Dec. 25, 2021


Youssef Ezzikhe

Oman

Youssef Ezzikhe

CEO, Oman Refreshment Company (Oman Refco)

A local company that has been operating in the market for more than four decades, Oman Refco continues to adjust its offerings in line with changing consumer preferences and new trends.

BIO

Youssef Ezzikhe holds an Executive MBA from AUI in Ifrane, Morocco, and a bachelor's degree in marketing from ISCAE Casablanca. He has over 25 years of senior roles experience with global leading companies in consumer packaged goods and industrial sectors in the Middle East and north Africa region. He has been the CEO of Oman Refreshment company SAOG since 2010.


Oman Refco recently launched three new formats for PET bottles. What other initiatives has the company put forth to push the F&B industry in Oman?

Our new range of PET packaging has been launched mainly for sports drinks, iced tea, and pure, premium range of no added sugar juices. Additionally, the company is developing more initiatives, some of which were forced through due to various changes, and others are necessary due to consumer preferences. The current global economic scenarios have pushed key commodity prices higher than the average of the past five years, which forces us toward value chain optimization. The entire manufacturing sector, particularly CNG and CPG, has been in a difficult situation and will continue to be so at least until the end of 2021. Oman Refco is now, leveraging its partnership with global brands from PepsiCo, Froneri, Lavazza to name few, to generate value for its wide range of customers in the retail and food service channels.

How would you define the beverage drinking habits of Omanis, and how do the changes in local tastes affect your marketing strategy?

We closely monitor consumer preferences in Oman through different data sources. The introduction of an excise tax on soft drinks in 2019, which was extended to juice and sweetened drinks in 2020, impacted volume sales. Moreover, the implementation of the VAT since mid-April 2021 introduced further challenges to our beverage industry at large. Furthermore, as our revenue is directly linked with the existing population in Oman, the reduction in the number of expatriates in Oman in the last two years poses a further challenge. Nevertheless, one of our key focuses is recruiting new consumers across multiple age groups via the introduction of appropriate offerings in the beverage and food categories. While embracing product ranges falling under the “Better for you," “Good for you," and “Fun for you" positioning, the recent addition of sports drink, no-sugar drinks, value-added dairy, and other similar products is the result of changing consumer preferences and our offerings to meet the dynamics of consumer needs. In making the decision as to which brand to distribute and represent in Oman, our first step is to assess whether it stands with our values and line of CPG brands. We then look at the potential of the brand in line with market insights. On top of this, another factor which we assess is whether there is a potential for this brand to be manufactured in the region, to bring additional industrial investment in line with Oman Refco strategies.

What new technologies are you incorporating, and how will consumers and the country benefit from these new developments?

Oman Refco, with the support of its directors, has embarked on a three-year digital transformation. We are currently halfway along this strategy, focusing on technologies connecting end-to-end supply chain. The recent pandemic has even created greater impetus to accelerate the process. We have taken steps forward to implement e-payments and e-receipts with local banking partners. The new system brings a great deal of new learning for users that drive their skills and knowledge. It makes resources more competitive in terms of customer service, value delivery, quality improvement, and overall consumer satisfaction. We have decided to invest in technology when it comes to optimizing costs and delivering superior service to our consumers, as this will help the sector in Oman be more competitive in the whole region.

In what other ways do you retain an edge over the competition?

We are a customer-focused, consumer-centric company that takes every step to serve our consumers in the most efficient way and at an optimal value. Our key strength is adding value to our consumers, customers, shareholders, people, and the Oman-based communities at large. Within the category of consumer-packaged goods, Oman Refco brings best global brands of highest quality to consumers at the best value. Our consistency on every action including quality and service over our history is our key edge over others.

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