Feb. 23, 2016


Mutlaq Al-Zayed

Kuwait

Mutlaq Al-Zayed

CEO, Kuwait Flour Mills & Bakeries Co. (KFMB)

TBY talks to Mutlaq Al-Zayed, CEO of Kuwait Flour Mills & Bakeries Co. (KFMB), on trends and investment opportunities in the country's food sector.

BIO

Mutlaq Y. Al-Zayed is the CEO of KFMB, and started working in the company in the distribution department in 1986. After eight months he was promoted to Head of Marketing and Distribution, and later to General Coordinator, Sales Director, Deputy Managing Director, and finally Chief Executive Officer in 2013. He is now an expert in managing the local and international business, marketing, operations, and strategic plans, and is in continuous development of the current products and introduction of new products to meet the requirements of the global market. His latest achievement was in 2015 when KFMB started production and distribution of gluten-free products, making them the first locally producing companies of gluten free products in the Middle East.

What kind of growth have you seen in your production over the past few years?

Growth in the food sector is dependent on population growth, public attitudes, and trends. For instance, there was a growing trend for the more wholesome bran bread, therefore we decreased production in white bread. Our growth is at 4%, and this figure is the ballpark for the bread industry globally. The market for fast food buns is a key factor in our profit sustenance. We have been exporting our produce for more than 25 years. We mainly focus on the GCC, but we also export to Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Exports have been growing fast, and our key exports are flour, pasta, and biscuits. Demand for our high-quality products is growing both internationally and domestically. However, diets differentiate according to locality. Food culture is varied across the Middle East, some populations consume more rice, others more bread.

How would you describe your role in securing a stable supply of food to the people of Kuwait?

Kuwait is not an agricultural country. We cannot produce our own food, so it is very important to concentrate on food security, mainly in regards to storage. Food security in our part of the world is an important issue and we take the matter seriously. We store our products in silos which are close to the sea maneuver. When ships dock, we are responsible for loading and unloading. We do this through in taking from the ship to the silo, then to the packing area and finally onto further transportation by road or air. This procedure ensures minimal human contact, and enables strict control of bacteria and pesticides.

What are your plans to meet the rising food demands of Kuwait's growing population?

Kuwait's population is rising rapidly; the population is currently at about 3.2 million and 1.3 million are Kuwaiti, the rest are expatriates. In cooperation with the government, we have been acquiring more land to increase our storage space. The key pillars of food security are ease of access (affordability and reachability) and quality. In the past, there has been a number of destabilizing crises in Kuwait, where the operations of Kuwait Flour Mills and Bakeries Co. have aided in crisis management.

What opportunities are there for investors to inject innovation and product development in the Kuwaiti food sector?

There is a wealth of opportunities in the Kuwaiti food sector for investors—95% of food in Kuwait is imported from abroad. However, Kuwaiti SMEs are thirsty for capital injection. In particular, the dairy industry is fertile ground for expansion.

What do you predict will be the major trends and primary revenue drivers for KFMB in the next five years?

Global trends are moving towards gluten-free products for celiacs and those with sensitivity to flour. We will be setting up our first gluten-free bakery after Ramadan 2015. We have been working on this project for more than four years and are MENA pioneers for gluten-free produce.

What are your expectations for 2016?

Internationally, the agricultural industry is doing well. We hope that there will not be any dramatic weather fluctuations that will impact the world agricultural market. Drought or heavy rains can impact on harvesting. However, our expectation is that the global wheat harvest will be stable. Kuwait is not as pliable to food prices as developing countries, thanks to our high average income. In 2016, we plan to invest in healthier products, centered on our gluten-free bakery concept.

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