Awarding excellence in a fast moving sector

Companies involved in the Middle East's FMCG sector gained recognition at April's Retail News Middle East awards.

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By  Roger Field Published  May 9, 2006

|~|Retailnews-winners200.jpg|~|Winners at April's Retail News Middle East awards ceremony.|~|Professionals in the Middle East’s FMCG sector have had little time to relax during the past few years. Whether they are involved in food production, distribution or retailing, the levels of growth experienced by the sector have led to a sea change in the way FMCG professionals operate. In Saudi Arabia the food industry alone was worth some US$2.9 billion last year – an 11% increase on 2004, while in Dubai the growth is equally as impressive, with trade in foodstuffs increasing 128% in the past four years to reach almost US$5.5 billion. But this level of activity did not stop more than 200 professionals from the region’s FMCG sector from gathering in Dubai in April for the inaugural Retail News Middle East Awards, which were held in association with Aujan Industries. This level of growth in the food industry means rapid expansion for the region’s main supermarket groups and distributors, as well as a constant flow of new product lines onto the market place. The Retail News Middle East Awards were for 10 product category winners, ranging from baby products to frozen foods, hot and cold beverages through to toiletry and cleaning products, to recognise the very best in fast moving consumer goods in the Arabian Gulf. The awards acknowledged products that are best sellers, and others that are changing the shape of their market segment. They also recognised the companies behind these products – companies that are investing in the region and helping to drive the Middle East’s FMCG sector forward. The awards also included three non-product related awards for food and drink production, distribution and marketing. These awards were designed to recognise the excellence of organisations that have contributed to the continued growth of the regional FMCG sector, and done their part to ensure the industry not only reflects the standards set elsewhere in the world but does its level best to redefine them. Judgement day The judging panel that selected the winners of this year’s awards comprised some of the leading players in the Middle East’s retail sector: Mohammed Adil, chief executive of Geant Saudi Arabia; Mark Mortimer Davies, purchasing director at Panda; Ashraf Ali, Emke Group’s executive director; Boudi Ghandour, Carrefour’s general manager for marketing and sourcing, and George Mojica, general manager of the Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society. It also included Roger Field, the editor of Retail News Middle East and Hubert Lobo, retailer services manager at ACNielsen in Dubai. For each of the nine product award categories a shortlist of up to seven nominees was created. This was done by combining the top three selling products in a segment, according to market research from ACNielsen, and two or more ‘wild card’ entries, which were chosen for delivering something beyond just great sales in the past 12 months. From here, the judging panel voted on the shortlist and the product with the most votes won. For the three non-product award categories, a shortlist was also created using nominations from the judging panel, with votes establishing the final winners. Categories and winners Best Dairy Product of the Year: Danone With products ranging from yoghurt to milk, butter and cheese, this year’s best Dairy Product of the Year was always going to be a difficult choice. The company selected by our panel of judges was chosen for innovation and strength of sales of its products, particularly in Saudi Arabia where supermarket managers have reported that sales have exceeded all expectations. This year’s award went to Danone for its Activia and Actimel yoghurts, which contain pro-biotic bacteria to aid the digestive and immune systems. Best Toiletry Product of the Year: FINE This category was a tricky one to shortlist, as this particular segment of the market has experienced enormous growth across the region in the past year, with new products from facial cleansers to deodorants and tissue papers entering the market. However, this year’s winner stood out in its peer group for focusing on quality when many competitor products have been attempting to leverage sales by cutting prices. This year’s award for best toiletry product of the year goes to FINE for its range of luxury tissue paper. Best Baby Product of the Year: Pampers This year’s winner was selected not only for its outstanding sales record, but also for its consistent quality, innovation and commitment to the region. As one of the world’s leading brands, Pampers has demonstrated its commitment to the Middle East with educational campaigns, such as the Baby Stages of Development Wagon, which toured Saudi Arabia recently. Best Household Cleaning Product of the Year: Dettol As always, the judging was difficult, especially as so many new brands are looking to challenge some rather more established firms. However, after much discussion, the judges selected Dettol – a product that is available in 37 countries across the world and is one of the leaders in antiseptics both here and abroad. Best Hot Drink of the Year: Lipton This year’s winner is by far and away the biggest player in the GCC’s lucrative tea market. Not only has the firm invested heavily in new product areas such as green tea, but it continues to demonstrate exceptional support for its key account holders, whether that be hot tea shops or leading supermarkets. Best Cold Drink of the Year: Rani While an industry heavyweight took home the Hot Drink of the Year Award, the winner in this category was a smaller but some may say more innovative offering that has tapped into a growing demand for cold beverages that have an eye on healthy ingredients. Rani has also updated its portfolio with new flavours and some innovative packaging, helping it to achieve strong sales growth. Best Frozen Food of the Year: Americana Meat Although there are a myriad of frozen food firms vying for a slice of the Middle Eastern market, the judges opted for Kuwait-based Americana, one of the strongest brands around. Americana accounts for about 45% of the frozen meat sector and has a healthy market share in other products to. Best Canned Food of the Year: California Gardens This year’s winner was the unanimous choice of the judging panel and it offers a large portfolio, including beans, fruits, vegetables and tuna. With its consistent quality and growing brand recognition, the winner is California Gardens. As with their frozen counterparts, canned foods have seen rapid growth in recent years. Leading brands, and lesser-known brands from across the globe are today competing on the shelves of supermarkets in the Middle East. Best Confectionery Product of the Year: Galaxy With the main international brands all available in stores across the region and numerous local confectionery producers are also taking a significant slice of the market, this was always going to be a tough choice. But this year, Galaxy managed to catch the attention of our judges, supermarket buyers and consumers alike with its recent brand re-design and a savvy marketing campaign. Best Food Producer of the Year: Al Islami According to the panel, this was not an easy category to judge with so many producers making an outstanding contribution to the region’s food and drink sector. However, Al Islami caught the attention of the judges above the rest for its contribution to the region’s halal meat industry, both in the way it is focusing on quality and promoting best practices. Best Distributor of the Year: Global Export Marketing Company As companies involved in the distribution business know, it’s a tough market with margins being as tight as they are. As a result, efficiency is key and each of this year’s nominees has made great efforts to make themselves lean, mean efficient distribution machines. Like it’s peers, Global Export Marketing Company has invested in creating efficiencies in the supply chain, but it has also invested in its relationships and, by all accounts, has fantastic relationships with its partners, which include American Garden, Sue Bee honey and Keebler cookies and crackers. Best Marketing Strategy of the Year NTDE for Lays crisps At some award ceremonies this is often seen as a fluffy award, heavily influenced by sales teams. But in the FMCG sector nothing could be further from the truth as brands live and die by their ability to drive consumers in supermarkets and towards their products. Due to this innate need to promote themselves, the competition for Best Marketing Strategy of the Year was more than tough. In this toughest of categories our judges wanted to see real results, rather than just huge budgets. NTDE has done just that, increasing the market share of Lays crisps in the UAE from 7% to 24% in just four years. Best Innovation of the Year Gillette for M3Power This award recognises innovation, a key ingredient for any successful FMCG business. For the first power-based wet shaving system in the world, the award for outstanding innovation goes to Gillette’s M3Power. ||**||

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