URC invests P1B in Vitasoy factory
Gokongwei-led Universal Robina Corp. (URC) is investing P1 billion to build a local production hub for Vitasoy products in Pampanga, catering to consumers’ increasing demand for healthy food and beverage products.
This is in line with a joint venture set up last year with Hong Kong’s Vitasoy group to roll out “high-quality, nutritious and sustainable” food and beverage products in the Philippine market.
URC chair Lance Gokongwei said in a briefing after the company’s stockholders’ meeting on Wednesday that the new factory in Pampanga would start commercial operation by next year.
Vitasoy products are available in the Philippine market but they are imported from Hong Kong for now.
Established in 1940, Vitasoy is a leading international manufacturer and distributor of a food and beverage portfolio focused on sustainable plant-based nutrition.
Its products include soy and other types of plant milk as well as tofu under the Vitasoy brand.
After a two-year business downturn, URC expects to start turning the corner this year.
“We plan to bring the business back on track by growing topline (at) high single-digit and operating income growing slightly faster than sales for the year,” Gokongwei said.
During the last two calendar years, URC grappled with a changing macroeconomic environment, increasing competitive pressures and some internal issues. From years of muted inflation and a strong peso, URC has seen creeping inflation and depreciating currency gnawing on margins.
This year, however, prospects are brighter.
“Hopefully, we’re pivoting for growth in the coming years,” Gokongwei said.
This year, URC has earmarked around P8 billion to grow various businesses.
Irwin Lee, URC’s newly installed president and chief executive officer, said the group’s business was still growing and it was just a matter of finding a better mix of products in the portfolio. He noted that a number of businesses were still growing—the snackfoods under Jack n’ Jill, noodle business under Nissin, healthy drinks under Vitasoy and even the C2 ready-to-drink tea.
URC has raised C2 prices by 22-23 percent this year to recover the increase in taxes, which in turn resulted in a 12-15 percent year-on-year decline in sales volume in the first quarter. In the coming months, however, sales are seen to rebound as the market adjusts to new pricing levels.
Lee said the international business was likewise doing better, especially with the business in Australia and New Zealand having consolidated leadership and now under “stable management,” Lee said. “Vietnam is recovering nicely,” he added.
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