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F&B managers urged not to dismiss local brands

Aujan industries urges Middle East F&B managers to look closer to home

GCC beverage giant, Aujan Industries, is urging food and beverage managers region-wide to have an open mind and look beyond international soft drink brands when stocking up their hotel’s cellars.

The private Saudi Arabian-owned company, which is keen to boost the out-of-home distribution of its re-launched Barbican “new age” soft drink, is concerned that hotels are being short-sighted and ignoring demand for local brands such as this.

“We find it difficult to get [our product] into hotels because we are not an international brand. F&B managers [at hotels] are a little bit distant and it’s difficult to get appointments with them,” explained Tolga Sezer, head of marketing, Aujan Industries.

“Around 95% of F&B managers in this region are European and they are not familiar with the Barbican brand. They are used to working with an international portfolio. But they should be careful to monitor local trends and the real needs of consumers in this region.”

Barbican is a malt beverage available in seven flavours – regular malt, apple, raspberry, lemon, peach, strawberry and pineapple — which Sezer and Aujan’s out-of-home manager, Oktay Yazlar, are trying to promote as a “sexy” malt-flavoured soft drink, rather than a beer substitute.

The target market, says Sezer, is “young adults in transition” – youngsters aged 18 to 24.

“This age group is about young people becoming adults. These guys are starting to experience new things in life and are getting their independence and Barbican has a role to play in their lives,” he said.

“When you look at the most important attributes of a soft drink for this age group, taste is not top of the list – it’s image.”

With this in mind, Sezer launched the high profile “This is me” advertising campaign earlier this year.

The company has also started to create “Barbican zones” in places where young people “hang out”, including shisha cafes, F&B outlets in shopping malls, and hotels.

“It’s all about visibility and connectivity with young people,” he said.”Hotels are ideal; we want Barbican on all the menus and in all the mini bars.”

According to Sezer, Barbican is already popular in five-star hotels across KSA, but hotels in Dubai in particular have been somewhat reluctant to follow suit.

“We are trying to create the right occasions for these young people. They like to go to hotels, particularly when they are staying in Dubai. F&B managers should listen to these guys,” he said.

Sezer reminded F&B managers that while the average annual growth rate of the beverage industry was 5%, the energy drink and new age malt beverage category was growing at a much faster 20% per annum.

“What’s interesting is that we took the challenge of benchmarking Barbican against other new age soft drinks and in just 18 months, Barbican came top in KSA, the UAE and Kuwait,” said Sezer. “This market has huge potential in the Gulf.”

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