IN GOOD SPIRITS

Lebanon 2017 | INDUSTRY | B2B

Leaders in the food and beverage sector are optimistic after a successful 2016 and are looking forward to new opportunities in and outside of Lebanon.

Joseph Vincenti
JOSEPH VINCENTI
President
G. Vincenti & Sons
George Rbeiz
GEORGE RBEIZ
General Manager Middle East & North Africa
Diageo

What have been the milestones and achievements for the company over the years?

JOSEPH VINCENTI G. Vincenti & Sons started operations in Lebanon in 1953 based on the company my father started in Palestine. We are an Italian family. We have been aggressive with our growth strategy and within a few years we have come to represent the leading brands in each of our fields. For example, in the food business we represent Barilla, which is our number-one food partner. We also represent Lesieur, while for other food products we created our own brand, Maxim's, which is also a leading brand now. We are also leaders in the confectionery segment, where we represent Ferrero, the leading chocolate brand in the world. We also represent Mentos chewing gum and Haribo as well as various leading brands in the alcoholic beverages segment.

GEORGE RBEIZ 2016 was a challenging year, and the broader economy did not do well. However, inbound tourism was good, and we certainly had both great summer and end-of-year festive seasons. Our on-trade channel grew by 22% and that made for a good year. We closed 2016 with double-digit growth, and we are very proud of that considering the economy and the overall uncertain situation. In terms of market share, our brands grew at a greater rate than the whole category, in particular vodkas and high-end as well as value whiskies. It was unexpectedly a great year, especially in its second half.

Out of your extensive portfolio, what represents the core of your business?

JV Our core brands depend on the sector. In the food sector, the core of the business includes Barilla and Maxim's. In the chocolate and confectionery segment, it is Ferrero, Mentos, and Haribo that are the top brands. In the alcohol segment, we represent Famous Grouse Scotch whiskey, McKinnon, Courvoisier Cognac, Chopin vodka, and many other leading brands.

GR Johnnie Walker is a flagship brand. We have always aimed at building brands with purpose and Johnnie Walker is a pioneer in this area. Our Keep Walking Lebanon campaign is a clear manifestation of this in particular as it addresses Lebanese' perseverance, resilience, progress and resourcefulness through its Keep Walking Lebanon Platform. Johnnie Walker celebrates Lebanese who never give up, foster progress and resilience in their lives, and keep walking. Whiskey is still number one in value and revenues. Beer is the second-largest category in value yet first in volume. Vodka comes third in value, half the value of whiskey and is a becoming more popular in the on-trade while whisky share is 70% in the off-trade.

What are your goals and priorities for the next year?

JV The companies we represent are important international brands and this has allowed our company to grow and become an important player in Lebanon. Our goal for 2018 is to expand, not only in Lebanon, but also in other countries in the Middle East. We already have branches in Syria and Jordan and hope to expand into Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

GR Lebanon's main strength is its culture, people, and their attitude/lifestyle. When we say “Keep Walking" we refer to people who have been through so many challenges and difficulties in years of wars, political, and economic unrest but yet continued progressing, celebrating, and enjoying life. The Lebanese still go out, still invest here, still build, still work, and still continue to better themselves and their country despite the circumstances, no matter how bad things are. They are great hosts and hospitality is a key pillar of tourism and the economy. For that, Diageo is committed along with other players to improve the industry's standards of services and really put Lebanon at the forefront. Sustainable development and building communities that thrive is our ambition and certainly want our products to be part of a balanced lifestyle. We want to always support projects or initiatives that align well with our ambition. One other major focus area is our talent and we strive to foster an attractive and admirable work environment.