Trust Filipinos to fall in line—however long the queue may be—to get a taste of a new food craze in town, whether it’s the famous doughnuts from the US or cheesecakes from Japan.
When Irvins, the cult favorite salted egg chips from Singapore, opened its first stall in the Philippines at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City last August 11, it did so to a queue of Filipino fans who immediately bought more than 600 packs just after a few hours.
“Hopefully we’ll sell a thousand before the day ends,” said Jason Earvin Yap of Benby Retail Inc., the company that brought Irvins Salted Egg Chips in the Philippines.
The same excitement greeted the opening of Golden Duck Co.’s first stall in the Philippines in June at The Podium in Pasig City. Like Irvins, Golden Duck also makes salted egg chips and also comes from Singapore.
Drumroll Enterprises’ Richmond Co, the Golden Duck’s partner distributor in the Philippines, said business had been great since the launch that some days stocks get sold out in their stalls. It has since launched a second location in UP Town Center in Quezon City and retails the product in S&R Supermarket stores nationwide.
Why did Golden Duck and Irvins decided to open their first overseas retail outlets in the Philippines?
“A huge chunk of Irvins' customers in Singapore are Filipinos anyway, so why not bring it here instead?” said Yap.
“We thought we can’t ignore it [the demand] anymore,” Golden Duck Co-founder Jonathan Shen said at the sidelines of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila last July. “When we started, we had an end in mind. We knew that we didn’t want to just target the Singaporean market. We wanted to go overseas and expand.”
Some overseas Filipino workers as well as Filipino tourists in Singapore would go home with bags full of salted egg chips, then resell the snacks in Manila, at a margin of 50 to 80 percent or more of the original retail price.
For Golden Duck, a 125-gram pack, which sells at the converted value of Php260 in Singapore, would be sold by local online sellers for Php450 in the Philippines. Similarly, Irvin's 105-gram pack, which sells for Php300 in Singapore, would be sold back in the Philippines for Php500 while the 230-gram pack could be sold in the Philippines for Php900 compared to the original price of only Php600 in Singapore.
The opening of Golden Duck and Irvins official retail outlets in Manila means their Filipino consumers can now buy the savory snacks at more affordable rates compared to prices charged by unofficial online resellers. Golden Duck sells its 125-gram packs for only Php360 apiece while Irvin’s sells its two packages at Php300 and Php600 respectively.
Both face the same challenge of meeting high demand and scaling up production while maintaining high quality.
“It’s incredibly difficult to scale production especially when you’re handling ingredients that are gourmet. We use real curry leaves, real chili. That is not something you can just take and multiply,” Christopher Hwang of Golden Duck said. “That said, that’s why I believe customers would always want something authentic. We want to make sure each customer gets the real deal.”
For a local distributor like Yap, the problem has become an accepted reality for him and his master franchisor. “The supply has always been… it’s not really a challenge. Irvins really believe in quality products. They don’t want to oversupply and they don’t want to risk overproducing and compromising quality,” he said.
Both brands started small in Singapore in 2015, as some of the first to catch on the salted egg craze and capitalized it with equally savory snacks. For Irvins, the brand first tested the market with pop-up stores all over the city state, then eventually had to cope with demand by offering deliveries. Golden Duck first sold them online then eventually put up some shops in different locations.
The opening of their first overseas retail shops in Manila signals their plans to eventually expand across the Asia Pacific region where snack sales are growing at twice the pace in North America and Europe, according to market research firm Nielsen. Already, Golden Duck has recently opened a stall in Hong Kong after it set up shop in Manila while Irvins is also closely watching the market.
Elyssa Lopez is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz