LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – When Tito Contado, 73, retired from his job, he had no plans of looking for other sources of income or putting up a business, knowing he had saved enough for his retirement.
As former chief of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Service of Agricultural Education and Extension, his retirement benefits were more than enough to provide for his and his family’s needs.
But through his research, he learned of the herbal supplement business, and decided to pursue it, despite the highly competitive market.
In 2001, Contado formally established the PhilMorinda Citrifolia Inc. here.
PhilMorinda produces PhilNONI, a natural dietary supplement extracted from the medicinal plant Noni.
Sowing the business
The idea of producing PhilNONI occurred to Contado in 1999 when he was on vacation with his family in their hometown in Leyte.
“My sister-in-law kept on telling me stories about Noni, a medicinal plant that is abundant in Leyte, and claimed that her son who had a tumor was helped by this plant,” he recalled.
As someone who was into research work, his curiosity encouraged him to conduct his own study on Noni to prove the claims of his sister-in-law.
Then a skeptic of herbal medicines, Contado did not instantly believe what his sister-in-law told him. “But I observed the changes on my nephew’s health, which somehow convinced me that there was something about that medicinal plant.”
“I immediately recognized it as a common tree in Eastern Samar where I grew up. I had been playing with the smelly rotten fruits and cutting the tree as fencing material,” he recalled.
He gathered as much information as he could from different libraries that he could access. Later, he tried the fruit himself.
Contado was once pricked by a crab shell in Tacloban and his wife couldn’t control the bleeding.
He tried drinking a bottle of Noni fruit juice, hoping to experience relief, the way his nephew had.
“It helped stop the bleeding. The next day, the wound had healed,” Contado says.
This encouraged him to come out with a product that would actually help people.
“As a researcher, it has always been my goal to help people experience the benefits that science brings. This is actually what lacks here [in the Philippines] there are tons of researches but most of them do not give birth to tangible products that the people need,” he says.
His researches led him to the fruit of the plant, unlike other manufacturers of herbal products who focused on the leaves or barks.
Contado has chosen the fruit because of the seeds that contain melatonin, ascorbic acid, potassium and other components needed by the body.
With a million pesos, he formally established his herbal supplement business.
After securing the necessary permits to operate a business, Contado officially sold the products of combined scientific researches – PhilNONI herbal supplement.
PhilNONI’s initial buyers were friends and those referred to him by friends. But the business did not cease growing as more people got interested on the product.
The increase in demand for PhilNONI prompted Contado to export his product in 2006 –particularly in Switzerland, United States, and South Korea.
“I feel elated that this venture has expanded into something I never imagined it could. All I wanted then was to share what I had discovered and proven,” he claimed.
“I do not consider this venture as pure business, but a developmental one in which you combine learning, studying and entrepreneurship.”
Contado admitted that establishing his product in a market already filled with herbal supplements, all claiming to be the best, exposed it to negative notions.
“Some people are cynical about the product, which is understandable, since you see herbal supplements almost everywhere today,” he said. “But our product is different as we have supporting researches to prove it, and we do not deceive our clients and potential clients by claiming that PhilNONI is a cure-all juice.”
Contado clarified that PhilNONI could not replace antibiotics and other medications that a person needs, but it can “help the body help itself.”
“From lowering high blood pressure to improving resistance in fighting cancer, PhilNONI can help,” he said.
For the product to be more accessible to more people, Contado often makes adjustments to his product.
“We now have smaller bottles of the juice and capsules for those who have limited budget but are interested in trying our product,” he said.
After almost eight years in the business, Contado claimed that the profit he got is very minimal.
“The greatest reward that I get is the chance to share how helpful scientific researches can be to the community and the people.”