The new facility will allow Al Ain Water, part of Abu Dhabi-based Agthia, to increase its total production to 52 million cases a year, up 62% from its current 32 million cases. The factory includes a Krones production line, capable of producing around 72,000 bottles an hour.
The company has also introduced a new bottle design, with a new shape created to be more ergonomically friendly. The bottles, available in 330ml, 500ml and 1.5l sizes, now also use 30% less plastic than Al Ain Water’s previous designs.
Bottling up growth
“The bottled water market is growing at an unprecedented scale across the Middle East region, and with UAE rapidly progressing, our new, long-term manufacturing strategy is to constantly meet rising demand. We are a recognised leader in the market, and with Agthia making a total investment of approximately [US$24.5m] in this facility, we fully expect to increase our share of the domestic market and continue to consolidate our position,” said Fasahat Beg, executive vice president of Agthia’s consumer business division.
Al Ain Water’s new facility boasts FSSC 22000 food safety certification from Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA). The company claims its facility is the first in the UAE, and among the first in the Middle East as a whole, to receive the certification, which is recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
Also, as legally required as of October, all Al Ain Water products are accredited with the Emirates Quality Mark (EQM). The company said it was also among the first bottled water firms to gain the EQM accreditation.
Mandatory quality testing
The EQM scheme is now mandatory for all bottled water sold in the UAE, whether produced locally or imported. The scheme was first announced by the UAE government in May 2013, with its introduction planned for September of that year – but this was pushed back to October 2014.
More than 100 companies producing or importing bottled water have had to register for EQM, which requires on-site auditing of production facilities. The UAE has contracted NSF International to conduct the audits, with the company testing water for more than 160 contaminants, including chemical, biological and radiological substances.
“Food safety management is essential for safer bottled water and NSF International can help beverage manufacturers across the globe gain access to the growing United Arab Emirates market. Bottled water manufacturers can streamline their certifications, saving time and costs, by using NSF to manage certifications to both NSF and Emirates Quality Mark standards, along with their global food safety approvals,” said Tom Chestnut, senior vice president at NSF International’s Global Food Safety and Quality division.