4th-generation Geric Chua leads Eng Bee Tin's expansion

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Mar 01 2023 06:35 PM

Royce Gerik Chua of Eng Bee Tin
Royce Gerik Chua of Eng Bee Tin

MANILA -- Eng Bee Tin has undoubtedly become a byword in the food industry. However, not many know its actual meaning, even after more than a century in the market.

“Forever, beautiful, precious” is how the Chinese Eng Bee Tin is translated in English. 

Fourth-generation businessman Geric Chua started working for the family business early on. When he was in college at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), he would spent the rest of the day after school in Ongpin, where Eng Bee Tin is located.

“Even when I was still in high school, involved na ako,” Chua told ABS-CBN News. “Among all of us -- we are three children -- I was the one who got involved in the business the earliest.

“In 2009, my father made me try to run the business. Not all of our ideas matched all the time..”
When Chua took charge, he added more locations for the stores. “From only 11, we are now in 45 stores, all family-owned,” he said. “No franchises.”

The stores are all over Luzon. Eng Bee Tin has yet to expand in the Visayas and Mindanao. “We are so concerned with the shelf life of our products,” Chua explained. “We never put preservatives.”

Since Chua is into incorporating technology into their business, Eng Bee Tin had online stores even before the pandemic.

“We had our website, we were into Lazada and Shopee,” Chua said. “My father is very innovative and he believes in technology. He’s a very techy guy.

“He never resisted what I did for the business. My brother [Royce Gerald) and sister [Roche Geraldyn] also joined our business already.”

Chua siblings (from left) Geraldyn, Gerald and Gerik are the fourth generation to run Eng Bee Tin
Chua siblings (from left) Geraldyn, Gerald and Gerik are the fourth generation to run Eng Bee Tin

Back in the 1970s, Eng Bee Tin experienced a downturn in business. “Nawala lahat,” Chua lamented. “There came a point where no one wanted to buy our hopia.

“Wala na kaming pambayad sa workers, wala ng pambili ng ingredients. All our relatives who were here in Manila, nawala lahat. Natakot silang mautangan.”

Chua’s father reinvented the Eng Bee Tin products to give value for money to the customers.

“Before, hopia makapal ang papel then manipis ang laman,” Chua pointed out. “My dad changed that. Ginawa niyang manipis ang papel, then makapal ang laman. Pinalambot niya ang hopia.

“Instead of using pork lard, we used pork oil. But still, hindi pa rin nag-take off ang products namin.”

In the early '90s, Chua’s father invested in a multi-million-peso machine for peanut balls and hopia.

“If not for that machine, our hopia today will probably still being made mano-mano [manually]. My dad looks so far ahead in doing business," Chua said. 

“Our motto in the family is ‘Do good deeds.’ So for us, sipag, tiyaga, innovation go with that. Even if you are the luckiest person in the whole world, if you do not strive and work, nothing will happen.

“Our lucky color is violet; that’s why we have hopiang ube. Because of that, we were able to rise again. So we go with the violet color even for our shirts and ‘the firetruck that hopia built,’ as others will say it.”

Today, Eng Bee Tin has innovative products even for the young generation. 

“We have three kinds of custard – cheese, ube and buko,” Chua informed. “We even export those products.

“In the US, we export our products, although we don’t have physical stores. We are in the frozen section of Asian and Filipino supermarkets. The hopia that you buy here are fresh.”

Eng Bee Tin also came out with the first sugar-free hopia and savory tikoy. 

“We have so many customers who go for healthy products,” Chua said. “Even the moon cake, we did triple chocolate mooncake, with XO sauce and we partnered with Lee Kum Kee.”

Chua’s dad is the first president of the Filipino-Chinese Association who staged the first Bakery Fair back in 2001.

“He wanted to help the baking industry,” Chua said. “The public wants to try everything that’s new in the industry.

“Our goal in the Bakery Fair is not to make a profit. We are not a profit-making organization. We want to be an avenue to showcase new technology and new trends coming to us and introduce them to the public.”

With Chua’s tenure now as president, his family has come full circle in leading the Bakery Fair, which runs March 2 to 4 at the World Trade Center.

“In 2022, we did an online Bakery Fair, but it was not as successful as the previous ones,” Chua said. “So this year, we are holding the Bakery Fair face-to-face.

“We have more than 110 exhibitors joining. We will showcase the different, new things for baking, new machineries for bread-making. There are also new companies joining.

“There will still be the biennial cake competition and there are 40 participants joining the showcase.

“This time, there will be the bread display competition. Participants will do bread sculpture.”

Apart from competition, Bakery Fair offers free seminars to the public. There will be baking experts coming from the US and Singapore who are ready to teach new trends, like how to extend shelf life of breads without using preservatives.

At the height of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Eng Bee Tin closed all stores. “What we did was give out 100 breads to the depressed areas every day,” Chua recalled.

“We gave to the front liners every month. Even when we started doing business, we were still giving out breads.”

To this day, Chua does not cringe when others look at him as somebody who sells hopia or tikoy.

“To me, those food are simply symbolisms,” he maintained. “Whatever food, even only instant noodles, as long as you share the food with your family, that’s the lucky part.”