Technology development vital for Middle East food manufacturing
The future of the GCC’s food manufacturing sector, including its confectionery and bakery segments, lies in the readiness of its key players to embrace new technology and deliver competitive advantage, according to a leading global leader in organic and natural products.
Rajnish Ohri, managing director for IMEA region at Hain Celestial, the US multinational whose mission is to be the leading marketer, manufacturer and seller of organic and natural better-for-you products, insists regional manufacturers must continue investing in digital transformation alongside regular upgrading of their facilities to remain relevant on the world stage.
“Upgrading of facilities is a continuous process and changes with the needs of optimising resources. Digitalisation is, for sure, an important aspect of technology that can bring a competitive advantage,” said Ohri, who will assess the sector’s relative competitiveness with the rest of the world when he addresses The Gulfood Manufacturing FoodTech Summit on 7 November in a session titled ‘Competing in a Global Market – Is your Factory Holding you Back?’
“Firstly, manufacturers should collaborate with the knowledge industry, they should encourage an environment of innovative thinking in their organisations and listen to the people who do the job – sometimes they come up with simple but very productive solutions,” he added.
Know your customer to become competitive
The two-day sector-shaping FoodTech Summit is part of Gulfood Manufacturing 2018 and runs at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) on 7-8 November, bringing together a host of high-profile food industry experts, disruptors and decision makers to look at the introduction of next-gen technologies into the industry, from blockchain to AI and robotics, to transform F&B manufacturing facilities into smart factories and how that will potentially advance the industry.
While embracing digitisation and continuous investment in infrastructure is a must to drive competitiveness, Ohri said Gulf producers should focus on the needs of the customer rather than benchmarking themselves against competition, if they want to gain international traction.
“Benchmarking is against the needs of customers and the technology landscape which helps meet those needs. Leadership can only be pursued if the sector continues to keep pace with ever-changing customer needs and is willing to adopt changing technology,” he said.
Joining Ohri for the intuitive panel discussion is Amir Sotoudeh, managing director, Multivac Middle East, one of the leading providers worldwide of packaging solutions for food products.
“Gulf F&B producers need to follow the market trends, especially in field of packaging, which is an important part of the process to enhance brand presence on shelves and catch the eye of the consumers. In addition, to protect their products and increase shelf life,” said Sotoudeh. “By providing producers better distribution time to deliver products to the wider region and also target other markets like Asia, Africa and Europe. The package should describe and present the product in the right way to consumers.
“In addition, the big trend is about more sustainable and environmentally-friendly packaging going well with many natural and organic products we have in our region, such as dates.”
“In the Gulf region, packaging has room for improvement. It is important that Gulf F&B producers look at more volume production that helps to make their operation more efficient, to focus on a limited number of products with higher production capacity,” he added.
“Continued investment in technology will increase competitiveness with the global market. Traceability will help form full control, from harvest to the store, which is needed to control on food safety.”
The Summit is part of Gulfood Manufacturing 2018, the fifth edition of the region’s biggest food and beverage processing industry event, which brings together over 35,000 visitors and 1,600 suppliers from 60 countries showcasing the latest F&B manufacturing business improvement tools.
Regional partnerships driving product development
For Gulfood Manufacturing exhibitor Premium Vegetable Oils of Malaysia, international partnerships could be key to the region’s advancement. The company, one of the largest global producers of specialty fats for confectionary, ice cream, dairy and bakery, says partnerships with Middle East/Asian clients are already spurring new product development.
The State-of -the art innovation centre is one of its kind and is definitely the epicentre for all the ground-breaking development that happens towards research and new product development.
Premium Vegetable Oils is not only driven by emerging trend and customer preferences but also a conscious organisation that work towards providing products that are healthy for well being of consumers.
With markets moving towards oils and fats that are low in trans-fat etc, Premium is offering products that are tailor made to meet the requirements of institutional buyers and food regulatory bodies in 50 over countries that they service.
“We have had many collaborations with our customers from Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa and other regions enabling new products and business development to take place.
We intend to have more collaborations with established and upcoming companies,” said Abraham Alexander, vice president, marketing, at Premium Vegetable Oils.
Innovative solutions which answer growing consumer demands for more eco-friendly packaging are also on the Gulfood Manufacturing agenda. Rotopak, a UAE-based member of the multinational INDEVCO Group, says meeting consumer demands is top of its priorities for Gulfood Manufacturing 2018.
“We are creating value for our customers by developing environmentally-friendly, creative packaging products that meet their specific needs. This means we continuously look to improve our products, processes and service, and we work with our customers to design the most suitable solutions for them,” explained Muntazir Tinwala, general of manager of Rotopak.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s ipack, which has been operating for just over a year, says it will stage live demos at the show of ground-breaking packaging for aseptic filling – a packaging technique for thermally sterilised liquids which produces shelf-stable products that do not need refrigeration.