The joint venture, formed two years ago, saw Albert Bartlett partner with Al Dahra Holding, one of the UAE’s largest agribusiness investment groups. Al Dahra Bartlett aims to develop the still-nascent potato market in the region, focusing on messages of quality and heath, according to the joint venture’s CEO, Tim Ha.
“The opportunity in this market is not just that it’s in growth, but that you can differentiate your product, and put that [healthy] message across about the product. That’s exciting – it’s not a blank canvas, but it’s something that’s not being done at the moment, so there’s an opportunity to step in and do that,” he said.
Differentiation pays dividends
Al Dahra Bartlett has been supplying branded potatoes to UAE retailers including Spinneys and Geant for six months, and according to Hammond the consumer response has been positive. He said feedback from shoppers showed they had been responding to the differentiated products – with specific potato varieties for frying or for boiling.
“Before, people were just going into supermarkets and selecting a potato without knowing what its function was. But to do [differentiation] well, you also have to have the retailers on board for that process – and so far it’s been good. Retailers are learning, along with us, about the market – but it’s not been difficult having a dialogue with them, and proposing suggestions to them,” said Hammond.
In terms of marketing, he said Al Dahra Bartlett would focus on the same messages – including taste and consistency – as in other markets, but with a different advertising strategy more suited to the market’s stage of development.
“In the UK we do mainstream TV advertising – out here it’s too early to do that. Information at the point of sale will be a key driver, and information in retailer magazines – they use that quite a lot here. We’ve used radio very successfully in the US, and that may be a medium we use here as well,” Hammond said.
KSA retail within a year
Al Dahra Bartlett is also eyeing the Saudi Arabian retail market: currently the firm is selling potatoes into the kingdom, but not directly into retail, according to Hammond. He said the company planned to enter the Saudi retail market directly within the next 12 months.
“Saudi Arabia is a bigger market, but in potatoes and fresh vegetables it’s not as developed as the UAE. The products are there, but they tend to be loose offers, or in fairly rudimentary packaging. It’s a challenge to break into that, but also an opportunity, if we come along with something that’s better-presented, and better in terms of consistency of quality as well,” said Hammond.
“You can go to retailers in Saudi Arabia, and sometimes their potato offer is good, and sometimes it’s not. It’s the consistency – and that’s what we as a company are good at,” he added.