If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s that home-based baker Sharon Rose L. Lopez has realized that she would rather keep her operations small to continue offering high quality bread, cakes and other baked goods.
Just before the pandemic, Lopez made another attempt to market Crema Homegrown Recipes’s products in a mall. She had agreed to supply pastries to a milk tea cart in February 2020, but Cebu City went into lockdown and non-essential establishments had to shut down about a month later.
It was, perhaps, for the better because Lopez is not one to compromise on the quality of her products.
Her bread, cakes and other products are always freshly baked and come with no preservatives. She uses only natural ingredients, instead of those heavily processed for commercial use which last longer.
Her cassava cake, one of the best-sellers, is made of pure grated cassava and thick coconut milk so that it remains soft even when stored in the refrigerator.
Another popular product is the soft ube ensaymada (bread roll). Lopez said she uses real ube (purple yam) to make ube halaya from scratch.
This is why Crema bakes only per order and orders have to be made at least a day before delivery.
Back when she operated a cart in the al fresco part of a mall in Mandaue City, Lopez said the quality of her products suffered.
“Because it’s al fresco, dali madaot ang pastries, mu-change ang texture. Dili ko ma-happy nga ang customer dili niya makuha ang quality na dapat niya makuha. Mao na mas ganahan na lang mi nga mu-accept og orders,” she said.
During the lockdown months from March to May and again in late June to August 2020, Lopez said she also lost a major customer that used to order in bulk for meetings and conferences. Since these activities were prohibited, her customer also had to temporarily cease operations.
Although she had repeat orders from regular customers and new orders also came in via social media, these were not enough to offset the loss.
Besides, she has not been aggressively promoting on social media, she said.
But Lopez retained her three employees and continued to operate from her home.
“From April to December 2020, hinay gyud. Nikusog-kusog pag December until January, then ni-stop na pud kadtong naay surge (in cases). Ang online (orders) dili ka-offset. Pero sige lang kay nakit-an nako nga mas ganahan ko na small (operations) lang, pero mas quality (products) and mas ma-serve ang customers,” she said.
The situation has improved as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases have decreased and restrictions have been eased. Most businesses have been allowed to fully resume operations in Cebu City and the entire Cebu Province.
Lopez is now trying to develop a wellness product line, starting with dried bananas, which are dehydrated cardava bananas with no added sugar or preservatives.
She has asked the Department of Science and Technology for assistance in prolonging shelf life and nutritional analysis, and the Department of Trade and Industry for advice on packaging.
She is also cooking up more products that use natural ingredients to promote health and wellness.
So far, she has had favorable reviews of her dried bananas and some customers have been frequently placing orders.
Aside from its soft ensaymada and creamy cassava cake, Crema also makes native desserts, various cakes and cupcakes, cookies and bars, pies and pastries, and now, dried bananas. (MTVI/Ventures Cebu)