Competition Drives Product Innovation

Cement makers customize product offerings
(reprinted from the Consumer Welfare Month supplement
in Manila Bulletin, October 11, 2004)

With the threat of imports ever hanging like a Damocles sword and with local demand inching painstakingly slow in a market battered by cost hikes, local cement producers are innovating and creating new ways to reach the precious cement user. Above the din of battle for the market, there is only one sure winner: the consumer.

Competition and the resulting introduction of more product variety are changing the way Filipinos use cement, according to a dipstick survey study conducted by the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CeMAP).

For the last year or so, stiff competition in a limited and stagnant local market has opened the doors to innovation.

“Not so long ago, people had to adjust everything they did to the properties and features of cement –they had to use the same cement product whether they were plastering walls, building a high rise, or simply filling out hollow blocks. At present, cement companies have customized their product to create more value for money, user-friendliness and better results,” CeMAP president Felix Enrico R. Alfiler said.

The Republic Cement Group of Companies, an associate of Lafarge, covers an extensive product range. In the OPC market, it has Republic, Dragon, Continental, Fortune and Mindanao Portland, as well as Republic Type 2 and Type 5 cements. For Pozzolan cement, the group manufactures the Republic and Mindanao Portland Pozzolan brands. Recently, the group also launched Phoenix, a Portland and fly-ash cement, as well as Portland Plus, a Portland and slag cement, which have already been well received by local contractors.

Republic Cement Group’s products were used in the North Luzon Expressway and LRT2 Line Depot projects, as well as in many Ayala land developments and SM commercial centers throughout the country.

Union Cement’s products include Union Portland, Premium Portland, and Union Type-II. Union’s Type II cement was used in San Roque Dam and is also exported to Hawaii and Texas, USA. One of its products, Union 4X is a high performance cement used in advanced countries for massive infrastructures. Their Excel is gaining high popularity in the Visayas and Mindanao area due to its improved workability, high early strength and higher yield. Union’s Wallright, intended for plastering and finishing, not only provides cost savings, it also provides better workability. Aside from Union’s Portland products, they also produce pozzolan.

CEMEX’s aggressive positioning includes two new specialized products: the CEMEX Palitada King and CEMEX Marine. It intends to bring in a few more products in the coming months. Apo Cement, Island Cement, and CEMEX White are among CEMEX brand products. Actual demonstration and usage of CEMEX Palitada King and CEMEX Marine were conducted with contractors, foremen and masons to introduce and explain the features and advantages of the products.

CEMEX Marine, which negates the effects of sulphate attack (sulphates are found in the soil and sea water), has been specified in port projects, coastal roads, as well as households.

CEMEX Palitada King customers, on the other hand, have testified that the product offers better adhesion and spread, giving masons better workability. CEMEX Palitada King has been specified for masonry projects of major high-rise developers.

Fresh from its stint of having been acquired by Japan’s biggest cement manufacturer, Taiheyo Cement Philippines Inc. (formerly Grand Cement Manufacturing Corporation) resurges with the relaunching of its two main products: New Grand Portland Cement and New Grand Pozzolan Cement.

Alfiler said that based on CeMAP’s own informal studies, the presence of a wide variety of products have helped make consumers more discriminating and attentive to the nuances and features of each cement product.

Aside from advertising, cement companies have started to directly educate customers, including hands on training in masonry and other related skills. “Producers know that they have to work harder to educate their markets and make cement users aware of the remarkable wide menu of cement products they can now choose from,” Alfiler said.

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