STICKING TO CORE VALUES

Sharjah 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

Recognition at several global and regional forums and awards continue to help GFI become the best frozen food company in its target markets.

Jacek Plewa
BIOGRAPHY
Jacek Plewa is the General Manager of GFI, Global Food Snacking, International Beverages and Filling Industries (IBFI), and Aquaponic Farm ventures—all part of Albatha Holding, one of the largest conglomerates in the UAE. Plewa holds a master's degree in economics from the Warsaw School of Economics and a master's in political science from Warsaw University. He is also an alumnus of the Harvard School of Business and the University of Montreal. Before his stint with GFI, he worked as the Regional Sales Director and Market Development Director for Pepsi International Polska from 1991 to 2000.

GFI was established in 1992. What have been some of the company's key recent achievements?

GFI has achieved a number of milestones over the years, in line with its mission to offer innovative, quality, and trusted products that address our customers' health and wellness needs and make a difference in the lives of not only its consumers but its partners, employees, and the members of the local communities we serve. In fact, we are the first in the Middle East to launch a range of healthy chicken burgers and nuggets. Our Healthy Farm brand has been locally and internationally recognized by different award bodies. Our Plant Protein Burgers were even named the 'Most Innovative Halal Product' at the Gulfood Innovation Awards 2019. Similarly, our brand ZING and Aqua Kale Portions have also gained significant traction. All these accomplishments have helped boost our efforts as we strive to become the best frozen food company in our target markets, guided by our core values of commitment, achievement, teamwork, and entrepreneurship.

Are you planning to expand your operations in other regions?

We are now in talks with several manufacturers in China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan to co-manufacture our Healthy Farm products. Similarly, we are exploring opportunities in the US.

What challenges have GFI overcome to maintain its position within the industry and region?

GFI's strength is its innovation culture, business acumen, and willingness to understand consumer needs. All these strengths mean it can offer excellent products and solutions and stay ahead of the curve. In recent years, we have witnessed a growing shift in consumer preference, as consumers have become more discerning when it comes to food choices. Apart from being health conscious, modern consumers are also concerned about other issues such as animal welfare and the environment. To keep up with this trend, we have come up with our unique 'Never from Meat' platform to offer delicious and nutritious plant-based products.

Recently, GFI launched new plant-based burgers. Can you tell us more about your strategy and your local presence in agronomy?

We offer plant-based burgers to address the rising demand for healthy and environment-friendly food products. We produce our newly launched burgers by using significantly less water, land, and energy. The process also releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to support plant-based foods as it promotes better agricultural practicises. Our plant protein burgers can be eaten by everyone, including vegans and flexitarians, those who adopt a plant-based diet but occasionally eat meat. In the UAE, 40% of consumers are open to choosing meat alternatives for health, animal welfare, and environmental reasons. They opt to go for plant protein food products not only to improve their health but also to reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, in line with the sustainability efforts, we are also running a huge aquafarm in the UAE where kale, a healthy superfood, is grown in water instead of soil in an organic way. On this farm, kale is rapidly processed and formed into Aqua Kale portions, which are then frozen to preserve their freshness, increase shelf life, and maintain nutritional values.

How is the company utilizing AI and machine learning?

GFI always keeps abreast of the latest technological innovations. We are currently leveraging the power of blockchain technology for our Healthy Farm products.

Last year, you received the UAE Innovation Award 2018 and the World Food Innovation Awards 2018. What does this mean to the company?

Our new products and innovations continue to draw attention at the regional and international levels, and we will continue to innovate to meet the health and wellness needs of our customers. Take for example our revolutionary 'Never from meat' plant-based protein burgers, which include superfoods such as kale and quinoa. Our commitment to promote the health of our consumers is also aligned with our 'Nothing to hide, the choice is yours' promise. Moving forward, we will continue to do more for the health of people.