Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tito Mike's Food Company, Inc.

In 1998, Michael Cases left his lucrative job as project engineer in Brunei Darussalam to settle in his hometown, Dipolog City. He decided to help stem the rising tide of unemployment and solidify Dipolog's newfound status as "Sardines Capital of the Philippines." In July 1999, Tito Mike's Food Company, Inc. was born, with a workforce of four.

Now, eight more regular employees have joined the original four, augmented by more workers during the fishing season and other peak periods. The volume of fish processed rose from 40 kgs. to 600 kgs; production increased from the initial five cartons of the early days to 75 cartons.

Company clientele has extended beyond family and friends to supermarkets and specialty stores nationwide, as well as oriental and Filipino stores in the U.S.

It was the first to produce a whole line of MSG-free products in Dipolog city. The company is also accredited and certified by both the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It also takes pride in the fact that from the start, it has operated on 100% equity.

The Dipolog School of Fisheries and the DTI have played crucial roles in Tito Mike's story. The Dipolog School of Fisheries provided technical assistance in the firm's first stages of operation. The DTI has included Tito Mike's in the Plus One Priority Program of the province.

Tito Mike's participated in the NTF 2001, where it drew the attention of two exporters, both of whom have remained valued clients. At the 2002 Asian Ethnic Food Festival, Tito Mike's was chosen by a Canadian firm, a certified CITEM VIP Buyer, to supply their requirement for sardines in jars.

Through the initiative of DTI-Zamboanga del Norte, the sardines manufacturers of Dipolog banded together to form ISDA (In-glass Sardines of Dipolog Association), which elected Mike as president for 2003-2004. Under his leadership, the association was given a grant by DOST for the purchase of two units heat shrink tunnel machines.

The group also received P500,000 under the SULONG Program, which Tito Mike used to buy raw materials such as corn oil and glass jars. These are sold to members at lower-than-regular prices. They also benefited from the recently concluded SME Caravan 2003, which featured a two-day seminar-workshop and free consultations on label/packaging design development.

Mike practices corporate responsibility and ensures that the firm does not spoil the environment. Care is taken to ensure that the creeks surrounding the firm's processing facility are kept clean for the fish and crustaceans that inhabit it. The company has an oil separator chamber that inhibits oil from flowing into these creeks. (DTI)

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