Sometimes, with a little luck, the simplest ideas become so much more than their original concept. In 1968, Doña Virginia Sy Chiongbian wanted to supply the family’s shipping business, William Lines, with fresh food, so she began a poultry farm and piggery.
The food supply concept – and the farm – worked well, and the farm business grew so much that it is now one of the largest farm-to-table pork businesses in Central Visayas. In just 50 years, a backyard venture has become one of the Philippines’ best-known and most-loved pork brands.
The company diversified into meat processing, building a well-known brand, Virginia Food, which was eventually sold in 2002 to Avalon Holdings, as Virginia Farms focused more closely on the pig farming business on its current 360-hectare property in Asturias, Cebu.
It has invested in facilities such as a meat cutting plant in Maguikay, Mandaue City, in 2016, and the Virginia Slaughterhouse and Meat Plant, which was established in 2019. The company also has its own retail pork products brand – The Pork Shop – through which the farm’s produce is sold.
Another great success story since its inception in 2008, The Pork Shop sells fresh chilled and frozen meat and other produce through its 47 branches in Cebu’s major cities and municipalities including Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, Mandaue City, Danao City, Minglanilla, Consolacion and Liloan. Outside of Cebu, there are also three branches in Iloilo City and one in Naval, Biliran.
President of Virginia Farms Rolando Tambago blames the pandemic for a brief lapse in the rapid growth of The Pork Shop. “Last year, we wanted to have an additional 16 shops to maintain our momentum, because for the past three years we have averaged 33% growth year on year,” he says.
“But due to the pandemic, we only managed to open seven shops. What limits us is government restrictions on people moving from place to place, so we only managed seven out of 16 targets for 2020.”
To add to its portfolio, Virginia Farmers Solutions was created in 2017 in partnership with independent pig farmers for supplying additional pigs to maintain supplies to the expanding The Pork Shop chain.
“We have other divisions, such as the animal feed division,” Rolando says. “Even with the pandemic, we managed to expand and cover all the province of Cebu. We are new in the feed industry, but we are gaining momentum, so that’s a good start with the situation right now.”