By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

NESTLÉ Philippines, Inc. inaugurated on Thursday a P2.8-billion “ready-to-drink” factory in Tanauan, Batangas — its fifth facility in the Philippines.

The factory — which currently produces chocolate drink brand Chuckie — is part of Nestlé’s P13.7-billion investment in the Philippines from 2014-2018. By midyear, the factory will also produce all-purpose cream.

“Our investments demonstrate our faith in the Philippines over the long term and express our commitment to participate in economic growth and nation-building as we have done for more than a hundred years,” Nestlé Philippines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kais Marzouki said.

The Nestlé Philippines chief noted the 14,688-square meter plant is the “single biggest investment that Nestlé has done in 2018” across Asia and Africa. Some 2,000 people were hired during construction, and 80 are currently employed at the factory. The company said its average P2.7-billion capital expenditure annually over the past five years was spent on the upgrade of its existing factories in Cabuyao, Cagayan de Oro, Lipa and Tanauan, and the improvement of its distribution capabilities.

Mr. Marzouki noted they are looking to invest at a similar rate in the coming years to sustain their double-digit growth in the RTD business every year.

“RTD is something very important for us and a big growth driver for the future. We expect to continue to grow double digits in RTD, even in 2019,” he said.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who was present during the plant’s inauguration, welcomed expanded presence of Nestlé in the Philippines.

“I’m pleased to know and I’m happy to hear that (Nestlé is) producing 94% of what you sell in the country…. The DTI is really focusing… on local production and manufacturing. It is really that kind of activity that creates jobs,” he said.

Nestle Philippines Technical Director Adnan Pawanteh also said: “We are very bullish (on the Philippines). The fact that we doubled the capacity, and we got double-digit growth, we’re very bullish on the market.”