Sumeet Mathur is the Managing Director for FrieslandCampina’s Middle East operations. Sumeet has been part of the FrieslandCampina family since 2010. Prior to taking over the leadership of FrieslandCampina’s Middle East business, Sumeet held the position of AMEA Regional Category Director.
In his current role, Sumeet is in charge of implementing a strategic approach in line with the overall global vision of the company— which operates across the Arabian Peninsula in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen, as well as the Levant; including Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
- Can you brief me about your organization?
FrieslandCampina is one of the world’s leading and largest dairy cooperatives with over 140 years of heritage. Our unique business model focus on high quality, healthy and nutritious products has enabled us to grow our equity progressively in the region. We started importing our Rainbow evaporated milk in tins in 1955, and have then since introduced Frico natural Dutch cheese and Friso a premium infant food brand in the GCC.
Today, FrieslandCampina is owned by more than 18,000 member farmers who provide millions of families around the world with dairy-based nutrition each and every day. The company operates with its ‘grass to glass’ business model. The model is anchored on the ability to have full control of the whole chain: from the farms (grass) to the final product (glass) which not many multinational companies have. Its track record of expertise in areas like farming, food production, food safety, and healthy nutrition enable FrieslandCampina to have a strong and open relationship with its consumers, based on quality and trust. Our consistency in delivering on our purpose of ‘nourishing by nature’ has been a key driver of our growth.
- What are the company’s main strategies and growth plans in the coming period in the UAE specifically?
Between now and 2050, AMEA is expected to be the fastest growing region. This is one of the reasons that the Middle East in general and UAE specifically is at the heart of our global strategy. We are one of the earliest dairy companies in UAE, having established our presence in 1955. Thus, we already have a long-standing heritage in the region and are committed to expanding our business even further.
The region has the world’s highest growth in demand for milk and dairy products – consumption has doubled over the last 30 years, contributing to more than 60 percent of the global consumption gains. The growth is driven by key megatrends such as, increasing need for health and wellness solutions and the growing sensitivity to food safety. We will continue to invest in the UAE to grow our core category presence and launch innovative products.
As a team we’ve grown rapidly in the last 5 years and we expect to continue developing. Geographically, we have ties with strong partners and distributors to cover every part of UAE— this means thousands of people on the ground delivering the products on a daily bases, and we will keep expanding.
Rainbow Milk is regarded as one of the most popular products by FrieslandCampina in the Middle East and is also lovingly called Abu Qos by the local consumers. In addition to Rainbow Milk, Also, Frico cheese is a very special product; both delicious and healthy! To elaborate, every 10 kilos of milk come into 1kg Frico cheese. After having seen how well it’s being received in consumer reviews, we know there is great potential for expansion. Thus, we are planning to invest more in the brand, as well also focus more on the food service sector overall. There’s a lot in the pipeline, with exciting times ahead of us.
- How do you see the local dairy industry and how does it stack up to the market as a whole, and to the competition?
The local dairy industry is quite well developed with strong brand names that operate at par with many of the global manufacturers in terms of ambitions as well as technical knowhow. Given the complexity of changing consumer behaviors, we expect the dairy sector to grow at a higher pace. In the coming years, it is predicted that fresh milk consumption across the GCC markets will reach a volume of 1 billion liters by 2022. We expect this to be driven by the recent recovery in oil prices and further diversification of the local economies, working in conjunction with increasing government and private investments to yield job growth and per capita income. Thus one challenge in the short term could be the increased focus of some of the regional brands to gain a larger share of the UAE market.
One of the key asks of the local dairy industry is the increasing need for nourishing dairy products. This stems from a growing health consciousness among consumers in the region, resulting in a shift towards healthy, natural food and beverage products and the availability of other milk varieties, including both local and international brands of low-fat, vitamin-fortified and lactose-free milk products. Another reason for this is the rising number of expatriates, which has influenced a steady growth in western dietary habits. As such, European countries like the Netherlands have long encouraged such farming practices. Combining this with the diversity of our portfolio puts FrieslandCampina is in a good position to cater to the growing demand.
Also, local dairy companies mainly focus on supplying fresh milk, but we complete the picture and complement the market with long life, powder and evaporated milk so UAE consumer needs are always fulfilled.
What FrieslandCampina can promise is: commitment to constantly innovate and provide our consumers with high-quality and valuable dairy-based nutrition— and our evaporated milk products continue to lead the market in this category. Over the coming years, we aim to continue our focus on research initiatives and investments on new products led by FrieslandCampina’s Innovation Centre in Wageningen, to ensure that we always offer our consumers the dairy products they want and need the most.