Who can resist the allure of a good bakery? Whether it be a local panenderia that carries Filipino favorites, like ensaymada and pandesal, or the kind of bakery whose windows feature decorated cakes that are just as much a treat for the eyes are they as for the taste buds, it’s hard to not give into temptation and walk through the doors of a bakery’s storefront.
In recent years, however, a new breed of bakeries has hit the scene. Small local bakeries, many of whom operate predominantly on social media platforms, have been rising in number and expanding the country’s already diverse market for baked goods. Although many do not have storefronts that waft the smell of fresh bread, coaxing pedestrians passing by into purchasing their pastries, these bakeries have managed to grow into their own, and cater to customers in new and different ways.
Sweets on your screen
In an increasingly digital age, it’s no surprise that some businesses have found their breakthroughs via social media. Remilly Co, the Chief Executive Officer of Remilly’s Yema Cake, got her start when she tweaked an online recipe to produce her own yema cake. When she started posting her creations online in 2014, more and more people began taking an interest in reselling her cakes.
Eventually, thanks to high demand, she was able to join food bazaars and spread the word about her pastries. Since then, Co has been able to open physical branches and has added more flavors to the original yema cake—such as chocolate, mango, and mocha—while also offering Filipino delicacies such as ensaymada and mamon.
Meanwhile, Miriam Mandap, the owner of Cakes by Miriam, stimulated the visual interests of her eventual customers when she first started uploading photos of her now-famous cakes on Instagram. “The business grew slowly, mainly by word of mouth,” she explains. As Mandap’s family friends spread recommendations, the start-up’s following gradually rose on the site. She elaborates, “It eventually reached people with big influence such as celebrities.”
Having an online platform enables Mandap to monitor ever-changing trends, often finding inspiration from other websites and sources. It also facilitates receiving feedback from customers, whose comments have inspired the bakery to create cakes that are better suited to their tastes.
The bitter challenges
While Mandap and Co have successfully turned their culinary passions into distinguished careers, working in the food industry as a local business is far from a piece of cake. According to Co, one of the greatest challenges is maintaining the system of operations as the business grows, which includes “manpower training, system creation, maintaining good-quality products, prices that can compete with larger bakeries, and more.”
Indeed, local and independent bakeries face unprecedented competition from larger national and international competitors that enjoy established branding power. While Mandap admits that operating a local bakery involves difficult conditions, Cakes by Miriam is determined to maintain the company’s statement of quality as their selling point—making sure that “every product [released] is to the highest of standards.”
“Whenever there is a cake that does not pass our quality checks,” she further declares, “we would not allow that cake to exit our door.”
Likewise, Co struggles against the market presence of corporate giants, but nevertheless has faith in her own products. “We do manage to compete with these bakeries as our cakes are non-traditional and have a cultural connection with the country,” she explains. “In fact, consumers looking for something unusual compared to the traditional or commercial cakes find Remilly’s Yema Cake as one of their best options.”
Moreover, the business perceives these moments of difficulty as a chance to learn how to operate more effectively, believing that in the end, challenges “help us create and improve the system, making it more opportune for us to serve [consumer] demand.”
Managing a local bakery requires a great deal of vision and determination. For Mandap, the commercial success of her start-up admittedly came as a pleasant surprise. “I never expected it to grow to this extent,” she expresses. “It would be nice for this business to become a household name that everyone knows and loves by heart.”
Indeed, now that she has established her name in the local baking scene, Mandap’s goal is to continue to grow—but only without sacrificing the “qualities that make the creations what [they are] now.” Mandap assures sticking to this main principle as she explains, “Instead of maximizing our outputs, I would like to maintain the quality of our products and the attention that we give everything that comes out of our ovens.”
Ultimately, this decision represents Cakes by Miriam’s dedication to nurture close connections with their customers, which Mandap claims to be the most rewarding part of owning a local bakery. “We would always receive feedback from them, and knowing that they were happy and satisfied with our cakes lifts the spirits of everyone in the bakery,” she shares.
As a steadily growing sweets empire with more than 20 branches, it is the ambition of Remilly’s Yema Cake to be a part of every Filipino’s great moments—by becoming touted as one of the best bakeries in the Philippines that specialize in pasalubong treats.
Beyond this, they plan to extend support to aspiring entrepreneurs within the industry, explaining that they are now opening the business for franchise to those who are “as passionate as we are in serving the best of Filipino desserts and other baked goods.”
A recipe for success
Success stories such as those of Remilly’s Yema Cake and Cakes by Miriam are testaments to how resolute Filipinos entrepreneurs are—coming out of the gate with nothing but a few recipes and a desire to grow, maneuvering their way through countless obstacles and setbacks, and ending up with a thriving business.
Bakeries are part of our nation’s essential food infrastructure, providing staple delicacies for diverse communities and supporting local jobs. Opting to buy our morning pastries from small local bakeries as opposed to larger corporations may not seem like much to many of us, but this little act of support is a big help to the enterprising home-grown bakers who took the risk and put themselves out there in an already competitive market.
With the common themes of catering to the Filipino palate and avowing against compromising product quality, snagging some treats from local bakeries is a fairly safe bet in ensuring our days are just that much sweeter.