From a Kitchen Business to a Thriving Enterprise: CDO Foodsphere’s Success in Being Part of a Filipino Meal

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It is a known saying that the easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; in the Philippines, families and relatives often reflect the same belief. Reaching one’s heart and forming a stronger bond are usually done with the presence of food. This is why it has always been common courtesy among people to invite not just those people they are bound to by blood whenever there are celebrations, but also those who they wish to have better relationships with and those they hold dear. Cora D. Ong and CDO Foodsphere have been providing such an experience for Filipino meals for years,— and probably a whole lot more.

(CDO) Cora D. Ong
Photo Credits: GMA Brandtalk

The first step into business

Granted that all businesses do not immediately reach their peak upon starting, CDO Foodsphere founder, Corazon Dayro Ong, also had to start with something small yet meaningful with the newfound business that later on provided her the life that she has right now.

Corazon Dayro Ong (CDO) is often referred to as “Ma’am Cora” by the people who know her personally and is a dietician by profession. With an ever-growing fondness for cooking, she took cooking lessons and decided to use the knowledge to try and make her own version of popular food such as skinless longganisa and siopao. The siopao she was making eventually earned an additional flavor than the usual meat-filled buns, adding more to the usual asado and bola-bola. It became a more innovative version of siopao since the filling that she used is the skinless longganisa that she made on her own.

The dietician began her journey to establishing her business by selling the products that she made to their friends and neighbors. It immediately became a hit because of its unique flavor and this, eventually, became a huge kickstart of their business. Corazon Dayro Ong (CDO) sustained the business with the help of her husband, Jose “Pepe” Ong, who was an aquaculture specialist then and helped a bit in the kitchen as well as delivering the products. Considering that they did not have any employees or extra people to help with the production, the tandem of the married couple was able to make up for the growing business.

Later on in the business that she was running alone with her husband, Ma’am Cora eventually got tired of making dough and added tocino into the products they were selling. In an unfortunate accident in the year 1977, Corazon Ong’s husband cut his hand which led to the decision to invest in expensive machinery that is truly helpful in production yet requires a little less manpower and will truly lessen the risk of injury.

According to Ma’am Cora, it became a “blessing” in a way, since they were able to pursue the decision and further diversify and improve their products. Her husband was in charge of the production and logistics while Ma’am Cora oversaw the products in order to ensure that while they improved their production, the quality of the food they are sending into Filipinos’ meals are still high-caliber and preferable.

CDO Foodsphere Plant 1
Photo Credits: GMA Brandtalk

Soon enough, the business began growing with the help of the CDO family’s friends, and relatives and formed business contacts the business is way beyond the word “small”. She did not let the business grow stagnant, instead, she continued innovation with the products using her knowledge in nutrition and food technology as a dietician and a learning food entrepreneur.

Staying in business was never an easy task.

Just like any other rising business, the dietician had experienced multiple challenges before the enterprise managed to completely bag its success. The main obstacles that Ma’am Cora faced at the start of handling her business would be capitalism and the difficulty in sourcing materials and ingredients that are needed for production.

One large challenge that is worth mentioning would be the factory getting ravaged by the fire in the year 1987. The building of their first modern production plant in Valenzuela coincided with the Asian financial crisis back in the 1990s (also called Asian Contagion), wherein the currency of Asian countries fell and inflows of capital slowed and reversed.

It is a tough time for the Philippine economy, especially for Corazon Ong and her family’s growing business. In order to cope with this, they decided to release a smaller and more budget-friendly package for their products. They also considered this hardship as another reason to provide employment to affected Filipinos.

Of course, challenges in life, and most especially in business are nothing new and it is more likely to be expected than not. However, the ones that Ma’am Cora experienced with CDO were guaranteed to ensure the strength and longevity of the business as they are still thriving since then. They were able to build their second plant and start their canning business in 1997; this was also the birth of the iconic CDO Karne Norte.

CDO Foodsphere plant
Photo Credits: Second Plantation in Valenzuela / GMA Brandtalk

The main driving force into continuing the company’s production aside from producing for their buyers’ consumption is their primary concern to the workers and employees. They strive to keep employment not just for the workers but also extending to their families, so Ma’am Cora continues to innovate and search for solutions instead of simply shutting down the company. She also strives to provide support for inclusivity not just by producing for Filipino families through their meals, but also encouraging people to join and stay in the CDO Foodsphere Family.

CDO Foodsphere is now very recognizable with its own brands of processed food and canned goods. Some of the many popular items are those from San Marino Brand with their famous Corned Tuna, Bibbo Cheesedog, Danes Cheese, and Highlands Corned Beef.

The flourish after more than four decades

The determination to continuously involve improvement and evolution to their business in order to provide the public the same service that they aspire to give right from the start. CDO Foodsphere has worked on extending its business in television commercials, the first one being released in the year 1995. They also expanded their production plants in Paso de Blas and in the year 2009 with their mega plant in Malvar, Batangas, showing their determination to make their products reach every home.

Currently, Ma’am Cora and Sir Pepe’s family are the ones running the company but regardless of the next generation handling the company, the principles of their parents will never leave. According to Jerome Ong, the current President and CEO of CDO Foodsphere and the eldest son, “The wonderful thing about my parents is that they always had a heart for people, more than anything. It was not just about making a profit.” And this is evident since not only does CDO Foodsphere reach out to the public through their products, but they also launched a corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm through Odyssey Foundation, Inc. (OFI).

Odyssey foundation started Gabay Nutrisyon, which hosts feeding programs and partners with other organizations to provide food and medicine to undernourished children all around the country, mainly in impoverished areas. The foundation eventually expanded to cover education with Gabay Edukasyon, environment with Gabay Kalikasan, livelihood with Gabay Hanapbuhay, and service to humanity with Gabay Lingkod.

With the authentic taste of homemade meals and the impact that the company has brought among its own employees and workers and most especially the Filipino people, it is undeniable that the simple desire to share a mother’s kitchen and love for cooking really went a long way. Ma’am Corazon Dayro Ong (CDO) is an example that anyone can make do with what they have and with the proper mindset and principle, success will soon follow.

Read more from BuzzinPH: From “Tutoy” to Vice Ganda: The Gratifying Story to the Unkabogable Success

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