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LJD is a model for budding entrepreneurs

Source:Food Bev Asia

Date Published:6/18/2019 01:06:59 AM

LJD Foods is a Filipino-owned micro business working its way up in the processed meat space.    

IN THE cutthroat world of Filipino processed meat market, it’s hard to find “special home-made” products that are sourced from grade-A suppliers, made fresh every day, and come at very affordable prices. LJD Foods hit all these marks as clients have been raving about their meat products line. This is probably the reason why the company is one of the hottest up-and-coming names in local breakfast fare and processed meat items.

Food Pacific Manufacturing Journal travelled to the northern part of Metro Manila to talk to entrepreneur Ms Lulu Domingo and her family about their business venture.

What sparked the idea of going into the processed meat industry?

I have always enjoyed cooking for my family and hosting dinner parties for our friends. They would always remark that the tocino (sweetly flavoured bacon) and longganisa (garlic-flavoured pork sausages) that I made were tastier than the popular brands found in groceries. They begged me to sell them packs for their kids’ packed lunches and also for their daily meals. Back in 2013 when LJD first started, I was only selling product to my relatives and friends. After a year or two, I offered my line of products to one school in Valenzuela area. It was a hit. Another school asked me to provide not only tocino and longganisa for their cafeteria but also hamburger patties for burger steak meals as well. Pretty soon I was supplying for most of the elementary and high schools here.

What does LJD stand for?

LJD stands for Lulu Jario Domingo, my own name. It took a long time for us to come up with a name for the business. My kids suggested using my initials and I thought yes, that is a good idea. Thus, LJD Foods came into being.

LJD foods offers a variety of of longganisa (garlic-flavoured pork sausages), including garlic, hamonado (sweetened), smoked, and skinless.

What products are available from LJD?

Our product line consists of different kinds of longganisa: garlic, hamonado (sweetened), smoked longganisa, and skinless varieties. The smoked longganisa was an experiment that actually worked and tasted so good we made it a part of our regular line. LJD hamonado longganisa is a favorite of our buyers since it is not too sweet and has the right combination of sweet-savoury flavour. The garlic longganisa we make rivals the ones from Lucban and Vigan in the amount of garlic and pork fat chunks. We prepare bigger skinless longganisa than the regular ones available in the market. The school cafeteria concessionaires requested bigger sausages for their set meals and we accommodated their request with skinless longganisa pieces that are the same size as German bratwursts.

Customers are surprised that there is very little fat in our tocino packs. LJD tocino is mostly comprised of predominantly all-meat pieces. I try to come up with healthier versions of tocino and regular longganisa by reducing the fat content. This makes the products popular with our health-conscious customers. Also included in our bestsellers are our special burger patties for Salisbury steak meals. And once a year, every Christmas season, we offer Jamon de Bola (ham ball) and Tocino meatloaf.

Tocino, a sweet flavoured meat, is an all-time favourite among Filipinos.

How did you come up with the idea of the Tocino meatloaf?

Tocino loaf is actually a product of a happy accident and experiment. One day when I was finished mixing a batch of tocino, I realised there was extra marinade. I also had a bowl of meatloaf ingredients waiting on the sidelines to be mixed. I had a crazy idea of dumping the rest of the marinade into the meatloaf bowl and mixed it all up. When we tried it after cooking a batch, it actually was very good. Now it is a seasonal bestseller. One can only order it during the Christmas season when we offer ham and meatloaf for giveaways.

What is your production capacity?

In a week, we go through 40 kilos of meat for each product line. This is the reason why my sons and hubby are at the market two times a week. Each time they get about 40 kilos for our daily production. All of our weekly production gets sold by the week so we don’t have much in stock in our freezers. I would say we sell about 200 kilos of longganisa and another 200 kilos of tocino every month. The monthly production for burger patties would be around 5,000 pieces.

Where do you source ingredients?

All our meat is ethically sourced from Triple-A pork suppliers from Tanay, Rizal. Tanay is known for its premium cattle and porcine stocks. For the spices and other marinade ingredients, we source local herbs and spices from the surrounding districts such as Caloocan and Mandaluyong. Everything, from the meat to the herbs and spices that we use is locally-sourced, proudly Filipino made.

