Universal Robina Corporation (URC) traces its beginnings all the way back to 1954. John Gokongwei was doing very well then as a trader/importer. He had learned the trade when his father died before the war, and had worked hard through the war and postwar years to prosper. However, while he thrived, he took a long hard look at his company, and correctly predicted that trading would remain a low-margin business.
On the other hand, a successful manufacturer controlling its own production and distribution would command more profitable margins. Mr. John decided to construct a corn milling plant to produce glucose and cornstarch, Universal Corn Products (UCP), the first linchpin of the company that would become the URC we know today.
For a time, business was good. However, Mr. John was still looking ahead, working with an eye towards the future. While the business was doing very well, it was producing essentially a commodity, which a customer could easily access elsewhere. To stay ahead in the game, Mr. John had to diversify by producing and marketing his own branded consumer foods, similar to the multinational companies in the country like Nestle and Procter & Gamble. In a sense, he wanted to put up the first ‘local’ MNC, borne out of their best practices.
Thus, in 1961, Consolidated Food Corporation was born. Their first ‘home run’ product was Blend 45, the first locally-manufactured coffee blend, dubbed as the “Pinoy coffee”. This became the largest-selling coffee brand in the market, even beating market leaders Café Puro and Nescafe.
After coffee came chocolates. Nips, a panned chocolate was a staple of Filipino childhood.
In 1963, Robina Farms started operations, beginning with poultry products. This was also the beginning of the vertical integration of the Gokongwei businesses, as the farms would be able to purchase feeds from UCP in the future. Later that decade, Robichem Laboratories would be put up, to cater to the veterinary needs of the farms businesses. Robina Farms expanded as it entered the hogs business in the latter part of the 70s.
1966 saw the establishment of Universal Robina Corporation, which pioneered the salty snacks industry through Chiz Curls, Chippy, and Potato Chips, under the “Jack ‘n Jill” brand. Other snack products would follow over the years, as the company successfully introduced market leaders like Pretzels, Piattos, and Maxx.
The coming decades saw more acquisitions and expansion. In the early 1970s, the family entered the commodities business through the formation of Continental Milling Corporation, for flour milling and production. The late 1980s brought the acquisition of three sugar mills and refineries, under URC Sugar. These two businesses provided stable cash flows, and allowed for further vertical integration in the supply chain, to help URC weather any volatility in the cyclical commodities markets. In line with this strategy, the late 1990s saw the entry of URC into the plastics business, through URC Packaging.
While the businesses became more diversified, the companies were slowly integrated in order to streamline and minimize costs. In 2005, the present structure of the group was completed. All the different companies are now organized under the Universal Robina Corporation umbrella, divided into 3 focused groups: