Universal Robina Corporation (URC) is a Philippine company based in Pasig, Philippines. It is one of the largest food and beverage companies in the Philippines.
Universal Robina Corporation (URC) traced its beginnings all the way back to 1954. John Gokongwei, Jr. was doing very well then as a trader/importer. He had learned the trade when his father died before the war, and had worked hard through the war and postwar years to prosper. However, while he thrived, he took a long hard look at his company, and correctly predicted that trading would remain a low-margin business.
On the other hand, a successful manufacturer controlling its own production and distribution would command more profitable margins. Mr. Gokongwei decided to construct a corn milling plant to produce glucose and cornstarch, Universal Corn Products (UCP), the first building block of the company that would become URC.
For a time, business was good. However, Mr. Gokongwei was still looking ahead, working with an eye towards the future. While the business was doing very well, it was producing essentially a commodity, which a customer could easily access elsewhere. To stay ahead in the game, the future billionaire had to diversify by producing and marketing his own branded consumer foods, similar to the multinational companies in the Philippines like Nestle and Procter & Gamble. In a sense, he wanted to put up the first ‘local’ MNC, borne out of their best practices.
Thus, in 1961, Consolidated Food Corporation was born. Their first ‘home run’ product was Blend 45, the first locally manufactured coffee blend, dubbed as the “Pinoy coffee”. This became the largest-selling coffee brand in the market, even beating market leaders Café Puro and Nescafe. After coffee came chocolates. Nips, a panned chocolate similar to M&Ms, was a staple of Filipino childhood.
In 1963, Robina Farms started operations, beginning with poultry products. This was also the beginning of the vertical integration of the Gokongwei businesses, as the farms would be able to purchase feeds from UCP in the future. Later that decade, Robichem Laboratories would be put up, to cater to the veterinary needs of the farms businesses. Robina Farms expanded as it entered the hogs business in the latter part of the 70s.
1966 saw the establishment of Universal Robina Corporation, which pioneered the savory snacks industry in the Philippines through its Chiz Curls, Chippy, and Potato Chips, under the “Jack ‘n Jill” brand. Other snack products would follow over the years, as the company successfully introduced market leaders like Jack 'n Jill Pretzels (pretzels), Piattos (fabricated potato chips), and Maxx (hard candy).
The coming decades saw more acquisitions and expansion. In the early 1970s, the Gokongwei family entered the commodities business through the formation of Continental Milling Corporation, for flour milling and production. The late 1980s brought the acquisition of three sugar mills and refineries, under URC Sugar. These two businesses provided stable cash flows, and allowed for further vertical integration in the supply chain, to help URC weather any volatility in the cyclical commodities markets. In line with this strategy, the late 1990s saw the entry of URC into the plastics business, through URC Packaging.
As the businesses became more diversified, the companies were slowly integrated in order to streamline operations and minimize costs. In 2005, the present structure of the group was completed. All the different companies are now organized under Universal Robina Corporation, divided into three focused groups:the Branded Consumer Foods Group, composed of BCFG Domestic (including packaging) and URC International, for the production and sale of snacks, beverage, and grocery products,
the Agro-Industrial Group, composed of Universal Corn Products, Robina Farms, and Robichem, for the production and sale of animal feeds, day-old chicks, hogs, and veterinary medicine,
and the Commodity Foods Group, with the Sugar and Flour divisions, for the production of flour and sugar, and for sugar milling and refining services.
URC is a core subsidiary of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. (JGSHI) which is one of the largest business conglomerates listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange.
URC owned the Philippine Basketball Association franchise Great Taste Coffee Makers which played from the inaugural 1975 season to 1992 when the company sold the team to Sta. Lucia Realty. The Coffee Makers won 6 PBA championships.