Fri, 15/03/2019 - 07:00
Current Issue 34
Feeding a Growing Market
Al Rawabi Dairy Company is supplying the GCC’s heightening demand for dairy products and fruit juices, this having introduced a series of firsts to the region in its early years
Writer: Tom Wadlow
Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
The GCC is developing a taste for dairy.
Take the fresh milk category, for example. While the region may not be blessed with the natural elements one might associate with cattle raising, its climate being extremely dry and terrain arid, consumers are drinking more and more freshly produced milk.
In 2017 the GCC consumed some 757.2 million litres of it, and by 2023 the market is expected to hit 1.18 billion litres, growing at a rate of 7.6 percent a year.
The rising affluence of the region’s consumers has encouraged the demand for premium and innovative products, including vitamin fortified, lactose-free, low-fat and sugar-free variants, in turn, providing an impetus to the fresh milk market growth.
Likewise, GCC citizens are becoming aware of milk’s nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of essential nutrients, such as calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D and phosphorus, helping to keep the body hydrated and supplied with both micro and macronutrients to support optimal health.
Moreover, fresh milk helps to strengthen bones, maintain muscle mass, improve the circulatory and skeletal systems, boost metabolism, lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, increase immunity and support favourable body composition.
Governments in the GCC are responding to this trend in kind, with many making investments into new and efficient technologies for the handling of fresh milk, from production and cooling to storage.
Enter Al Rawabi
This rise in demand (for milk and juices) is also being served by organisations like Al Rawabi Dairy Company, owner of a purpose-built, enormous cattle farm based in Al Khawaneej, Dubai, with further operations in Oman and Qatar.
Starting out in 1989 with 500 imported cows and 10 distribution trucks, the company’s stock has risen markedly in the years since, the farm now home to 13,500 cattle.
It is also credited with a number of regional firsts which have helped to build up its reputation over the past three decades. For instance, in 1991 it was the first to introduce plastic bottles to the GCC, while in 1995 it became the first dairy company to supply pasteurised juices.
More recent years have seen rapid and advanced expansion, resulting in the 13,500 stock Al Rawabi has today.
In 2013, the business embarked on an extension of the farm’s facilities with an investment of AED 125 million, with 3,000 new cows added to its herd. A year later, AED 22 million was invested in a third-generation automated filling line and pasteurisation line.
By 2015, the firm was utilising 250 trucks and delivering fresh dairy and juice products to more than 10,000 outlets daily, while just last year a number of other breakthroughs were made. Not only did it commission a new and fully automated dairy plant facility, Al Rawabi also inaugurated a new warehouse facility in Abu Dhabi, increasing storage capacity by a factor of six and allowing it to better serve customers in and around the emirate.
Such customers are able to choose from a massive portfolio of dairy and juice products.
The company’s staple is fresh milk, offered in low to full fat and in numerous bottle sizes, from 200 millilitres all the way up to a gallon. This is supplemented by a range of flavoured milks, including strawberry, chocolate and mango lychee varieties.
The fresh dairy segment further includes low and full fat yogurts, both plain and flavoured (cherry, blackberry and raspberry, strawberry and pineapple).
Completing the fresh produce range are Al Rawabi’s juices, the company owning a separate juice production plant that makes 15 different flavours, from orange through to red grape, sourcing the best ingredients from around the world.
It is not just fresh products that make up the firm’s portfolio, however. Long life forms another key part of Al Rawabi’s offering, both in dairy and juice categories.
UHT milk (including the flavoured Meet Kavi range aimed at children), iced coffee, butter, halloumi, various other cheese and whipping cream all fall under the long life dairy catalogue, while UHT juices include apple, mango, orange, pineapple, guava and fruit cocktail.
Such a vast array of products are made according to strict standards, the company awarded with ISO 9001:2015 for Quality Management, ISO 14001:2015 for Environmental Management, ISO 22000:2005 for Food Safety Management, and OHSAS 18001:2007 for Occupational Health and Safety and HACCP.
In 2011 it was recognised with the Best Environmental Practice Award by the UAE government and also named Brand of the Year by Superbrands UAE, a feat it repeated in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Another recent award came in the form of a SIAL Innovation award for the Nutreee Boost flavoured milk range.
Meeting challenges with innovation
This comprehensive portfolio and equally vast series of awards and recognitions has not emerged without Al Rawabi facing challenges.
In his CEO’s message, company boss Dr Ahmed El Tigani says: “Throughout our journey, we faced many challenges which we never gave up to, instead we stood up and innovated solutions, we moved stronger on in our journey to success, and we stood proud on our achievements.
“The challenges pushed us to innovate so we introduced the plastic bottles as the first UAE company to do this, which in turn gained us seven percent of the dairy market share, and after that the introduction of the juices section helped score profits that balanced the losses made in the dairy…
“Innovation and finding new ways to answer consumer needs are the biggest success factor in the industry, as you have to keep track with the ever rapid changes. The tempo of life is changing, people have less time, but want to look younger, live longer, be more productive. We are investing a lot of money in the research, and we call in the best experts to support us developing the best products and answer the needs of the market.”
Indeed, it is the CEO’s ambition for the company to be present in all GCC nations by 2020.
This growth has and will continue to be achieved with the welfare of cows at heart, with Al Rawabi placing a strong emphasis on how it looks after its animals.
In 2016, the UAE government introduced strict animal welfare regulations, breaches of which resulting in hefty fines and even prison sentences. Al Rawabi is a flagbearer for these standards, certified by Dubai Municipality for ‘Excellence in Animal Welfare’.
Much of this fulfilment of care is enabled by technology.
A unique element of this is Al Rawabi’s automated cooling system designed to protect its cows from the intense desert heat and sunlight. This switches on as soon as temperatures exceed 21 degrees Celsius.
The company also has a water-cooling system which sprays water at 18-20 degrees Celsius, enhancing the cooling effect and helping to increase herd happiness and thus output of milk.
Further, the sheds are designed to reduce direct sunlight and are further equipped with advanced roofing, clean bedding, fresh drinking water and 24-seven monitoring by a health team of 17 expert vets and nutritionists.
The cows are also fed the right quantity of food thanks to a smart dairy and Wi-Fi powered feeding system which monitors consumption.
Another key element of Dr Ahmed El Tigani’s future ambition, as stated in his CEO’s message, is to not only enter every GCC market but also build into North Africa.
“Today, close to 30 years of our presence, we envision to go bigger and become a MENA brand by 2020, beyond just a dairy farm to a food company with multiple product portfolios in countries in the region,” his message states.
“Our tagline is Nation’s Health, and we believe by offering high quality products that help with the rising deficiencies in the region we can contribute to people having a healthy and a happy lifestyle, which in return makes them productive members of the society.”
Al Rawabi, in targeting Africa, is tapping into a potentially huge market.
The combined Middle East and Africa market bought more than seven billion kilos of dairy in 2017, and by 2023 it is forecast to be worth $21.7 billion.
If Al Rawabi succeeds in its 2020 vision, it looks very well positioned to enjoy a prosperous future and contribute to the better health of millions of consumers.