Whatever Happened to Serg’s Chocolates?May 18, 2019
In an ideal world, having a good product with a loyal following should be enough to keep a company afloat. However, that rarely happens in the real world, especially once other market forces come into play. Sometimes, the confluence of disparate factors contribute towards the death of companies that one might assume were too big, too entrenched in the market, to completely fail. Serg’s Chocolates, one of the leading causes of kids’ cavities in the nineties, is one such example.
Most people can’t tell you when Serg’s first arrived to occupy their local supermarkets, candy stores, and canteens. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the brand vanished from shelves around the latter part of the nineties. No Senti Sabado or throwback thursday hashtag passes without at least one mention of the chocolate bar, but no one really knows what really happened to the company. There are rumors of Serg’s merging with, or being bought out, by bigger candy companies, but dig deep enough, past the lists and forum posts wondering about Serg’s Chocolates, and one can find traces of Serg’s true fate.
Serg’s was named after the founder Anton Goquilay’s son, Sergio.
Serg’s Chocolate was originally conceived in 1954 by Anton Goquilay as Serg’s Products Inc, which produced Serg’s Candy Bars as their flagship. Serg’s was named after Goquilay’s son, Sergio. Almost as soon as they launched their brand in the fifties, they became that era’s darlings. Their candy bars were an instant best seller, able to go head-to-head with the international variants being sold in the country then. It stayed strong for the next two decades after its inception. In the eighties, however, things started to take a turn for the worse.
At the height of unrest of the Marcos Administration, the Goquiolay family migrated to the United States. In the transition from the Marcos to the Aquino Administration, the company was absorbed by the government as part of the Asset Privatization program. Serg’s disappeared from store shelves all over the country.
In the intervening years that followerd the Goquiolay family’s migration, the young boy that the company was named after grew up. After a stint as a professor teaching marketing in a US university, he found the courage to return to the Philippines in the early nineties and start over. His first move was to take back control of his family’s company.
Sergio Goquiolay flew back to Manila to reclaim his family’s company, succeeding in putting Serg’s Chocolates back in the spotlight.
With the reins of Serg’s Products Inc. back in his hands, Sergio Goquiolay gave the company a much-needed rebranding and started making chocolates again. In almost no time at all, Serg’s found their way back on store shelves and inside Filipinos hearts. Even amidst tough competition from multinational companies, Serg’s clawed its way back into relevance. By the mid-nineties, the company was geared to expand its operations and ready to start exporting to other neighboring Asian countries.
The 1997 Asian Crisis plunged Serg’s into debt, despite consistently strong sales.
Unfortunately, all of Serg’s grand plans crashed and burned when the 1997 Asian Crisis hit the Philippines. The company had taken on loans in dollars to finance their expansion, and suffered massive loses from the Peso devaluation of the time. Sales were still good, but not nearly enough to pay back their loans. That, coupled with some labor disputes inside their factory, plunged the company deeper into debt.
With their numbers in the red, the company decided to cut their losses. In 2001, Serg’s Products Inc. filed for bankruptcy. That same year, Sergio Goquiolay passed away.
Sources close to the family say that they are exploring ways to revive Serg’s again, and have started assessing the feasibility of starting the factory once again, especially for this day and age. Whether anything will ultimately happen, only time will tell. Still, Serg’s presence in the childhood memories of so many of us is undeniable. More than any chocolate or candy bar they ever manufactured, that perhaps may be Serg’s greatest legacy.