Multi-awarded micro-enterprise Sandria’s Delicious Concept is rebooting systems to start anew projects stalled by the health crisis, building more connections and networks to reach out to markets beyond her hometown in Cebu to other parts of the country and eventually to markets overseas.
“Were doing good, even better now that the pandemic is over. There were challenges along the way. Everybody was bitten, a lot still hurting. But we pushed through and we even expanded in the past 3 years,” said Sandra Cadusale, owner of Sandria’s Delicious Concept, a budding micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) rooted in Minglanilla, Cebu.
Her business was more of a home-based enterprise years before she was able to afford her own production facility. Manufacturing “barquiron” was a hobby business that started with small orders from friends and officemates not too long before the pandemic disrupted small and big enterprises.
The disruption, though, offered new opportunities for Sandria’s as the business realized the need to pivot to survive the crisis which was what the enterprise did.
During the pandemic, families were scrimping on food due to weak finances and snacks including native delicacies have taken the backseat.
Cadusale temporarily halted the production of native delicacies following a string of cancelled purchase orders (POs). Clients from as far as Albay and Masbate have cancelled their POs, but Cadusale did not see this as an occasion to lose faith. She donated the unserved orders to front liners, those manning the check point stations, to hospitals and medical volunteers.
“The least I can do for these people is support them. It just happened that some orders were not delivered. So instead of selling them online, I donated the undelivered goods to volunteers in the hospitals, to people stationed at the check-points and to the LGU. I truly hoped my products cheered them up. I hope many people have derived joy from eating my products,” she said, counting her blessings.
Sandria’s officially started producing barquiron in commercial quantity in 2018, right after Cadusale joined the Kapatid Mentor Me (KMME) program, a coaching and mentoring program introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) linking MSMES to big corporations for tips and information that will help small enterprises compete in the market.
Her signature barquiron has won recognitions several times over from local award giving groups and thrice for the Seal of Excellence Award.
While her native delicacy segment was at a stand still, Cadusale started a commissary project supplying packed meals to volunteer vaccinators on an P8 million contract with the local government, but only P5 million was consummated since the people’s interest to get booster shots have also waned as the pandemic eased.
Sandria’s have supplied packed meals to 2 Aboitiz power plants in Cebu during the course of pandemic until 2021. It has also catered to and continues to supply on-demand packed meals to several local government agencies during seminar and trainings.
From revenues earned, Cadusale was able to fend for her family and her workers needs. The bigger portion of the revenues went to financing a small manufacturing plant for snacks and a new production building for her growing commissary business.
Delivery of packed meals forms part of Cadusale’s commissary business. Before the pandemic broke, she has a consignment contract with Ministop stores in Cebu. The contract fizzled out as the lockdowns forced people to stay at home, and without consumer base, even convenience stores stopped operating for a while. Sandria’s was supplying the store’s demand for Shanghai rolls, sliced pork, sandwiches and salads.
In late 2022, Ministop sought to renew severed ties with Sandria’s after the former pitched new food ideas to add the stores’ meal line-up. Nothing has been finalized yet, but Cadusale is hopeful things will out with the convenience store chain.
From the new factory, Sandria’s is now producing other homegrown delicacies like the local peanut cookies called Caycay, Piaya which is a local version of flat bread with muscovado filling, Rosquillos and sugar drizzled Otap on top the best sellers barquiron and barquillos.
There is a standing agreement with Northsails International Ventures, Inc. to distribute Sandria’s delicacies to Luzon. Sandria’s has never had an opportunity to market her products in Manila, which is a dream destination for small manufacturers based in the provinces.
While many businesses trimmed down their workforce due to hard times, Sandria’s did the opposite. The micro-enterprise doubled the number of workers from 5 to 13, as Cadusale adopted more bakers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. She has taken in displaced workers from big time competitors, whose she has supported even while the snacks segment of her business has not yet restarted production. So when the snacks segment resumed operations, Sandria’s has 13 busy pair of hands ready to restart manufacturing. Today, the Sandria’s employs 34 workers for the snacks and commissary businesses.
