Industry leader faces challenge of continued growth

John Martin Miller, chairman and CEO, Nestle Philippines Inc.

John Martin Miller, chairman and CEO, Nestle Philippines Inc.

Like many CEOs, he likes his morning brew served hot on a cup to help him jump-start his day at the office. But the sweet, “chocolaty” waft of the aroma that fills the room as his drink is served, tells you that his drink is unlike what other corporate heads would normally ask for—yet the scent is very familiar. John Martin Miller says he does like to drink his Milo in the morning, as part of his routine. Miller is the chairman and CEO of Nestle Philippines, Inc., and having the chocolate energy drink most Filipinos associate with as part of their diet growing up, whenever he wants, comes with the perks of his job.

Miller has been chairman of Nestle Philippines since October 2009, but he has been with Nestle for twenty-five years. He started his career in Nestle India, had various postings around Asia, and a short stint in Vevey, Switzerland. He was previously assigned as CEO of Nestle Singapore, prior to his posting in the Philippines, and he says he feels very much at home in Asia, despite coming from the United Kingdom.

He feels even more excited over the fact a number of their brands had been household names in the country for about a century now. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the fact that the Filipino consumer has very much made us a part of their everyday lives.” He proudly notes that they have five brands that are among the top 20 most loved and most frequently bought brands in the Philippines. Their top brands are Nescafe, Milo, Bear Brand, Maggi and Nido.

The company is part of Nestle S.A., which is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company, headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland. It is the largest food company in the world measured by revenues. The company was formed in 1905 by the merger of Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, established in 1866 by brothers George and Charles Page, and Farine Lactee Henri Nestle, founded in 1866 by Henri Nestle.

In 2011, Nestle was listed number one in the Fortune Global 500 as the world’s most profitable corporation. According to existing corporate data, the consumer giant has 447 factories, operates in 194 countries, and employs more than 330-thousand people. It is also one of the main shareholders of L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics company.

On the other hand, Nestle Philippines had been in the country for over a hundred years now. The consumer giant’s products had been available as far back as 1895, although it was not until 1911 when The Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company was established in the country in Binondo, Manila. The company was forced to suspend its operations during World War II, but soon made a comeback after the war, under a new name, Filipro, Inc. The company continued to import products such as Milo, Nido,

Milkmaid, and Nescafe from other countries. But in the early 1950s, Filipro encountered difficulties when the Philippine government imposed import control. Those were tough times for the company, as it was forced to become a distributor of peanut butter, napkins, fruit preserves, and patis (fish sauce) just to keep its operations afloat.

In 1960, Nestle S.A. and San Miguel Corporation entered into a partnership to form Nutritional Products Inc. (Nutripro). That also signaled the start of the company’s foray into local production, when its first factory opened in Alabang to manufacture Nescafe. In 1977, Filipro, Inc.     and Nutripro Inc. merged, and in 1986, Filipro changed to its present name as Nestle Philippines, Inc. Nestle’s manufacturing operations expanded as it opened facilities in Cabuyao, Laguna, Cagayan de Oro, Lipa, Batangas, Pulilan, Bulacan, and Tanauan, Batangas to meet the growing demand.

In late 1998, the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestle S.A., following the latter’s purchase of all of San Miguel Corporation’s equity shareholdings in the company. Today, Nestle produces and markets products, such as Nescafe, Milo, Nido, Nestea,

Maggi, Bear Brand, Nestle and Purina, among others. Its product ranges from coffee, milk, beverages, non-dairy creamer, food, infant nutrition, ice cream and chilled dairy, breakfast cereals, confectionery and pet care.

Miller, despite being in the Philippines for only 5 years, shows a deep understanding of the culture of the Filipino consumer. And with that keen understanding comes even greater success. People are often surprised when he tells them that

Nestle Philippines is the 8th largest
Nestle company in the world. It is also the 6th largest company in the Philippines, with a turnover of a whopping P106 billion.

He also revealed that half of that amount came from product sales with a price range of P5 to P10 pesos. He says that key to their success in this huge market segment is availability, affordability and relevance. “We have to remember that 25 million of our consumers are living on low incomes, and another big factor is the frequency with which people are earning, and we are cognizant of that fact.”

When asked about future plans, Miller says it is precisely because they are currently the industry leader that it becomes more challenging for him to grow the company even more. “To continue growing means that we have to work very closely with the consumer, understand the consumer. We also have to continue bringing more innovations, and that’s very high on my agenda.”

According to him, their company is now geared towards even better nutrition, health and wellness. He noted that Filipinos have also started to embrace the global trend of being more conscious about healthier choices with their food and beverage, coupled with a healthier lifestyle. It also a lifestyle that he and his family had chosen to take.

This chief executive reveals he wakes up very early in the morning, where he runs around the village block, and participates in marathons whenever he can. He also loves to catch up on reading with his

Kindle whenever his time permits. What is more important he says is “my life, my future, lies in Asia… and my family and I would be very happy if we continued to stay here in the Philippines as well.”


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