Universal Robina Corporation (URC) traces its beginnings in 1954. At that time, Mr. John Gokongwei, Jr. did well as a trader. He had learned the trade when his father died before the Second World War. Mr. John worked hard during the conflict and postwar years, in order to prosper. However, while he thrived, he carefully examined his company and correctly predicted that trading would remain a low-margin business.
Mr. John decided to construct a corn milling plant to produce glucose and cornstarch. He named it Universal Corn Products (UCP), the first linchpin of the company that became the URC we know today.
Business was good for a time, it’s producing a commodity that consumers could easily access, until similar multinational companies in the country became hurdles. That’s why, Mr. John is continuously working with an eye towards the future. To stay ahead of the game, Mr. John had to diversify by producing and marketing his own branded consumer foods. He wanted to build the first ‘local’ multinational company (MNC), borne out of best practices.
Thus, Consolidated Food Corporation was born in 1961. Its ‘home run’ and pioneer product is Blend 45, the first locally-manufactured coffee blend, dubbed as the “Pinoy coffee”. Blend 45 became the largest-selling coffee brand in the market, beating market Café Puro and Nescafé Panned chocolate Nips came after coffee. It’s a Filipino childhood staple. In 1963, Robina Farms started its operations of poultry products. This was also the beginning of the vertical integration of the Gokongwei businesses. In the late ‘60s, Robichem Laboratories were built. Its main purpose is to provide veterinary needs to farm businesses. In the latter part of the ‘70s, Robina Farms expanded when it entered the farm business.
In 1966, Universal Robina Corporation was established. It pioneered the salty snacks industry through Chiz Curls, Chippy, and Potato Chips, under the Jack ‘n Jill brand. Other snack products followed, as the company successfully introduced market leaders like Pretzels, Piattos, and Maxx.
In the coming decades, URC had more acquisitions and developments. 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 market. In line with this strategy, during the late ‘90s URC entered 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 three focused groups:
● The Branded Consumer Food Group, comprised of BCFG Domestic (including packaging) and International;
● The Agro-Industrial Group, comprised of Universal Corn Products, Robina Farms, and Robichem; and
● The Commodities Group, for sugar and flour divisions.