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Success Story of Alfredo Yao: The Juice King

When you hear the name Alfredo Yao and you’re of a certain age, you tend to only think of one thing and one thing alone: Zest-O. It’s the country’s largest juice brand, and can be found in almost every lunchbox of every kid that goes to school.

THE JUICE KING. Alfredo Yao is known as The Juice King thanks to his brainchild, Zest-O Corporation./IMAGE GoNegosyo

He’s one of the most resilient businessmen in the Philippines, and has built his legacy on hard work and perseverance, as well as showing tenacity for always finding better ways of doing things.

Here’s a short snippet of the Philippines’ Juice King, Alfredo Yao’s early success.

Early years

Alfredo M. Yao was born on November 23, 1943 to the simplest of families. The eldest among his siblings, he had to sacrifice a lot at an early age. He lost his father and became the family breadwinner at the age of 12. He started a printing business at age 17 with a Php 3,000 loan from what is today known as the Development Bank of the Philippines.

He never got to finish school even though he wanted to, because he was already a full-fledged businessman by age 18. He’s gone through the ringer, so to speak: he’s been a street vendor and at times, slept on cardboard box on the sidewalks of the street.

The birth of Zest-O

Yao went from printing and packaging to the beverage industry in the unlikeliest of ways. He learned printing wrappers through a cousin who was then working for a printing press. This paved way for him to venture into the printing press business thus, the birth of Solemar Commercial Press named after his mother.

In 1979, while on a business tour of Europe, he stumbled across a new way of packaging: Doypack, a sealed bag made of plastic and aluminum that’s designed to stand upright. Seeing its potential, he marketed it to local juice manufacturers, but no one showed interest.

Not wanting to let something with this much potential go to waste, he started making his own juices in his kitchen and packaged it using the doypacks he got from Europe. He would soon corner the market on juice drinks, thanks to the convenience of his doypacks.

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The innovator

Yao has never been one to shy away from innovation. While his beverage company, Zest-O Corporation, was slowly making waves in the juice market, he was already looking at other potential investments. At 2008, he launched Zest Airways and sought to compete with other low-cost carriers of the country.

He was met with stiff competition (Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific Air to name a few), so he looked at a different way of flying people into the country. Thus, making Zest Airways the first local carrier to fly tourists from China and Korea straight to Philippine destinations, i.e. without dropping by NAIA.

Last 2016, Zest Airways was fully integrated with AirAsia as AirAsia Zest.

The Juice King Today

Alfredo Yao has gone a long way from his humble beginnings. He’s still at the helm of Zest-O Group and Zest-O Corporation as its chairman but that didn’t stop him from innovating and diversifying into other businesses.

Yao was also the Chairman of Macay Holdings, Inc., the parent company of ARC Refreshments Corporation, which handles a couple of popular beverage brands including RC Cola, and the founder and Chairman Emeritus of Philippine Business Bank, a bank which focuses on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and has over 139 branches as of 2016.

Some of the companies under the umbrella of the Yao Group of Companies were Solmac Marketing, Inc., Harman Foods (Phils.), Inc., Amchem Marketing, Inc., Uni-Ipel Industries, Inc., SMI Development, Inc., Summit Hotel and Resort Specialist, Inc. (Former: Sol Marina Resort Boracay – Current: Movenpick Resort & Spa Boracay). 

With his determination to make something out of nothing, he was able to achieve beyond what he could ever imagine. One important life lesson for Alfredo Yao is to just work hard and never lose hope.

Credibility is built, not given. Respect is earned, not bought” – Alfredo Yao

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