Keeping the Juices Flowing
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
More than a quarter of a century of ambition has been realised in the form of Barakat Quality Plus (BQP), having witnessed the transformation of creating freshly pressed juices and cut fruit and vegetables into a tasteful art.
Opening for business in 2001 as an extended kitchen to the food industry in the UAE, the subsequent 15 years has seen the Barakat Group subsidiary diversify and expand its fresh fruit and vegetable delivery service beyond recognition; reaching new sector verticals in the process.
Reaching out from the initial distribution to ships docked at local ports, the Company soon turned to serving Dubai’s growing collection of hotels, caterers and grocers, and now with the city thriving as one of the key global hubs, businesses such as Barakat Quality Plus are equally reaping the benefits.
“Today, the group serves institutional customers across the UAE, Oman and Lebanon, with BQP – the fruit and vegetable distributor – one of the key divisions,” affirms the subsidiary’s Managing Director (MD), Mike Wunsch. “Barakat products are honest, healthy and available at a market near you. We provide you with fresh fruit juices, fruit salads, cut vegetables, vegetable juices, soups, sorbets, and a host of nature’s freshness that will reignite your quest for good health.”
Now exploring further growth avenues through increased exports and volumes, Wunsch attributes the secrets of the Group’s success to its undeterred commitment to serving juice in its purest state, but more importantly, to the employees – or ‘Barakatis’ – who continue to drive such improvements in the Company on a daily basis.
“Before starting the juice production for the day, the employees gather together and pray in their own faith, asking God to give them strength to do their work with love, which will bring a smile to every customer’s face,” he says. “They ensure that the juices they extract are packed with lots of blessings. In 2002, Barakat had only 22 employees and that number has increased to more than 700 in 2016.”
Another key differentiator that BQP enjoys is its dedication to ongoing research and development and the subsequent investments made into new systems; ultimately culminating in accolades and international accreditations including ISO 22000 and ISO 9001 certificates, as well as A-grade certification and HALAL certification from the Dubai Municipality.
All of which represent a remarkable outcome to a journey that began exactly 40 years ago, as Wunsch recalls: “The genesis of Barakat dates back to 1976 with our humble beginnings in the trade of fresh vegetables and fruits. Barakat Vegetables and Fruits was found by Mahmood Barakat to serve hospitality with fresh vegetables and fruits in 1972.
“Mr Jayaraman, our CEO and visionary, joined Barakat in 1980 with a service-oriented thought process, while I had travelled and worked in more than 20 countries at more than 35 five-star hotels as a chef and executive chef, over the course of which I gained invaluable experience of the hospitality segment and priceless insights into this highly competitive industry.”
‘Chef Mike’ – as the MD is affectionately referred to – worked tirelessly to achieve his ambitions of improving professionalism and efficiency within his kitchens and went on to instil such principles in BQP; the resulting adherence to the latest consumer demands and consequential production requirements becoming of paramount importance from then on.
“Studying the increasing demands in the market is our major focus; customers are constantly on the lookout for new products that can contribute to their health,” he says. “Keeping this in mind and having access to the required sources to make these products, we are constantly innovating with our products.
“We recently launched the Red Cleanse & Green Juice in the market, two power-packed concoctions that took off very well and are in demand by our customers now. We are looking at more options like this and are hoping to launch new products every three months.”
Major upgrades across the Company’s technology portfolio, process lines, machineries, capacities and admin systems have facilitated such an ethos, and have also enabled the Company to look further afield to locations like Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the Maldives from an export perspective. Ensuring the success of all this though, is an increasingly complex and well-refined supply chain management strategy.
Wunsch explains: “The most critical part of our operations is the procurement of the right raw material at the right price throughout the year. UAE does not boast many farms and fresh produce that supply superior quality vegetables throughout the year, so most of our fresh produce must be imported.
“Our suppliers are divided into food, non-food suppliers (packing materials, uniform, tools and machines etc) and miscellaneous (stationary, office supplies etc), and the scope, depth and operational requirements of each supplier vary with the item and nature of delivery.”
Global relationships with suppliers in Australia, Spain, Italy, Thailand, India and China are complemented by a healthy assortment of local GCC allies to offset these challenges, and to generate the highest quality produce.
“All our suppliers are extensions of our operations and we work very closely with them in order to install in them the same sense of responsibility, operational robustness and shared values associated with BQP,” Wunsch adds. “Our media partners, technology partners and marketing partners are also trained in the aforementioned qualities and this ensures that we are on the same page and that our goals and visions are aligned.”
A freshness you can taste
Driving the fresh products industry since 2002, the need to monitor the business patterns and trends dictating consumer behaviours is something that BQP has had to hone over the years, especially considering the general growth of the sector recorded at around 40 percent each year.
An increase in population, the development of the tourism industry and a general increase in demand for healthier food types has given operators the perfect opportunity to capitalise, and Barakat has done so better than most, as seen through its year-on-year revenue growth since 2012 especially.
Once again, Wunsch attributes this success to the vision and mission laid out by the organisation, and the people behind their implementation.
“It’s a continuous process of practicing the values and guiding the team towards the goals by understanding the capabilities and capacities of each and every member by going down to their level and uplifting them through love, patience and motivation,” he says. “Being a service-oriented organisation of 750 people – offering convenience by serving fresh products filled with positive vibes – it’s the passion and selflessness of our founders which has got us rolling, but the challenge is to bring out the same passion and unified happiness throughout the whole Company.
“We have converted Barakat into a family, its employees into family members, and have given each Barakati instant empowerment through our common values of equality, love and respect.”
Enrichment continues outside of the bounds of Barakat also via numerous corporate social responsibility efforts in the local community – bridging education, health, utility provision and management, and energy sustainability – epitomising a general business ethos that looks set to take BQP to even further market success in the future.
“At Barakat, we don’t yearn for return on investment; rather, we strive for return of impression,” Wunsch alludes to the Company motto. “To maintain the philosophy of an extended kitchen where the fruit ends up in your juice bottle, it is important for a family-like atmosphere where the workers share a sense of bonding. I say that this multilingual and cultural set-up is a reflection of our products; varied, authentic and rich in diversity and colour.
“Being in this industry has been a challenging one, and we have tried our best to retain the pristine and natural freshness in every product we serve. We want our consumers to live and feel that freshness in a Barakat product and not just buy it as a marketing word. The taste of a Barakat product is its identity that distinguishes it from the others.”
Wunsch concludes: “It’s not just another product claiming to be fresh; it’s a freshness you can taste, smell, feel and trust wholeheartedly every time your hand reaches out for a Barakat Quality Plus product.”