Golden Grains turns 35: From a small family business to an award-winning international brand

THE family behind Golden Grains has always been low-key in sharing their success story. Not even winning the Consumers’ League of the Philippines’ “Most Outstanding Organic Rice Brand” award in 2005 compelled them to tell their story.

The pandemic, however, changed their perspective. While finding ways to manage the crisis, they realized that, for their business to continue growing, Filipino consumers must know who they are and how they persevered to build their brand.

As Golden Grains celebrates its 35th year in the industry, the family is finally ready to share how their small business became a national brand.

In 1987, Marciano Go left his job at a local bank to open R.E.J. Rice Dealer along Taft Avenue in Pasay City. With the help of his wife, Linda, he ran the business while raising four children—the eldest daughter Marilyn followed by their sons Robert, Edward and Jeffrey.

The husband-and-wife team needed to be disciplined in their delegation of responsibilities and time management. Marciano was at the store first thing in the morning while Linda managed the house. She got the children ready for school, did the house chores, and prepared food for the family. In the afternoons, she joined her husband at the store to help him sell rice until the evening.

Later, while Marilyn focused on raising her own family, the brothers joined the family business, which became R.E.J. Commercial Corporation. Robert made the rounds at wet markets selling rice while still studying at UST. Edward was tasked to deliver rice to their other clients while Jeffrey helped man the store.

The Go family worked tirelessly to grow the business despite obstacles—paying off debts and enduring grueling work hours. They experienced receiving complaints from neighboring store owners who weren’t happy with the traffic of delivery trucks coming and going during business hours. To address the situation, they conducted the delivery operations after midnight. Committed to serving their customers, they worked seven days a week with no holidays.

Their hard work eventually paid off when they were able to build their warehouse in Parañaque in 1996. At around the same time, Robert came up with the idea of starting their brand in response to a major shift they observed in consumer behavior.

Condominiums were mushrooming—many Filipino households no longer had space for big sacks of rice. The family got on board Robert’s idea and soon Golden

Grains was born, supplying packaged rice in different variants and sizes (2kg, 5kg, 10kg, 25kg, and 50kg packs) to major supermarkets and institutional accounts.

The brand’s past and present clients have included All Day Supermarket, Alturas Supermarket, LCC Supermarket, Citimart, Emilus, Rustans, Robinsons, Shopwise, Waltermart Supermarket, Merrymart, Metro Gaisano, Hi-Top Supermarket, Isetann Supermarket, South Supermarket, Shoppers Mart, Imart, Malayan Insurance, and Pancake House.

A major blow to the family business, however, came during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Interest rates skyrocketed, which meant they had to pay their bank loan at over 20 percent interest, up from 6-7 percent originally. The family became desperate that they almost sold the company.

But they never lost hope. Jeffrey, an Accountancy graduate from DLSU and a Certified Public Accountant by profession, helped streamline the finances to continue paying off their loan. Thankfully, this enabled them to manage and survive the crisis.

The Go family takes pride in their unwavering support for local farmers. 95 percent of their rice supply is sourced from farmers’ cooperatives. Even if imported rice is cheaper, they vow to help Filipino farmers sustain and grow their livelihood by buying their harvests at market price.

The family acquired another warehouse in Nueva Ecija to be closer to their partner cooperatives and help facilitate their transactions with the farmers. The warehouse was due to open when the global pandemic hit in 2020.

The plan had to be put on hold and the business had to pivot. Since rice was an essential, the family had to continue operations while observing strict health and safety protocols. To address their employees’ economic, health, and mobility concerns, they offered paid leaves, free shuttle services, and bicycle allowances to their staff.

As the country moves forward from the pandemic, the Go family is determined to continue growing the Golden Grains brand by being omnipresent—they aim to reach every Filipino household and offer good-quality, yet affordable locally produced rice.

With Robert and Jeffrey now at the helm of the family business, they plan on beefing up the brand’s online presence, further professionalizing the company by hiring professional managers to head operations, human resources, production, and sales, and finally operationalizing their Nueva Ecija warehouse.

When the Go siblings were still young and their family didn’t have much, their parents would always say, “Kahit simple lang ang ulam, basta masarap ang kanin, more than enough na. (Even though the viand is simple, as long as the rice tastes good, it’s more than enough.)

Up to this day, the family swears by this maxim. And it is their hope that, in these trying times, every Filipino family should at least be able to afford good quality rice.

Shoppers may avail of Golden Grains’ 35th anniversary promo on Lazada and Shopee. (SPONSORED CONTENT)