How big is the coffee business in the Middle East?
Coffee is a huge business in this region and has been a traditional part of the culture for centuries. The UAE leads the way in terms of consumption with an average consumption of 3.5kg per capita annually and this is set to grow as we move into 2013.
In terms of retail, is there very strong competition in the market?
There is a great deal of competition in the market as many of the big brand houses have a coffee brand within their offering; within Dubai itself there are in excess of 25 coffee brands.
We see this as a good thing as it forces companies to compete more effectively not only on price, but on quality and service as well.
How do you stand out from the competition?
We have created the first fully HACCP certified coffee roastery in the region and this is a big brand strength and competitive advantage for us.
What are the must-do’s for any coffee business in the region?
Know your farmer: It is important to have a good relationship with the coffee growers and farmers.
Understand your coffee: Coffee is a natural product and needs nurturing to produce the wonderful characteristics possible from coffee beans.
Understand your customer: It is important to understand what your customer wants and with the right knowledge of coffee, you can deliver against their expectations.
Do regional consumers generally prefer home-made brews or coffee-shop ones?
I understand the experiences to be quite different – there is still a huge market for Arabic/Turkish coffee at home, which is a tradition based on family and sharing whereas the experience in coffee shops is usually a more modern social experience based on more espresso-style coffees.
Where do you see the regional industry headed?
There is huge growth potential in this region with the adoption of more ‘modern’ coffee growing as well as the demand for brands increasing.
The UAE itself is becoming one of the faster growing coffee markets in the world and as time goes on I expect to see the expansion of this around the region.