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How Joey Concepcion defeats the Goliaths

The RFM president and CEO has successfully turned Selecta and Pop Cola as market dominators. Today, he wants to do it, this time, to rule the pasta market.
By Elyssa Christine Lopez |

 

DAVID-ESQUE. RFM President and CEO Joey Concepcion is known to be the man behind Selecta Ice Cream's industry domination after toppling Magnolia Ice Cream in the 90s. Photo from Go Negosyo

 

How do you defeat a Goliath?

 

Ask RFM Corporation President and CEO Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion, and he can share a thing or two about the matter.

 

Not that he is bragging, but the executive has successfully done it twice (and potentially do it the third time) as he has more than two cents to share.

 

Experts credit Selecta Ice Cream’s present domination in the ice cream industry (with 70% market share) to Concepcion, after toppling then giant, Magnolia in the late 90s.

 

In the April issue of Forbes Philippines, Concepcion talked about his early successes and how he plans to do it one more time.

 

 

Be fearless

Baby boomers and the Generation X may probably agree, but San Miguel Corporation’s Magnolia was the hit ice cream in 80s. Until today, the mention of it sparks nostalgia, after all, it was the constant fixture of Filipino childhood. Then came, the young Concepcion, at the age of 28, who decided he will defeat the giant with the unknown Selecta.

 

“When we were starting it was really like David and Goliath. Magnolia was the only ice cream people knew at the time. It was like climbing Mount Everest. Still, when you are young, you don’t get scared of things like that,” the executive said.

 

RFM then tapped Unilever in 1999 which signaled the change of tides. Selecta started introducing new formats with ice cream as the purse or the famous Cornetto. They distributed free freezers and innovated new flavors.

 

It was only a matter of time until their competitor pulled out of their own partnership, leaving Selecta at the helm of the ice cream pyramid.

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Success requires team effort

But Concepcion credits the team behind him for RFM’s success. After all, he did not transform just one brand, but two, notably when they dominated the soft drink competition with the emergence of Pop Cola in the 90s.

 

“When we took over these brands, we put a lot of talent behind them,” Concepcion said.

 

RFM change the game after pricing its products at the minimum, easily becoming a favorite of sari-sari (variety) stores, which he feels, is “the pantry of the Filipinos.”

 

“We brought in Pepsi Cola people Tony Pantajon and Gerry Garcia…. We had a hard time at first but at the time, Coca-Cola was not paying attention. …After so many years, we became the market leader in sari-sari stores,” the CEO added.

 

 

Learn to let things go

But soon enough, Concepcion knew it was time for something new for the company, when they sold Cosmos in 2001 and focused on ice cream, and now, pasta.

 

“If you’re just going to be number 4, 5, 6—we’ve been there. You cannot be in everything. You have to be dominant in every sector you enter,” Concepcion said.

 

After learning Swift could not dominate the industry it was in, Concepcion sold it. He could be conquering new territories instead, like the pasta industry, where he is focused in now.

 

RFM brands Fiesta and Royal currently owns 40% of the market share, which Concepcion aims to grow at least until 65% in the next three years.

 

 

Innovate

To do so, Concepcion has crafted various strategies to capture the market, from rebranding to pricing.

 

RFM has marked down its prices compared to its competitors without compromising its quality. Royal and Fiesta pasta is made of imported high-grade wheat, notable because of its firmer quality once cooked.

 

It has also introduced smaller packages, as it wants to be the “good kind of noodle,” likening it to the instant noodles sold in convenience stores.

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So far, the company’s efforts seem to be worth it, as it posted at least 10% growth in the first nine months of 2015, compared to previous year of the same period.

 

“We’re trying to increase the frequency of using pasta. The sauce is there and it’s easy to cook,” Concepcion said. 

 

 

*****

Elyssa Christine Lopez is the editorial assistant/staff writer at entrepreneur.com.ph. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz

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