By Jenina P. Ibañez
THE most buzzed about flavor of Wackie Corn Chips is salted egg.
Melito “Lito” C. Chua, president and co-founder of food manufacturing brand Yan Yan International (Phils.), Inc., said that he had tried different snacks from his travels and mixed numerous flavors on corn chips before creating the salted egg flavor he deemed the “best.”
While other snack food brands have salted egg flavored potato chips, Mr. Chua said his company is the first to produce salted egg flavored corn chips in the world.
Mr. Chua and his wife Melissa started Yan Yan in 2003 as a family business born out of a love for food.
“I went to a lot of restaurants, diners, and even the carinderias to understand what the Filipino loved,” Mr. Chua was quoted as saying in a press release.
The couple did much of the work themselves: testing, stocking, itemizing, and distributing. They now produce more than 150 products at six manufacturing plants, and sell their goods at convenience stores and grocery chains, including Ministop and SM.
Their products include Harry chocolate bars, Cheep chips, Goody root beer, Brewster’s coffee, Happy Marie biscuits and Melle’s breads.
Yan Yan began exporting around five years ago, and now move their goods to Southeast Asia, Canada, Japan, and Korea. They showcase their products at international exhibitions, then tap into a large overseas Filipino market.
Yan Yan Marketing Consultant Grace E. Isip attributed this to the founder’s penchant for incorporating flavors Filipinos love, a habit that paved the way not just to local success, but also international expansion.
“We began with Filipino buyers,” Ms. Isip told reporters in Filipino at a press event launching their newest products. “And then they open [the products] and say, ‘it’s like our food back home.’”
Yan Yan produces corn snacks, fish crackers, and buko pandan and gulaman-flavored juices.
Filipinos abroad began recommending the Yan Yan’s products to other Filipinos, selling these at Filipino stores, and spreading the word to locals. South Korea is their biggest export market.
In the Philippines, Yan Yan is hoping to boost brand name recognition. Ms. Isip said consumers may be familiar with their snacks sold in sari-sari stores, such as the Lumpia Shanghai Cereal Rolls and Karoke corn snacks, but do not know the brand itself.
She added that Yan Yan is aiming to become one of the top five food and drink manufacturers in the country, through “very aggressive distribution.”
However, the snack food manufacturer may face challenges, as the public becomes more health conscious. A Kantar report earlier this year said that Filipino consumers are turning to healthier snacks like fresh fruits. Some Metro Manila cities are implementing ordinances that ban “junk food and sugary drinks” inside and within 100 meters of schools.
Yan Yan officials said that they sell products such as crackers and breads that work within the guidelines of the ordinances at schools, and their juices follow the formulation prescribed by Department of Education (DepEd). DepEd discourages the sale of soft drinks as well as processed juices with more than 20 grams of sugar per serving.
Yan Yan also works directly with local farmers to ensure the use of fresh ingredients. For instance, their corn chips are flavored with real salted eggs, not artificial ingredients.
Now, Yan Yan is working on expanding locally and abroad. They put together their first TV commercials, and plan on exporting to more countries. Mr. Chua said that they are looking at exporting to the Middle East, where there are more than two million Filipinos.