Authentic Culinary Temptations
Ata Atmar, CEO at Bateel, discusses his organisation’s innovative approach in the Middle Eastern gourmet food market
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace | Project Manager: Ben Weaver
“Bateel is the brand of choice for connoisseurs of fine foods around the world.”
This is a statement Bateel are certainly proud of.
The company has become renowned for reinventing and elevating the date to the position of a gourmet product. Today, Bateel is a well-established brand in the international gourmet food space and offers a range of authentic culinary temptations.
Headquartered in Dubai, Bateel possesses a global presence and is active in 16 countries across Asia, Europe and the United States. Its business is spread across 17 countries and consists of 32 boutiques and 19 cafes in premium commercial and residential districts in major cities, from Detroit to Jakarta.
Spearheading operations is Ata Atmar, CEO at Bateel. Having begun his career as an academic economist in the United States, he transitioned into an economic and financial consultancy career in the Middle East. This subsequently led to a career in management that centered around brand development in the holding company that owned Bateel - Atmar has been with the organisation since 1999.
Bateel is the world’s only gourmet organic date grower, producer and seller led by its mission to serve its customers throughout the globe. The organisation is also the largest producer of fine chocolates in the Middle East and has its own factory that specialises in the production of these gourmet chocolates.
“Date is a traditional and important commodity,” explains Atmar.
“At Bateel we decided to transform this commodity to a high value branded product. This involved significant innovation in farming and processing methods to create exceptional quality product. To achieve the price point needed to support the business, we created a new and luxury retailing system.
“It has been a long and professionally rewarding journey to create an entire new industry, production and retailing of the gourmet date. Over the years, we are happy that others have entered but we remain the industry leader at the farming, manufacturing, and retailing level.”
Over the past few years, Bateel has played an influential role in the production and luxury retailing of gourmet food in the Middle East and possesses a significant international presence. However, retail was one of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the sector and Bateel haven’t fully recovered, Atmar assures us that good progress has been made.
“The retail, travel retail, and the food and beverage industries, of which are our core business, were hit hard by COVID-19,” he says.
“We have partially recovered, largely due to the depth and breadth of our product range and strength of the Bateel brand, anchored on our brand values that resonate with consumers.
“While we have made progress, the strength of the recovery of our business, along with the travel and retail industry in general, will depend on how the world economy recovers from the crisis. We’re not out of the woods yet but, with the successful development of several vaccines, I see a clear light at the end of the tunnel.”
During Ramadan, Bateel helped support frontline workers in the UAE and KSA by offering meals and gifts to hospitals during the pandemic. In tandem with offering their support to those that needed it most, Bateel were returned the favour in kind as its customers stuck by the organisation.
“Our customers backed us as soon as they found it safe and feasible, which we are very grateful for,” Atmar adds.
“I am especially proud of how the staff rose to the occasion and met the challenge with resilience and innovative approaches.”
Today, the importance of adopting a more sustainable approach into operations is of key importance to companies. Now more than ever before, organisations are increasingly aware of their carbon footprints and are beginning to seek ways to leverage greener alternatives.
To Atmar, sustainability is a key pillar to Bateel’s overall strategy. “Our attention to environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of our production, and distribution, despite the higher cost, is our biggest investment in corporate social responsibilities. We are part of the community and try to support the community when we can make a positive impact.”
Bateel’s groves produce around 2,000 tonnes of organic waste annually, all of which is returned to the farm as nutrient-rich compost. Bateel takes pride in its organic and sustainable mindset and is continuously seeking to innovate.
Using the best farming practices, the company’s cultivation techniques are kept as close to nature as possible. Date palm trees can live for 100 years and produce up to 150 kilogrammes of fruit every year.
In fact, every date palm is watered from naturally occurring desert wadi, which transforms the landscape into a fertile reserve. Bateel’s strategically placed irrigation system is used across the farm to allow farmers to recycle and preserve the readily available water of the land.
Bateel also places considerable value on its partnerships and how they link together to form a successful supply chain.
“No company can operate in isolation,” explains Atmar.
“While we are customer-focused enterprise, we interface with all our stakeholders with integrity and transparency to gain trust and cooperation. This was particularly helpful during this difficult period where supplier cooperation was critical in restructuring our business to meet the unforeseen challenges arising from COVID-19.”
Indeed, helping to steer Bateel through challenging times are its employees. The pandemic has only amplified the importance of attracting and retaining the right talent and it is an essential component to any successful organisation. In the case of Bateel, Atmar recognises how vital it is that staff are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed at the company.
“This learning journey continues with regular training and development related to our brand and product standards. This ensures that our team members are equipped with the skills required to consistently deliver service excellence,” he continues.
“We know that a career path is important for our team members, and therefore aim to prioritise the internal growth and progression of our high performing colleagues who have the right skills, knowledge and experience to progress. In line with our core values, we actively engage with our team and encourage everyone at all levels to share their innovative ideas and suggestions.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming years, Atmar affirms the priority is to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic while targeting a brighter future internationally.
“While we have made a healthy recovery, our priority is to ensure that the company is effectively positioned to meet the COVID-19 challenges that remain,” he says.
“This means continued improvement in efficiency across the production and distribution network. In terms of markets, we have a good coverage of the Gulf market and are focused on expanding our international presence in cooperation with strong franchise and distribution partners.”