Spud Buds caters to all potato cravings
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Potato chips, or even anything potato-related, can be considered one of Filipinos’ comfort foods, but best buddies Leonard Co and Harry Ong decided to put a spin and twist to this snack to satisfy one’s potato madness craving.

After working for the banking industry for five years, Leonard’s personal love for potatoes inspired him to create his own potato brand with the help of his best friend Harry, who was a hotel and restaurant practitioner back then.

“I was 25 then and I felt I wanted to do something radical. My mission is to advocate the potato varieties we have here in the Philippines, “ said Leonard, an Entrepreneurial Management graduate from the University of Asia and the Pacific.

“He approached me asking for help or some advice since operations is my forte. In the latter part of the planning period, I already wanted to join him,” Harry said.

“To be partners with your best friend is quite tricky because you might clash, but objectively, we share different set of skills and it really makes sense not just because we are best friends,” Leonard shared.

Spud Buds was conceived in 2014, selling potato skin, spud balls and shoestrings.

Just like any typical start-up business, Spud Buds initially joined bazaars to introduce the product and get a feel of the market.

“The reception was good that’s why we were compelled to set up our own food counter. We got an offer from SM Mall of Asia in 2014 and we grabbed it,” Leonard said.

However, a business is not all rainbows and unicorn as Spud Buds encountered bumps in the road and eventually closed down its first branch a year after operations.

“Our mistake was that we beautified the store so much for the market and we also got a big space which we did not really need. It didn’t work out for us, so I told Harry to just go back to the drawing board. If it was a mistake, then let us just call it such and try to bounce back,” Leonard said.

From being a food counter, Spud Buds decided to shift to product distribution through its packaged chocolate potato chips, shoestring potatoes, and kettle-cooked potato chips, and events catering.

“Product distribution is another channel where we can tap anybody. When we were at MOA, we felt like people in the south were the only ones who knew about us,” Leonard said.

“But I think we are in the right direction now. We get to focus more on the product and not get distracted by operating expenses. I would say we’re doing better than before,” he added.

Spud Buds is present at Shangri-La Plaza, SM snack exchange stores, Rockwell cinemas and in some Ayala, Vista and Megaworld malls.

Last year, Spud Buds started distributing to some hotel and restaurant clients such as Marco Polo, Makati Diamond Residences, Resorts World, New World, and Okada Manila, among others.

Leonard and Harry also beefed up their catering services to strengthen brand recall and gain more customers. Spud Buds now handles at least 10 events per month compared with only two when it started in 2016.

“We are doing very well with our catering. It took us awhile to get the ball rolling, but now we are eating up a lot of shares in parties,” Leonard said.

Spud Buds sources 100 percent of its potato requirements from farmer cooperatives in Benguet as part of its advocacy to promote the local agriculture scene. It gets approximately 100 to 1,000 kilograms of potatoes on a weekly basis.

“While the volume we get is still relatively small, it still helps farmers a lot since some big companies used to buy from them, but some decided to just import from the US and from China,” Leonard added.

The company is also banking on the renewed interest of Filipinos, especially the millennial market, in patronizing locally sourced and locally produced goods.

“In today’s time, it is much easier to market because of the reception of the millennials. I think Filipinos  are now more loyal to what we have here,” Leonard said.

To take advantage of the fast growing technology sector, Spud Buds intends to improve its presence in the e-commerce market.

The duo revealed plans to eventually bring Spud Buds to the global market.

“We’re still trying to gauge if we can commit to the expected volume because operations and supply should go hand-in-hand. But definitely, in the next few years, we want to see Spud Buds abroad,” Leonard said.

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