Gerry Chua: Rockin’ the Hopia!
Innovation in business is a nasty gamble. You risk alienating your clients and further ruin a deteriorating enterprise. Or you could have just landed the big one and reaped the benefits for years to come. It’s a high stakes game but it is worth it.
Ube hopia was introduced to the Filipino nation around 17 years ago by a man who deemed that his business has nothing else to lose. He made his own product, he was the one who sold it, and he tried to keep up with the debts that hound his small business among dozens of others along the stretch of Ongpin Street in Binondo.
We have heard the story before. Of the man who was on the brink of doom, when an idea came to him as though out of the blue. But it was really just a question that everybody knew to ask. What sells? This started for Gerry Chua a series of events that turned his business into the most robust and well-known merchant of the now famed Ube hopia
Hopia ube, as Chua is want to say, is a quality product of premium ingredients. What sets Eng Bee Tin’s hopia ube from all the others is its soft texture due to the gata (or coconut milk) and eggyolk in the batter—very much unlike other types of hopia, which tend to be flaky and at times tough. Chua takes pride in the excellence he tries to put in his products, particularly his bestseller, where the ube comes from Bohol, the home of the famous halayang ube.
The Eng Bee Tin business targeted the Filipino taste buds when it launched its products opting for the sweetness factor, and now posting a daily production of 10,000 packs of hopia per day, within a price range judged reasonable by a majority of its customers. Chua predicts that his business will still grow strong in the coming years, hoping to expand by opening newer branches and maintaining the drive to create healthy, quality food.
Innovation, then, never truly stops since the store recently released a new variant to join the multitude of other choices, the Ube lite, a healthier version of the well-loved flavor. And in early in 2007, Chua plans to release another type of hopia, the choco-peanut, a hopia version of the local choc-nut sari-sari store favorite.
A business of this magnitude, though, is not without problems. Chua says it is still fraught with the usual dilemma of smaller ventures such as manpower, high cost, and overhead. But through it all, the hardworking entrepreneur says one must constantly seek to provide excellent quality. A step in that direction includes using premium materials, good manufacturing practices and investment in quality control procedures like metal detectors and food X rays.
As advice to future entrepreneurs who wish to venture in practically any business, Chua says to always be honest customers, and treat employees as coequals. On the financial side, Chua advices to do a long- term business plan. Small profit, no matter how minute, is still profit.
Through the One Town One Product (OTOP) project of the town of Calamba, a total of 19.55 hectares is used for ube crop with around 237 farmers engaged in the production adding to the supply of ube for the Phiiippbes. There is an estimated 235 tons per cropping period of raw yam that is sold to markets in the province. Ube is a high value crop that is valued for its color and its distinct taste. Bohol, particularly a city named Alburquerque, though, has only recently focused on providing and establishing a market for ube in the area thus pointing to a largely untapped produce or rather, one that is probably unmonitored but posting in the year 2000 around 17,000 (in thousand kilograms). It accounts for the majority (more than 9o%) of Central Visayas’ ube crop production.
Bohol’s town of Dauis has, through OTOP, produced powdered Ube. They are processed and improved for export as an ingredient and sweetener for deserts and other food stuff.
Milk and egg yolk has often been healthy, with the addition of the innate benefits that mungbeans (or munggo) and/or ube provides, particularly, high fiber and protein. The fact that munybeans and ube have high dietary fiber content acts as a defense against diabetes mellitus by stabilizing blood glucose content. Experts say it also prevents re-absorption of bile acids in the liver, reducing cholesterol and thus limiting the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cancer is also a health problem that is addressed by high dietary fiber by being fermented into short chain fatty acids that binds with toxins so they can be excreted through feces. These toxins are responsible for the formation of tumors and cancer.
How to make hopia ube?
One starts with the dough, where in the Eng Bee Tin case, two are used as bases: water and oil. They roll the two doughs and fold them together. The filing is made of cut ube, steamed and mixed with sugar, milk, butter, egg and gata in various quantities, to make it soft and pliable. They are wrapped using the dough and then baked. Chua says the materials have to be always fresh and they use butter and corn oil in the production, keeping with health standards that they have set for themselves.
Source:MARID 2007, John Melegrito