Another opportunity for the commissary segment lost to pandemic was a contract to serve in-flight meals of Cebu Pacific. Talks has recently resumed and Sandria’s is in a frenzy to serve the airline’s food needs.
Indeed, things are looking up for Sandria’s as stalled affairs and new opportunities are happening fast and almost simultaneously during the turn of the year. The micro-enterprise is also signing a long-term supply contract with a famous Otap and Rosquillos manufacturer to supply part of their inventory.
“I’m glad that even the giants in this business have recognized my product. In fact, barquiron is our flagship product. Back in the early years of our production, it was a great surprise to us to have won several awards despite our crude packaging. with the help of OTOP (One Town, One Product), we have immensely improved our packaging not only barquiron but for other products as well,”
Sandria’s barquiron comes in 8 flavors of which 3 are newly-developed variants, but will be available soon in the market.
Several of Sandria’s snacks comes in various variants or flavors like the piaya and otap.
“It is heart warming that people are happy with our products. And with that we keep on improving and innovating to deserve their trust. I am thankful for my staff for believing that we can surpass the challenges and expand in a truly sustainable manner. We keep on adding new product lines and our network has also expanded which is a great boost to us,” Cadusale said.
From producing snacks and serving packed meals, Sandria’s also tried producing frozen meat products. Nomad, a product aggregator with stores inside the Mactan International Airport, is one of Sandria’s loyal clients for its homemade tocino and chorizo products. Sandria’s I snow producing chorizo ins hundreds of kilos and delivers to clients all over Cebu but not yet to supermarkets.
Sandria’s is planning to register the homemade chorizo by securing a certificate of product registration (CPR) from the DTI so the product may find its way to select supermarkets and groceries. Chorizo de Cebu will be sold under the Sandria’s brand.
Cadusale seems to be an expert in juggling many commitments. Apart from being a hands-on entrepreneur, Cadusale still maintains a day job. She works at the Government Social Service Insurance System (GSIS) where she many of her officemates are also her clients.
In fact, she’s’ been entertaining thoughts of retiring early so she can use her retirement funds to finance her dream projects.
This year, she revealed that Sandria’s will be starting to produce a tried but not yet commercialized concept. The micro-enterprise will be putting to test the first ever squash and probiotic ketchup developed by UP South Cotabato. The idea was broached by a friend who works at the University.
The probiotic ketchup, meanwhile, will be produced from Moringa leaves, locally called Malunggay.
“This is a very novel concept. It has been tried but never produced on commercial quantity. The taste is bit different but does not fall far from the taste we are used to when eating banana or tomato ketchup. So far, production is limited for personal consumption. We want to be very first to introduce this,” Cadusale said.
She noted that many of the country’s produce can be transformed into novelty products. “The opportunities, in fact, is limitless.”
“Instead of letting our agricultural products rot and go to waste, we can think of ways of how we can put value to them. When mainstreamed, they become part of our food chain and food supply. This may not happen easily for the product we are about to test but we’re filled with hopes that Filipinos will patronize a truly homegrown product,” she added.
By the second quarter to second half of the year, Sandria’s will start producing squash and malunggay ketchup in token quantities which will be marketed in pillow packs. The products will undergo market testing through the business’ packed meals delivery.
Much that Sandria’s is abuzz with many deliverables, another project with equal importance is a distribution contract with Golden Temples Food Products, a large-scale manufacturer of condiments. Among their products are all purpose sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, oyster sauce, spaghetti sauce, sweet chili sauce, tomato sauce, banana ketchup, vinegar and mayonnaise.
Sandria’s is a loyal client of Golden Temples. The enterprise uses Golden Temples condiments for food preparation for packed meals and for the frozen meat products. Sandria’s agreed to be the exclusive distributor of Golden Temples condiments in the Visayas.
Like other MSMEs, Sandria’s had difficulties securing loan. It calls on the DTI to help small enterprises acquire loans fast without the encumbrances of many documentary requirements.
“I had my share of transactions and projects that fell through due to financial constraints. These lost opportunities are very important for small businesses like mine. I hope that the DTI will become more pro-active in helping MSMEs get the financial support they deserve,” Cadusale said.