Del Monte targets ripe markets in MENA

Plans to promote its brand image and build new plants are just part of Del Monte’s strategy for the Middle East and North Africa.

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By  Roger Field Published  May 9, 2006

|~||~||~|With its origins in gold-rush era California of the 1880s, fruit producer Del Monte has a formidable brand presence across the globe and a portfolio of products that puts it out of reach of any single rival.

Youssef Zakharia, Del Monte’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa tells RNME about the company’s strategy and its plans for the region.

RNME: How are your products marketed in the Middle East?

In the Middle East our current presence is through selected distributors. We have a different distribution channel in each country depending on the partners we have selected to work with. The company is vertically integrated.

We supply our fruit through a vertically integrated channel all the way through from origin to the market. This is one of the best promises we give to our customers, to ascertain that we are the only people who have handled the fruit from inception to its arrival on the market.

RNME: What are your biggest selling products in the region?

Our products are divided into two main divisions; fresh and foods. The foods division includes all the canned products, juices and any other manufactured goods, while the fresh division has the full range of nature’s fresh fruit.

The leading products we have in the fresh category are pineapples, including our famous Del Monte Gold, melons and bananas, citrus and deciduous fruits from countries around the world including South Africa, Egypt, and Chile. In the foods division, we have everything from canned fruit and vegetables to special products for desserts.

RNME: Which is the biggest side of Del Monte’s business?

On the fresh side, the bananas and the pineapples are the major volumes sold in the market. On the foods side, the canned fruits and juices are for now the most commercialised volumes. We acquired the foods side of Del Monte in October 2004 from another company, Cirio, so we are still at a relatively early stage of development.

Since we took the foods business over, we have integrated it and are ready now to take over the whole market. You can rest assured that we will get the same success we reached in our fresh division as with the foods division, because we’re taking the same principle of bringing fresh and healthy products to the market with the highest level of quality.

RNME: How much has the foods business been growing since you took it over?

The foods business has been growing at an exciting rate in our region since we took it over. We have established a specific target to grow our business in the region through our distribution channels, so we invigorated our distribution and brought in a whole range of new products.

We’re bringing in a lot of new added value goods that didn’t exist before, and we believe the growth is going to be even higher. Very soon we’re going to have a brand image campaign for Del Monte and I’m very positive about our plans to expand our presence and visibility all over the Middle East.

We are embarking on a major campaign to promote our brand image, re-invigorate the label’s recognition and bring the knowledge of the quality it represents back to the consumers in the region. It will be an extended media campaign, in stages and will consist of print media and outdoor media. Also we’re currently in the production of a TV advert. It will be an integrated campaign that will start in the second half of 2006 and run through 2007.

RNME: Are there plans for a manufacturing plant in the Middle East?

In Dubai, we are building a factory that will support the growth of our products, both in the fresh and the foods divisions. The factory will produce fresh cut products, salads, fruits and ultra fresh juices. It is being built in the new Dubai fruit and vegetable market in Al Awir. It will be ready in December 2006.

The plant is being built on 29,000 sq m of land. It’s a state of the art facility and it’s going to bring unique added-value products to the UAE market.

The fresh-cut added value principle is that of taking wholesome fresh fruits, cleaning, cutting them and packaging them in a ready-to-eat format with a five-to-six day shelf life. The same principle applies to the juice, which at the new plant will be extracted from fresh fruit. The added value is that it’s ready to eat or ready to drink at the availability of the customer.

RNME: Are there plans for a manufacturing plant for the foods division?

We are looking at Jordan and Algeria as additional potential sites for our manufacturing plants which corresponds with our future plans for expansion. These plants will produce canned goods and juices.

The Algeria plant will serve surrounding countries including Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, while the Jordanian factory will serve all the Levant area.

RNME: How is the Middle East region performing as a market?

It is one of our best growing regions, and our chairman, Mr Mohammed Abu-Ghazaleh, has specifically pinpointed this region as an area for growth. The Middle East has been growing rapidly for Del Monte, especially with the addition of products such as our famous Del Monte Gold pineapple, which is unique to Del Monte.

For example, on the foods business in the MENA region we achieved a good 50% growth in 2005. We have been able to penetrate and grow our market with the quality of our pineapple, bananas, and other foods division products. We are the symbol of freshness and quality and look forward to expand our healthy concept to all the consumers.

RNME: Which countries in the region do you see as your most promising market?

We have presence all over the Middle East. The UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are particularly promising markets for us. We’re also well established in Iran, Iraq and very strong in Oman and Qatar. All of the countries in the region are promising markets for us and we will grow them to the best of our capability. We’re building the factory in the UAE because of the strategic position it will give us.

RNME: Do you face stiff competition in the Middle East?

No one in the market in the Middle East can match the range of products we have or the reach that we have with our diversity. In the market place today, there is not one single company that can match Del Monte with all of the products we offer. ||**||

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