Oct. 31, 2018

Tarek El Sakka

UAE, Dubai

Tarek El Sakka

CEO, Dubai Refreshment Company (DRC)

TBY talks to Tarek El Sakka, CEO of Dubai Refreshment Company (DRC), on the advantages of its new location, expanding the range of beverage options in the UAE, and its manufacturing and distribution capabilities.


Tarek El Sakka is a 27-year veteran of the FMCG business and is well known in the Middle East beverage industry, having spent over 20 years in various locations and positions within the PepsiCo system. In 2008, he joined DRC, PepsiCo’s largest independent bottler in the Lower Gulf, and since has led a major transformation of the company, increasing its market cap over five-fold. Prior to DRC, he was the General Manager of Jordan Ice and Aerated Water Company and worked for Pepsi Middle East and Procter & Gamble in Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

How does DRC's new site at Dubai Investment Park help the company maintain an edge over its competitors?

Moving to our new site gave us the capability to start producing two new products—Aquafina and Lipton Ice Tea. It also enabled us to produce our product range in significantly larger quantities. Another benefit is that with newer equipment, we can produce more efficiently, using less energy and water. The new infrastructure also allows us to open up new lines of business. For example, we signed an agreement with Froneri Ice Cream Egypt in 2017 to distribute Nestlé ice cream. We are continuing to expand and are in talks with several parties to add further lines of business.

Which F&B segments do you target in particular?

We are always interested in the beverage segment. Our partner is PepsiCo, which has a wide product portfolio, and we have ongoing discussions with PepsiCo to expand the range available in the UAE. On the food side, we focus on packaged products where we have synergies with the products we sell for PepsiCo. One of the things we recently launched is a range of snacks called Snack Time that sell in the same channels where we sell our beverages. We look for new products that maximize the synergies with our existing product portfolio and that we can sell through the distribution channels in which we are already strong.

What are the main innovations that have been incorporated into new facilities?

Innovation comes in different forms. It can be new products and packages that we launch, or innovation in terms of how we go to market. There can be things that are less visible, such as efficiency, services, or logistics and storage. Often for an industry, innovation is more about these types of operational improvements rather than just about launching new products. It is important for us to improve our level of service through innovation; for example, we have programs that improve our distribution routes. We also innovate in our manufacturing processes to use fewer and more lightweight materials to save money. We innovate in terms of quality control to ensure that every product is of exactly the same high quality. We have even incorporated innovation into the building and its management. We are currently awarding the job of installing solar panels over 60,000sqm of roof, which will generate almost 4MW of power. This will be one of the largest solar installations of its kind in Dubai.

What makes DRC an attractive partner for businesses that want to establish their brands in the UAE market?

We have some tremendous advantages in both manufacturing and distribution. DRC is one of the strongest distribution companies in the UAE in terms of coverage breadth and depth. We perhaps reach more customers in our territory than anyone in the FMCG business. Moreover, we reach customers more frequently than anyone else, which help sus deliver a superior level of service level. We can also execute marketing activities in a way that companies with more limited capabilities cannot. DRC is one of the top companies in the UAE in terms of distribution and execution. In terms of manufacturing, we represent a tremendous opportunity for companies coming from Europe, the US, and other places that currently have their supply chain coming out of their home countries or regions. Generally speaking, these big markets do not have the flexibility to produce specifically for the Middle East market. Often by the time products arrive in the UAE, a significant portion of the shelf life has expired. DRC can do the job here; our infrastructure is ready and we are plug and play. We can set up a customer-designed manufacturing process quickly, efficiently, and at great value. We are happy to sign long-term contracts with serious partners.