company that would become URC.
For a time, business was good. However, Mr. John was still looking ahead, working with an eye towards the future. While the business was doing very well, it was producing essentially a commodity, which a customer could easily access elsewhere. To stay ahead in the game, Mr. John had to diversify by producing and marketing his own branded consumer foods, similar to the multinational companies in the Philippines like Nestle and Procter & Gamble. In a sense, he wanted to put up the first ‘local’ MNC, borne out of their best practices.
Thus, in 1961, Consolidated Food Corporation was born. Their first ‘home run’ product was Blend 45, the first locally-manufactured coffee blend, dubbed as the “Pinoy coffee”. This became the largest-selling coffee brand in the market, even beating market leaders Café Puro and Nescafe. After coffee came chocolates. Nips, a panned chocolate similar to M&Ms, was a staple of Filipino childhood.
In 1963, Robina Farms started operations, beginning with poultry products. This was also the beginning of the vertical integration of the Gokongwei businesses, as the farms would be able to purchase feeds from UCP in the future. Later that decade, Robichem Laboratories would be put up, to cater to the veterinary needs of the...