Homegrown ice-cream brand thrives amid pandemic

Published July 19, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Fiorgelato, a homegrown Filipino ice-cream brand, has stood the test of any crisis in the past 28 years, but the COVID-19 pandemic was so unique that it forced the company to think hard to pivot and innovate to survive.

Fiorgelato, the pure Italian ice cream, is the flagship brand of the Milkin Group owned by banker businessman Ritchie Cuna, who simultaneously pursued his entrepreneurial calling for 3 decades already.

Aside from Fiorgelato, his Milkin Group also created other brands: Donburimix (Casual Japanese Dine-in), DM Express (Japanese Quick Eats), and Kurimi Milk Tea Bar (Japanese Milk Tea).

According to Cuna, four days prior to the official announcement of the lockdown they were already prepared with what to do.

“I thought we were prepared enough and ready for contingencies for a month, but the turn of events came too fast we’re still caught off guard,” said Cuna. The lockdown has prolonged and is now running into its fourth month dragging the food and restaurant down to the gutter for survival.

 As there was no end in sight yet for the COVID-19 and the running lockdown continues, Cuna said they have to innovate to continue generating revenues not just for the company but for its staff.

The only way to continue operating is through deliveries, take out and online orders. The offline business was totally out of the picture during the ECQ period.

As a result, Cuna implemented a new normal landscape that focuses on 3 color codes: green for Fiorgelato , red for DM Express and blue for Kurimi.

Since everyone is navigating an unfamiliar terrain, the company allows simple dealership scheme for Fiorgelato delivering ice-cream to the comforts of homes and offices instead of customers going to their stalls that sells ice-cream the traditional scoping ice cream parlor in a dine-in setting. They also introduced 20 flavors.

The same program also applies to the two other brands allowing simple distributorship to its franchises in the meantime.

This is the only way to create multiple streams of revenues for the company and partners.

 Cuna is also working with e-payment portals GCash, PayMaya and  Grab Pay.

Cuna expects its customers to adjust in adopting its new form of cashless transactions.

“As they say, we are transforming from the brick & mortar to the digital platform.  It might take a little time for everyone to adopt but we are going on the right direction. Also, considering the many factors hindering and challenging the growth of the country’s e-payment system,” he added.

“Yes, e-payment should be the ultimate form of cash payment,” he added.

For its franchises, Cuna said they have the option to go cashless, but it is just a matter of timing.

Because of this unprecedented pandemic, Cuna said they are currently continuously assessing new sales forecast for 2020. “We don’t expect profits to be the main focus for 2020, but rather more to realign the company on this new normal landscape program we are adopting,” he said. So far, there are 150 Fiorgelato stores, 25 DM Express by Donburimix stores, and 25 Kurīmī Milk Tea Bars.