How does Agthia's current portfolio reflect demand in the UAE's food and beverage market?
2019 marked another exciting year for Agthia Group. This coincided with an overall sector-wide observation that consumer habits have rapidly changed; people have now become more health- and cost-conscious. At Agthia, our primary focus areas are quality, brand awareness, and product availability. Companies that do not prioritize these fundamentals experience significant challenges. In 2018, we launched a few new innovations and in 2019, we started focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. At present, we supply our Al Ain Zero Bromate bottled water to hospitals for pregnant women and people with kidney issues. Also, our Al Ain Bambini baby water, which was initially launched in the Saudi market, was introduced in the UAE with a formula that is gentle on a baby's digestive system.
What strategies do you have in place to build brand awareness?
Understanding consumers and their specific needs is a major priority for Agthia. Our teams work continuously with focus groups to develop products according to customer needs. We also invest substantially in R&D. This is what makes us an industry leader. In addition to this, we also build brand equity through innovation, value addition, and sustainability. At Agthia, we believe in creating shared value for all our stakeholders. As a leading food and beverage company, food sustainability is one of our key drivers and priorities. We focus on three key pillars to achieve this: social, economic, and sustainable production. In 2019, we were the first UAE company to open a food packaging R&D center. This plays a significant role for two reasons: one is that we can optimize packaging to reduce food waste, which is critical for us; and second is the sustainability factor of the packaging itself. We cannot rely solely on packaging techniques used in Europe or the US as packaging in this region gets exposed to high temperatures. It is, thus, vital to seek innovative approaches to localize R&D initiatives.
What role can an organization like Agthia play in terms of preventing food waste?
Agthia's R&D center has been exploring methods to develop packaging solutions that protect its contents and extend shelf life. We are the only organization in the GCC that implements the high-pressure pasteurization (HPP) technology for our Al Ain Fresh Juices. This ensures that shelf life can be extended with minimal loss of flavor and nutrition. For example, if you expose juice to heat, it loses its vitamins and flavor. But HPP sustains the flavor, so the juice still tastes fresh after 28 days. It is safer and less likely to be discarded after a few days, which is one of the ways we are reducing food waste. Food waste is a challenge in the FMCG industry at large, because goods nearing the end of their shelf-life tend to get rejected. We have started working closely with food banks in the UAE and Egypt to use products that are still fit for consumption and donate them to avoid food waste.
What role does Agthia play in the UAE's food security strategy?
The UAE National Food Security Strategy 2051 aims to achieve zero hunger by ensuring access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year-round. The strategy specifically aims to bring the UAE to the top of the Global Food Security Index by 2051 and among the top-10 countries by 2021. Agthia is an active member of the Food Security Alliance, and it contributes 40% to the national food security basket, making it the largest supporter. Furthermore, we work toward the food security requirements to find other sustainable resources, such as meat alternatives and vegan products. We also have around 60 food distribution outlets in the UAE to make food more accessible. Food security is not just a government endeavor. We have demonstrated that commercial organizations can play a significant role in this area.