When a pandemic-hit 2020 ended the regular rounds of street vendors, what happened to the classic Pinoy sorbetes? Just like other businesses, it relocated online.
Ice cream company C. Vallery Creamery, the group behind local handcrafted ice cream Papa Diddi’s, took the challenge of reliving the glory days of sorbetes by delivering it fresh across the metro.
Here, we talk to chief sorbetero Paul Perez as he walks us through the process of recreating Pinoy sorbetes and how to make it work in an online business platform.
How much has the ice cream business, say in the case of Papa Diddi’s, changed during the past year?
We welcomed 2020 with excitement as 2020 was our fifth year. A small feat for a small batch producer. But this excitement was met with a lot of fear right away as the Taal Volcano erupted, which was a cause of concern as some of our dairy and farm products come from the south of the metro. Then the pandemic happened, when we had to comply with the lockdown mandate.
With this, we went right away to replan our year. In doing so, we had to retool the business on many levels.
The retooling included offering our products online—fast. A website was created in just a few days. We also had to quickly organize our logistics arm, inviting riders from riding apps or even tricycle drivers from Sikatuna Village who did not have passengers to transport. We had them tested to ensure we followed health protocols.
“Despite being discouraged (we had to inform them that the ice cream might melt), they still persisted. We knew then that it was a channel for keep,” says Paul Perez.
We had to secure the health of our employees, providing masks, shields, contract tracing QR codes, etc. As dining was limited, we expanded our dining area by securing a space beside our shop in Maginhawa.
We had to provide a means of transport to our staff such as issuing them bikes and even a pickup service for the production team.
The big move was bringing our central kitchen closer to Maginhawa to ensure continued flow of goods into the store. This became more accessible to the staff as well, for them to continue reporting for work.
So if there was any big change in our business, it was moving, thinking and implementing with a speed I never saw in our past five years.
And because of this, we kept all our branches open. Employees are healthy and (are intact in number). We even hired seasonal employees during the holidays. The revised sales targets were achieved. 2020 ended up as our best year ever.
What are the perks of selling ice cream online?
Initially we were hesitant to sell online as the reach might be beyond our capability to deliver and we are just creating more issues. Not to mention, there was this fear that we might be exposing our product to possible melting due to wrong handling by riders.
But when people as far as Rizal, Bulacan and Cavite started to place orders online and despite being discouraged (we had to inform them that the ice cream might melt), they still persisted. We knew then that it was a channel for keeps.
We saw the power of online platforms to really reach far greater areas. This was shown during Mother’s and Father’s Days when literally for days leading up to these, we were glued to our brand’s Messenger, just receiving inquiries and processing orders.
But one thing we realized is though one’s choice of flavor can be very subjective, ice cream has a universal appeal to make people happy.
We are used to delivering within a three- to five-kilometer radius as prescribed by the riding apps, so having an online platform allowed us to break this barrier. Having our own riders helped us keep the integrity of our product. And I guess with the logistics industry improving and expanding day by day, it has become a good platform to bring your product closer and faster to your desired consumer.
What flavors will capture the Filipino market?
Aside from coming up with a monthly flavor of the month for Papa Diddi’s Pint Club members, we offered new flavors through our stores such as Staying Home with my Choco (to support the campaign to stay home), Taro and Panocha (using the oversupply of taro from Mangyan farmers and others), and Burnt Sugar, among others.
This kept our regulars excited about our brand. It came across as good news despite the gloomy health scenario. The classics remained the favorite though. Our chocolate line such as Malagos Choco and Double Jeopardy as well as our all-time favorites like Tres Leches, Dulce Gato, and Brazo de Mercedes did very well.
But one thing we realized is though one’s choice of flavor can be very subjective, ice cream has a universal appeal to make people happy. And this is what will always capture the Filipino market. We are happy people. Anything that will keep us a happy bunch, we will support.
Is it better to make ice cream in small batches compared to when it’s being sold outside?
We always believe in crafting small batches. This is because we are able to control the quality of our ice cream more. Not to mention, in the time of pandemic, we got to fix our inventory levels because we produce only small batches. This also allowed us to remain creative and craft new flavors each time.
It may cost more, as it’s manpower-heavy. We produce 50 pints per flavor every batch. That is not much if you look at it, but it allows us to manage and put enough controls to ensure we keep our quality standards.
How did the idea of Kalye Sorbetes come about? Was it a product initiated by the pandemic?
I’ve always been enamored by our Mamang Sorbetero. His hard work, his diligence to walk miles and miles just to bring a product that will make people happy is something I always admire. As a matter of fact, I always buy from them—most especially when I drive along highways and I see one.
I think the genuine love for making ice cream and coming from the fact that you recognize that eating ice cream is a social experience are the keys to success.
So since this whole experience has become limited as some areas are still on lockdown, I thought of crafting one for myself, which subsequently was enjoyed by my kids. So I named it Kalye, as even my kids were off the streets due to the lockdown. I thought of bringing this street delight into the homes.
What are the key differentiators between Papa Diddi’s and Kalye Sorbetes?
The two are different on many levels. Papa Diddi’s will always use the local carabao’s milk, while Kalye Sorbetes will use cow’s milk.
Though both are tributes to how my father and the street sorbetero made their respective ice cream, the similarity ends there as even the process is different.
We add coconut milk in Kalye as that is how it is done by most Mamang Sorbeteros. On flavor choices, Kalye will be true to what you see on the streets—cheese, mango, chocolate, coffee, and, soon, avocado and mantecado.
For Papa Diddi’s, it will continue to search far and wide for more heritage recipes and craft it to become a real homegrown, heartfelt and handcrafted ice cream.
Based on the Euromonitor 2020 report, dairy ice cream consumption will rise due to indulgence during lockdown. And I guess this is where the complementary role of each brand will come in because we are providing people more choices.
If you could pin down an ice cream brand’s success, what would it be?
I think the genuine love for making ice cream and coming from the fact that you recognize that eating ice cream is a social experience are the keys to success. I think Pinoy sorbetes will conquer not just every street again, but the world too. We have seen this already with some Pinoy brands in the LA area in the US as well as in Australia and London. It will be big. It will be fun. And we hope we will be one of those that make it happen.