[ASK TBM] How to Profit from Classic Filipino Delicacies
Sam Karazi shares how he and business partner Daymae Salubides successfully commercialized a classic Filipino dessert through their brand, Bebang Halo Halo.
According to research conducted in 2021, the Philippines ranks third in Southeast Asia in terms of interest in sweets. Results of the study show that nearly 18.8% of the country’s Google population look for sweets, ranking next to Malaysia (21.8%) and Singapore (19.3%). A separate study also shows how the interest in sweets among Filipinos intensified since the start of the pandemic.
There are countless famous Filipino desserts, and one of the most popular is halo halo, a cold dessert made with crushed ice, evaporated milk, and various ingredients. Whereas this dessert used to be sold on the streets, a business called Bebang Halo Halo made it possible for people to order the dessert online.
This business was started by Sam Karazi and Daymae Salubides in 2021 to overcome boredom and generate extra income. After receiving positive feedback from their customers, the two decided to grow the business by using their expertise in e-commerce and marketing.
By offering a variety of flavors and using premium ingredients, the business differentiated itself from the competition. Mr. Sam Karazi shares his insight about how to reinvent a classic Filipino delicacy and turn it into something profitable.
What challenges did you face when starting the business? How did you overcome them?
The challenges we faced in the beginning were:
- Problem: How to deliver the product properly without melting
- Solution: We did a lot of R&D on the packaging and listened to customers’ feedback.
- Problem: How to handle the high volume of customers messages and orders
- Solution: We created our own automated ordering system and developed our own chatbot to handle customers’ messages.
- Problem: How to have enough ingredients to process the high volume of orders
- Solution: We outsourced our freezing and parts of our supply chain.
- Problem: How to make our product better than the competition and become a market leader
- Solution: We hired professional food stylists and photographers to improve product presentation and listen to customers’ feedback to improve the quality.
What was the inspiration for you to commercialize halo halo, given its origins as street food?
The term “commercialize” doesn’t fully encapsulate what we’ve achieved with Bebang Halo Halo. We’ve elevated the entire experience of enjoying this traditional Filipino dessert. When we entered the market, the average price for halo halo was around 100 pesos. At that time, the trend was leaning towards imported concepts like frozen yogurt and milk tea. We saw an opportunity to elevate a local favorite instead of introducing another foreign concept.
Our aim was to create a premium halo halo that could not only compete with these trendy desserts but also set a new standard. We wanted to create a concept that we could proudly take global, representing the best of what the Philippines has to offer. So, we didn’t just commercialize halo halo; we transformed it into a premium culinary experience that we hope will soon make waves globally.
One of the initial challenges we faced was the customer’s perception of halo halo’s price. Convincing customers to pay 168 pesos for a halo halo was a challenge when the market average was around 100 pesos. We tackled this by using a strategy called price anchoring. By introducing the Royal Halo Halo at 498 pesos, we shifted the customer’s perspective. The other products priced at 168 pesos suddenly seemed like a bargain. And let me be clear, this is not cheating; we’re simply helping customers look past the price and focus on the exceptional quality we offer.
How can you describe your brand’s unique selling point? What sets it apart from traditional brands?
Bebang Halo Halo is not just a premium dessert destination; it’s a holistic experience that fuses culinary excellence, social media savvy, and groundbreaking technology. While we’re renowned for crafting the creamiest, top-tier halo halo, what truly distinguishes us is our relentless focus on customer experience and tech-driven innovation.
We’ve simplified the ordering process to an art form. With just a few taps in Facebook Messenger, customers can place their orders and receive instant updates, making the whole experience incredibly user-friendly. But we don’t stop at just delivering delicious halo halo; we go the extra mile to gather feedback from each customer after their order has been delivered. This helps us to continually refine our offerings and customer service.
What really sets us apart is our pioneering use of technology. We’re one of the first food brands in the country to leverage AI for customer support, order processing, and data analysis. This not only streamlines our operations but also enhances the overall customer experience.
In a market saturated with traditional choices, Bebang Halo Halo stands as a beacon of innovation. We’re not just serving up halo halo; we’re redefining what it means to enjoy this beloved dessert, from the moment you place your order to the very last delightful spoonful.
How does social media help your business in terms of getting more sales and reaching new clients?
Social media is at the core of our marketing, we use social media not only to generate sales and reach new customers, we also use it to position our brand higher.
In a time where people spend 6-7 hours daily on their phones, being out of feed means being out of mind, keeping our brand in front of our customers is not optional but a necessity.
What are some lessons you learned from your journey that you can share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Embracing cutting-edge technology isn’t just a nice-to-have for businesses, especially in the food and retail sectors; it’s an absolute necessity for long-term success. But while tech is crucial, it’s not the be-all and end-all. The real goldmine for any business is customer loyalty and feedback. By actively listening to what our customers have to say, we’re not just meeting their expectations; we’re exceeding them and continually refining both our product and service. So for aspiring entrepreneurs, my advice would be to invest in technology but never underestimate the power of customer feedback. Both are key ingredients for a successful venture.
Bebang Halo Halo aims to take their brand and the Filipino flag onto the global stage. For inquiries, they can be reached through their Facebook and Instagram accounts.