The Philippine Star

The vision, passion, & diskarte of Alfredo Yao

- – Epi Fabonan III

It doesn’t take a genius to achieve success. All it takes are vision, passion, and the right approach.

A walking proof of this statement is no other than Zest-O Corporatio­n Chairman Alfredo Yao, the man credited for bringing doy pack technology to the Philippine­s. His company is currently the leading maker of ready-to-drink juices in the country. The company has also diversifie­d to other food products such as juice puree, iced tea beverages, carbonated soft drinks, dairy products, condiments, and noodles. Apart from Zest-O, Yao has also ventured into printing and packing, personal care products, housing, airline, and banking.

But Yao’s childhood is a far cry from his business success today. He was a breadwinne­r at age 12, taking on odd jobs after his father’s death. His mother, meanwhile, supported him and his five siblings as a sidewalk vendor. An uncle supported his studies up until high school, all the while living in his uncle’s house where mahjong sessions were nightly held. It was here where the young Alfredo started to develop a diskarte in life, through the errands he did for the mahjong players in exchange for tips. He also took up Chemical Engineerin­g at the Mapua Institute of Technology, only to drop out two years later due to financial difficulti­es. This led him to the world of packaging.

The young Alfredo found work in a packaging company. He saw the potential of the business and studied the inner workings of the packaging industry. His mother, meanwhile, applied for a bank loan to start a new business. Yao used this loan, as well as personal savings, to purchase a printing press for cellophane wrappers of biscuits and candies. At 17 years old, he was in control of his first business venture, Solemar Commercial Press (named after his mother), which steadily grew in its first 20 years.

While visiting a trade exposition in Europe in 1979, Yao chanced upon the doy pack, a relatively new packaging technology developed by Louis Doyen and the Thimmonier Company. He saw the potential of this new technology in the Philippine food manufactur­ing industry. After investing on a doy pack machine, Yao marketed the technology to local juice makers—nobody bought the idea.

To recover the money he invested in the machine, Yao thought of producing his own juice drink and becoming a pioneer in the doy pack juice drink business. He experiment­ed with various juice drink flavors until the following year, when he launched the first Zest-O in the market.

From the beginning, Yao envisioned his product to capture the palates and hearts of children and families. Thus, with the assistance of UP Fine Arts professor Mon Dellosa, the original Zest-O packaging design was developed: colorful, refreshing, and bursting with flavor just from the name itself. Later on, the quick-punch doy pack design was developed for easy opening. Little has changed in the design since then, a factor that contribute­d to its long-term recognitio­n. Its radio, print, and TV commercial­s were also targeted towards schoolchil­dren, friends, and families, and reflect ideal Filipino values. This endeared the product to the masses even more, leading to its being part of Filipino households for years to come.

Yao’s vision, passion, and diskarte have rewarded him, not just with business success, but also with accolades from fellow businessme­n. In 2005, he was named Ernst & Young Master Entreprene­ur. Zest-O also remains the only Filipino company to receive the Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise Award for the innovation category in the ASEAN Business Awards. As an expression of gratitude for Filipino society’s overwhelmi­ng support for Zest-O, he also founded the Alfredo M. Yao (AMY) Foundation, which provides financial support for the schooling of underprivi­ledged children.

Seeing the potential of an idea when nobody else sees it. Pursuing your passion despite what everyone says about it. Developing the right strategy towards achieving business success. By embodying these traits, Alfredo Yao not only brought success upon himself; he also touched countless of lives through the zesty, fruity drinks his vision, passion, and diskarte gave birth to.

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