The 4,150m² SIG Combibloc Obeikan facility in Dubai Silicon Oasis has three floors for offices, a Knowledge Academy and a training center for the company’s own employees and customers in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey.
Nestlé, Danone, FrieslandCampina
Chris Alt, COO, SIG Combibloc Obeikan, told FoodProductionDaily driving factors in this region are more regionalization of brands and products, multi-national infiltration (of companies including Nestlé, Danone, FrieslandCampina and Coca-Cola) and rationalization of smaller dairies into larger regional branded producers.
“This 'move' is more of a relocation to an independent regional headquarters that now includes a training centre and Knowledge Academy,” he said.
“Previously, we had a few segregated offices within a large office complex but with our expanding business, increasing customer needs and growing number of employees it was important for us to consolidate all our functions and training under one roof.
“Dubai has emerged as the business capital of the Middle East and its strategic location between Europe, Asia and Africa has continued to make it among the top cities for most multi-national companies to set base in.
“Despite the recent political and economic disruption, the MEA ambient beverage market has grown and remains one of our core markets today. We still see significant growth opportunities over the next 20 years thanks to the increasing population, emerging affluent middle class, and lack of a developed cold-chain which are among the many factors driving the aseptic packaging business.”
Long-life milk and juice
SIG Combibloc and the Obeikan Investment Group of Saudi Arabia entered into a joint venture to market long-life milk and juice products in 2001.
The sales territory covers all the GCC nations (the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar), the Levant region, Africa and Turkey. SIG Combibloc Obeikan supplies aseptic carton packs and the filling machines for long-life and liquid foods.
Customers include Almarai, Nadec and Al Safi Danone in KSA, IDJ Beyti and Juhayna in Egypt, Alifard in Iran and Granini in Turkey.
The partnership with food manufacturer Almarai was a key move for the joint venture. SIG Combibloc Obeikan delivered complete filling lines and downstream technology for the Middle East’s biggest manufacturer and exporter of milk and dairy products, for a newly built production plant in Riyadh.
Almarai then relaunched its range of milk and juice products in different packaging formats from SIG Combibloc.
According to Alt, after Brazil, Germany, Thailand and China, this is SIG Combibloc’s fifth training center and Obeikan Investment Group’s second Knowledge Academy in the region, in addition to an academy in Riyadh, KSA.
Five offices located throughout the Middle East
“We have held an office in Dubai since 2001 when the joint venture was established and we have more than five offices located throughout the Middle East; Riyadh (KSA), Jeddah (KSA), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey) and Tehran (Iran),” he said.
“The UAE's strategic location, independent regulations, tax-free economy and infrastructure allow for easy access to tap into the high potential MEA market including key growth countries like Iran, KSA, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria.
“The country also hosts some of the world-biggest F&B tradeshows attracting some of the world's top industry experts and companies. UAE is the perfect platform for any company to expand their regional footprint.”
Alt added growing trends in the region include a fast expanding health-nutrition awareness of the emerging middle class, as well as knowledge about hygiene (thanks to higher level of education, especially of women who are now more exposed/empowered to work).
Other factors include a high proportion of young people in the population who are fast becoming parents and affluent from higher levels of education and work and modernization of the value chain in retail channels.
“Traditional sales are still high but large size supermarkets will continue to expand in proportion,” he said.