Lifestyle Business

How a soft drink keeps this dealer afloat


MANILA, Philippines - Growing up, Yuri Sumnad was surrounded by bottles. His mother, Anita, had been a soft drink and beer dealer since she was 18. It was the bottling industry that helped raise her family. From a small sari-sari store, Anita’s business grew so much that for more than a decade she was named one of the top beer distributors in the country.

Now, almost 50 years later, the Sumnad family’s “love affair” with the bottle continues, with 25-year-old Yuri striking it out on his own. His newfound love? RC Cola, the soft drink that has won over many cola drinkers around the world. 

For Yuri, the chance to start his own business was inevitable.

“Without this business, we would not have been able to study, to live a comfortable life. We owe it so much to the bottles,” he says. “Together with RC Cola, I know my family will achieve more.”

As a child, Yuri helped out in the family business, so it was only natural that he took on an entrepreneurial mindset. Armed with a degree in Engineering from Mapua Institute of Technology, Yuri immediately jumped into the bottling industry after college to assist his mother.

Soon, Yuri chose to set up his own dealership business with a starting capital of P1 million from his mother. With sufficient equipment, manpower and funds, Yuri’s business seemed to be on the right track. However, when his dealership with a major cola brand started to introduce changes that Yuri thought were detrimental to dealers, he began to contemplate severing ties with the company and to just distribute beer.

As Yuri recalls, “Their policies kept on changing. First they wanted to haul products so we invested in trucks. They then informed us that we had to dispose of the haulers. As a businessman, this was unfavorable to us. After all, we already spent money on the equipment. It was a losing battle, and I was getting frustrated.”

Just when Yuri was about to give up on his carbonated soft drink (CSD) dealership, a greenhorn company approached him and proposed distributing yet another CSD.

Asiawide Refreshments Corporation (ARC), the licensed manufacturer and distributor of RC Cola products, had started to become popular when it reintroduced RC cola to the market. Intent on giving consumers a value-for-money product, RC Cola’s unique combination of lower prices (compared to the leading brand) and high-quality taste spurred sales. A seasoned dealer, Yuri knew that the time had come to welcome RC Cola into his fold.

Using his initial resources, which included two trucks, Yuri began with less than 30,000 cases a month. The response was so positive that the following month, Yuri doubled his cases. The reality, Yuri stresses, is that Filipinos will always choose value products and ARC has successfully ramped up the consumer experience through RC Cola. The turnaround has definitely benefited Yuri — today he grosses an average of 7,000 cases daily.

ARC’s winning strategy has stretched to its dealers, with whom they strive to foster a mutually beneficial partnership. “The people handling ARC are veterans in the bottling industry,” Yuri says. “They know what is important to the dealers. They don’t shortchange us. Unlike other companies that charge a hauling fee, which sets dealers back at least P2.50 per bottle, ARC enables its dealers to save one peso. If accumulated, we dealers can actually use these savings to invest in expanding our business.”

With the help of a computerized operating system, Yuri sees to it that he is always on top of operations. He opens the warehouse at 7 a.m. and stays until closing time, around midnight. His dedication has certainly paid off. His route is not only limited to the Pandacan area (where his warehouse is located) but also reaches San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pasay and even Makati City. In one day alone, Yuri’s trucks are able to “plant” 1,000 cases.

As revenues continue to pour in and the beverage industry becomes more competitive, Yuri knows that his business will not sink easily. After all, RC Cola has gained the approval of the Filipino taste. “It’s delicious, and really is a value-for-money product,” Yuri concludes.

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