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Kuwait 2019 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sophie Parou, CEO of FAME Co, on relocating to Kuwait, import restrictions, and health consciousness.

What motivated your decision to relocate your activity from France to Kuwait in 2001?

FAME Co moved to Kuwait in 2001 with the objective to commercially represent French food brands in Kuwait and help them find local distributors. Since then, our activity has shifted, and we directly commercialize brands through the horeca market as well as our different retail channels: FAME Co online shopping and Oh! Petit Fame boutique. FAME Co furthermore specializes in the field of pastry/baker and chocolate. Because of the origin and the high quality of products we offer, we have witnessed a great reception from local customers. In addition, we place an emphasis on constantly bringing new and trendier items such as freeze dried items, which are experiencing growing demand. Finally, we now have our own Chef event called “Pastry Live and Beyond", organized every two years and where we offer consulting services also provided by our Chef. Nonetheless, it can be challenging for a foreign SME to get established in Kuwait. In order to register a company, it is mandatory to have a local partner or sponsor. Even though there are institutions such as Kuwait Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) to help foreign investors in Kuwait, its solutions fit the needs of bigger corporations. Therefore, it is important for the country to find ways to facilitate the investment of SMEs in Kuwait.

What challenges did you encounter in terms of regulations and standards when importing French products in Kuwait?

Kuwait is a market with great potential; however, it is important to be extremely organized and have extensive understanding of the regulations and forbidden items. For example, it is compulsory for any importer to have two samples per product to show at customs. It is also extremely important to properly label in Arabic all compulsory details as well as the production and expiration dates. In that sense, Kuwait is more complicated than certain markets such as Bahrain and the UAE. Because of our local expertise, It is paramount to have a performant clearing agent who makes sure that the samples are given to the Baladiya. If Kuwait wants to boost its import market, it is essential for the country to increase the efficiency of customs and its authority.

What shift in consumers' behavior have you witnessed?

As far as our field is concerned, Kuwait is leaning more toward a European market in terms of taste buds and demands. There is a growing number of health-conscious people in Kuwait. In mid-2018, we started with a line of superfood that I personally want to include in the world of pastries. In five to 10 years, Kuwait will definitely be more Europeanized than Americanized in terms of taste buds. Customers want more quality and have a growing awareness of what is beneficial for their health. This will provide a great deal of opportunities, especially for French companies. In fact, FAME Co offers trendsetting ingredients for pastries and chocolate making that are of high quality and extremely healthy. We are also close to our targeted market and the chefs that are the primary consumers of our brands. They are the ones transforming the raw material into something unique, and that also educates local consumers.