When new businesses or multinationals arrive and start selling similar products to a country where your company has always been a market leader, it can be unsettling.
But Ricardo C Alba, President and COO of Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company (UNAHCO) says as long as you focus on keeping your company structure up-to-date and avoid becoming complacent, you can develop a bulletproof unique selling point (USP) – dependability.
UNAHCO is the animal health and nutrition subsidiary of leading pharmaceutical company United Laboratories. For almost six decades, the company has been providing quality animal feeds and vet products in the Philippines and South-East Asia.
Over that time, Alba says the competition has come and gone but has also given the company the drive to keep on innovating and reflecting on its own offering.
“Our mission is to support the small farmers known in the Philippines as ‘backyard’, who actually make up 70 percent of producers in the country. It’s a very unique situation.” he tells The CEO Magazine.
“We make sure to update them with the latest biosecurity technology and listen to what they need, for example in January  we launched a new range of packages for pet food because most are too big or expensive for their requirements.”
Over the years, UNAHCO has kept abreast of industry changes and made sure it has passed on the best technology to its customers. For example, it has combined the intelligent nutrition products of Novus International into its offering, and its extensive product range now encompasses the brands Univet, Pigrolac, Early Wean, Mama Pro, Sarimanok Poultry, Thunderbird, GMP and WingMaster.
Alba admits the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, cost of raw materials and the change in exchange rates – along with swine and avian flu outbreaks – have been grueling. But the company chose to fight on through.
“We took the crisis as an opportunity to go all out,” he says. “With all these pressures, other companies were suddenly nowhere to be found and so a lot of partners shifted to our brand.”
Despite many recent obstacles to overcome, UNAHCO remains committed to fulfilling its customers’ needs. “We have been raised and anchored on what we call ‘bayanihan spirit’ which was a principle important to our founder,” Alba explains.
Bayanihan is a Filipino word, which takes its origins from bayan, meaning town or community, and refers to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation. This is certainly something UNAHCO holds dear, and Alba feels privileged to be a part of an organization that values it so highly.
“We’re very proud of our social responsibility program,” he says. “We are not only after business, we are here for the long-term to help make sure these populations are still there in the future.”
With a range of initiatives such as scholarships for deserving students in agribusiness courses, retirement programs for employees and supporting farmers in times of need, the company specifically invests in projects that promote lasting growth in communities.
Alba is proud that UNAHCO has achieved sustainable growth, an accolade he puts down to staying attentive to its key stakeholders. It has kept listening to its often-overlooked customer base and maintained excellent relationships with its suppliers, adapting its corporate structure accordingly.
And he highlights how with both customers and suppliers, dependability has been a major USP. “During the pandemic our operations continued and we took care of our staff. We made sure feeds were available to the farmers and as a result it became a signal to the market that we are a very reliable source of everything they may need,” Alba says.
“We are lucky that we are empowered by our Chairman to make decisions at speed and can remain agile, something that our competitors cannot always do.
“But we make sure we know what is happening in the market and whenever a multinational comes here, we take time to talk to them and treat them very professionally. When there are breakthroughs in Europe or the United States, we become the company of choice to incorporate new nutrition and health technologies into our products.
“This gives us an advantage and is the result of our good market relationships – a big factor, which separates us from the competition.”
Another advantage is the number of plants UNAHCO has across the unique landscape of the Philippines, which is comprised of more than 7,000 islands, allowing the company to reach customers across the whole area.
As UNAHCO looks to expand internationally over the coming years, there is no doubt its core values of reliability and listening to what its customer needs will stand it in excellent stead.