Henry Soesanto: How An Indonesian Turned ‘Lucky Me! Pancit Canton’ Into A Well Loved Pinoy Food

Henry Soesanto, an Indonesian businessman with the heart of the Filipino is the CEO of food manufacturer Monde Nissin.

Monica Darmono, Soesanto’s wife, is the company’s treasurer and the sister of Monde Nissin chairman Hartono Kweefanus. Despite being an Indonesian, Soesanto already looks like a Filipino and has truly lived the “Pusong Pinoy.”

Image by Forbes

It’s his understanding and love of the Filipinos’ values that allowed him to help grow and expand Monde Nissin into becoming one of the Philippines’ biggest brands. It’s now the largest noodle and biscuit manufacturer in the country.

In June 2021, Monde Nissin raised $1.1 billion considered the country’s largest IPO at that time, according to Forbes.

Developing Instant Pancit Canton

More than 40 years ago, Soesanto moved to the Philippines to work under his late father-in-law Hidajat Darmono, who cofounded the Monde Nissin in 1979. By the late 1980s, Soesanto was in charge of the company’s biscuit plant. He saw an opportunity to expand the company when he persuaded his father-in-law to venture into the instant noodle sector.

Breaking into the “noodle war” in the late 1980s was challenging. At that time, the noodle industry was dominated by Maggi and Nissin Ramen. The persistent Soesanto found a way to slip right into the competition by offering something different – instant pancit canton.

Image by Lucky Me! via Facebook

According to the stories, Soesanto heard that a noodle production line was stranded in a Japanese port. The trader had to sell his goods at a very low price.

Soesanto took the opportunity and tried to convince his father-in-law to buy it. Monde Nissin was still into the biscuit business and it was a risk to take, but he eventually agreed.

Finding Their Market

According to Soesanto, instead of competing head-on with big noodle brands. They decided to develop a product that Filipinos love.

He shared on Esquire, “When we were looking to develop a new product, we have observed through our consumer insights that pancit canton has been a popular dish of Filipinos. People consumed more pancit canton than any noodle, so sabi ko puede tayo maglabas ng pancit canton na instant.”

“We believed it was something we could win. When we marketed it, we used a male talent with tagline ‘Yakang-yaka,’ to show that even men can make pancit canton. It became the most popular (brand) in the noodle category and launched the ‘Lucky Me!’ brand,” he added.

And the rest they say is history. Since then, the ‘Lucky Me! Instant Pancit Canton’ has been a staple to many Pinoy homes and has always been part of the grocery aisles.

You can gain a lot from the principles and life of billionaire entrepreneurs in the country. You can learn the business lessons of Lucio Tan and more timeless lessons from John Gokongwei Jr.

Sally Mae
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