NUTS ABOUT NUTS
Al Rifai is the Rolls Royce of nuts in the Middle East. We recently moved to Europe and opened a production facility in Sweden of around 12,000 sqm in size. This center can produce almost 7,000 tons in one shift.
POINTS OF SALE
In the Middle East our exposure is really through our retail branches and outlets, and we have almost 200 shops in the region. We also serve the wholesale market with prepackaged goods that can offer customers all sizes from 20 grams up to 1-kilogram bags.
After Lebanon, the Middle East, and the Gulf, we targeted Europe for exports. It is this market that we are primarily focusing on. And after that we are looking at expanding in the US and Canada.
TORBEN TERP HANSEN
I think that the Lebanese are extremely focused on quality, and they are very brand-loyal consumers. Therefore, having a good product and good quality makes this a great market to work in.
THE RIGHT MENTALITY
Most international companies have a high rate of Lebanese workers in the country, and that is a testament to the education system. Lebanon is closer to the European mentality than its neighbors, and it is very easy to adapt to the business climate here.
WHERE THE OPPORTUNITY IS
There are very few international companies here alone, and most companies use local family distributors. These family markets hold the opportunities. In Saudi Arabia, however, the producer controls the entire value chain; it is very different here in Lebanon.
JACQUES JEAN SARRAF
Malia Group is a holding company established in 1936, primarily in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. At that time, until 1951, we improved our presence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Today, encompassing 21 companies, our group is present all over the Levant, mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.
Lebanon is a hub for the Levant region. The second hub in the region is the Gulf. The market—the Middle East—is distinctly divided by culture and ethnicity. In that respect, we have to target our investments according to our know-how and understanding of the markets.
WINDS OF CHANGE
There has been a lot of change in the region following the unrest in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. This is ushering in a new era of investment planning. The Lebanese have the know-how and experience to work well with international investors.
TOP OF THE GAME
As time went by our portfolio of perfumes and cosmetics grew and we became an important player in distribution. We are currently working with international groups in the beauty field. We then diversified in 1992 into alcohol and electrical home appliances. We always work with the top brands.
We have close to 320 employees at Fawaz Holding. The retail market is very interesting because people here are trendsetters as they travel often and see what happens in the international markets. The sector is very related to the diaspora as well as the tourism sector.
THE ALCOHOL SECTOR
Lots of money is being spent on advertising in the sector, and that makes things difficult and challenging. The country is not large, and often there are several distribution companies competing in the same market. The alcohol market is developing too. We, however, are trying to create awareness about not abusing alcohol.
© The Business Year