Seasoned and ready to cook burger patties are a hit with people who don't have much time to spend in the kitchen. 

Which parts of production are mechanised?

For now, the company’s mixing and the sealing processes are mechanised. Every else, from the marinade, the curing, patty-forming, sausage stuffing, and to the packaging are done by hand. The company has applied for a SET-UP loan from the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines (DOST) for the procurement of processing machines. SET-UP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Programme) is one of the DOST flagship programmes where Filipino entrepreneurs in Metro Manila can avail of funding and help in acquiring appropriate technologies and machinery.  Through this SET-UP loan we manage to get a vacuum sealer and a bigger industrial size mixer. We plan to apply for a meat slicer later this year to help in further mechanising our production and food processing operations. Once we fully expand our operations in future, we will be looking to automating most of our production processes.

What quality standards have you adopted with the food processing and production?

When a batch of products is done, this is promptly packaged, sealed and flash frozen to maintain freshness and quality. I also implement a strict policy of “first-in, first-out” system. This ensures our customers that every LJD item they buy from the local stores or delivered to their doorstep is freshly made. For safety and hygiene, we follow a strict regimen of a clean and sterile work environment. All production personnel are dressed in aprons, hairnets, and equipped with gloves and face masks.

You mentioned applying for DOST loans, what other local government agencies have you sought assistance?

Apart from the SET-UP loan granted by the DOST, I personally applied for more training seminars on business and financial management, marketing and sales, from the government agency. These programmes have connected me with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with regards to access to more food processing seminars and participation in food events like the Megatrade Food Exhibitors event in 2018 at the SM Megamall.

Being a small business, what problems or issues did you encounter when securing government certificates and approvals?

Before we started LJD Foods, we had to secure registration from the DTI office and the mayor’s office. Filings for the registrations were actually relatively easy and smooth. Getting permits and certifications are quite stress-free, unlike before when red tape and bureaucracy held up applications for months and even years. The local government departments and offices have streamlined the processes for small business owners with regards to getting the appropriate papers to run a business. The only hassle in filing is the long lines of people applying for the same permit. But I guess that means a lot of business are starting and the economy is doing better.
In addition to the DTI and mayor permits, we have also secured Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) certification and the regular sanitary permits from the mayor’s office. Our next goal is to secure Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification as far as permits and nutritional information on our packaging. The last one is quite costly for small businesses like ours as nutritional information on packaging costs P22,000.00 (about $400) per product. If we had 10 different food products, that’s adds up to P220,000.00.

As a family business, who is involved in the operations? How big is your staff?

My entire family is involved in the business. Our small processing facility is located in my in-law’s courtyard and they help in the distribution aspect. My children take turns in sourcing and procuring the meat from the local market plus manning our social media channels and e-commerce site. I have two production assistants helping me with the daily processing and production. Of course, my husband takes charge of orders and delivery and gives his full support for our business since its inception.

How do you market and promote LJD products?

We began marketing our products through word of mouth. Family and friends recommended us to their family and friends and our customer base grew. We also participated in food exhibitions and events to build and expand our brand. The support has been great so far and it has even landed LJD Foods on TV guesting shows like “Cusina ni Nadia” (Nadia’s Kitchen). We just recently ventured into online sales and marketing, spearheaded and managed by my son.

What’s next for your company?

It has always been my dream to see LJD products in the big supermarket stores freezers across the nation. That would be a dream come true for me. Once we’ve hit that, the next goal would be to venture into exporting our products in the Asia-Pacific region. Some of our products are actually being brought by Filipino expats to other countries in their carry-on luggage. Maybe in the future, they wouldn’t have to do that.

What is the key to your continued growth and success?

Like all the food I cook for my family, a touch of love and care goes into each and every recipe and food preparation of LJD products. Others tease me that I am a bit slow in the expanding my business. I like to take my time to be cautious and study about everything before I take the next a big step. One thing I can say is that I don’t quit. I may go slowly but I will never stop. I think that is the reason for our continued success.

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