Agthia outlines growth plan

Profits at Agthia Group, one of the UAE's largest food and beverage companies, surged by more than 40 per cent on the back of strong consumer spending.

Soaring sales of Al Ain mineral water contributed to a surge in annual profits of almost 50 per cent for the brand's owner, Agthia Group. Sammy Dallal / The National
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Agthia Group, one of the UAE's largest food and beverage companies, has plans to expand its product range.

Company officials discussed the plans at the Gulfood show in Dubai yesterday.

One area of focus is mineral water, a sector where the company's Al Ain brand is a market leader.

Last year the company added to its water portfolio with Pelit Su, a Turkish spring company, which it has since rebranded as Alpin. Agthia plans to launch the Alpin brand in Turkey in the first quarter of this year before introducing it to the Emirates in the second half.

"We use a dual source with Al Ain. You have not only our spring, our wells, we use the municipality water, which is taken through a very sophisticated water treatment process - perhaps the most sophisticated water centre in the Gulf," said Fasahat Beg, the general manager of the company's consumer business division. "Alpin is a spring water. We have the ability to run a dual-brand strategy," he added.

The company also plans to introduce more Yoplait products this year.

"The Yoplait franchise offers us a lot of opportunity," said Mr Beg. "It is the number one yoghurt business around the world. There is a huge line extension possibility for us."

The company commissioned consumer research last year and has just received the results. It will study the results to see whether the beverages or food side of the business offers the most opportunity.

"No doubt there will be some new things this year," Mr Beg added. "It is the nature of Agthia. You can see the size of the business now and our presence here [at Gulfood]."

"If you were here in 2007 or 2008 when we were first at this exhibition we had one small booth. Now we are occupying a huge space and have a very diverse portfolio."

At the same time, Agthia has been working to build its business beyond its stronghold in the Abu Dhabi emirate.

The company, which supplies Etihad Airways and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development among other organisations, has historically had a larger market share in Abu Dhabi compared with other emirates with its Al Ain water brand.

"We are much more available in the Northern Emirates now. We were never there. We have [also] grown significantly in Dubai," said Mr Beg.

Agthia's Al Ain water business is working at "maximum capacity" now, he said, and the company is putting together a long-term strategy to make sure it keeps up with demand.

Last month, Agthia reported that its profit had surged by more than 40 per cent on the back of strong consumer spending.

Sales grew by 16 per cent to Dh1.33 billion (US$362 million) last year, while profits rose 44.5 per cent to Dh125m.