Emirati Coffee pivots to retail during pandemic, outlines export strategy in Saudi Arabia and China

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Emirati Coffee pivots to retail during pandemic, outlines export strategy in Saudi Arabia and China

Related tags Uae Coffee Saudi arabia China

UAE speciality coffee roastery Emirati Coffee a is switching to a 50-50 strategy combining retail and food service on the back of strong online sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pre-pandemic, 90% of the roastery business was in wholesale, supplying coffee beans to over 150 cafes and coffee chains in UAE and internationally, with the other 10% in retail.

Its retail products initially comprise of coffee beans, but now include coffee capsules and instant products.

The company revealed a 3,135% increase in online purchases in the year 2020 amid the pandemic, which was sufficient evidence for Emirati Coffee to place more focus on its retail channels.

The majority of our wholesale clients were cafes and coffee shops, but during the pandemic people stayed home and tourism dipped, so we became 100% dependent on retail​,” said Mohamed Ali AlMadfai, CEO at Emirati Coffee.

With restrictions now easing, we are trying to maintain a balance a 50/50 balance because we recognise the need for both B2B and D2C​.”

The retail products are currently sold on its online store, and soon at its retail store in Yas Mall Abu Dhabi.

We will not be competing with our café customers, we will be opening a boutique to sell our coffee beans, instant coffee, exclusive additions and capsules​,” AlMadfai told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Bean to cup

Emirati Coffee is UAE’s first local vertically integrated coffee company, working directly with farmers and producers to source the coffee beans from 23 origins across the world ranging from Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Brazil to Vietnam.

We work very closely with international producers to make sure that we have the right coffees that can be turned into instant coffee, and people will not be able to recognize the difference between a freshly brewed coffee in a speciality cafe, and an instant coffee​,” AlMadfai said.

Its new coffee capsules come from 10 origins and instant coffee from two origins.

Export plans

At the time of the interview, AlMadfai was in Saudi Arabia, working on expanding the business.

It plans on opening a café under the Knowhere brand, and distributing its retail products. Over the next two years, it may also open a Saudi roastery to increase distribution.

According to AlMadfai, coffee consumption in Saudi Arabia trumps that of UAE: “In Saudi, there are 24 hours cafes and people are drinking coffee at 3am, 4am. This makes UAE’s coffee market like a city in Saudi Arabia​.”

Emirati Coffee also has plans to expand into China.

We see huge potential with the growing scene in speciality cafes and the local population learning to appreciate speciality coffee. We believe that the Chinese consumer and the UAE consumer are not very far away from each other. We both share very similar palates, and have a sweet tooth​.

Our coffee is very popular within the Middle East, and therefore we believe that it will be very popular within the Chinese millennial generation​. We believe that our brand will be very successful in China because a lot of Chinese tourists when they visit UAE, they visit our roastery, are aware of our products and enjoy them.

Our target today is market share rather than profit. So, we are looking to expand as a retail concept in China selling our products, and maybe build our first roastery outside the UAE​,” he added.

The company is also eyeing the Indian market, where it hopes to gain first-mover advantage.

Pre-pandemic, our focus was Asia and North Africa, but now with the pandemic, we are reassessing and hoping to be able to enter soon​.”

Star brews

Beyond its roastery and retail products, Emirati Coffee collaborates with local influencers and celebrities to co-brand coffee blends.

They could be social media influencers, actors, TV presenters, or sport influencers. Some examples are Latifa Al Shamsi, an Emirati lifestyle blogger, and Maha Al Marush, a skin care coach.

Emirati Coffee produces, markets and sells 50 different coffee blends under its signature collections, each blend attached to an influencer or celebrity.

There are currently only coffee beans and coffee drip bag products under this range, but it will soon be launching capsules.

These products can be bought on Emirati Coffee’s online store, its boutique in Abu Dhabi and selected e-commerce sites.

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