What is Chef Middle East’s Dairy Solution? What are the industry trends? What are the challenges and the future of the Dairy sector in the region? We caught up with Jiji Mathews to get insights from his expert view.
What is the Dairy range that Chef Middle East provides?
Jiji Mathews: Chef Middle East is known for providing quality Dairy products with a wide range of cheeses sourced from Europe and other parts of the world. In addition to monthly sea shipments, we also import a range of fresh cheeses such as Burrata, Buffalo Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, Ricotta, Mascarpone and many more by air on a weekly basis, from our European consolidation hubs. Apart from cheeses, we also carry a great selection of Creams, Butters and Blends in our portfolio.
What is the focus in the Dairy Solution you provide?
Jiji Mathews: Quality has always been one of our main criteria in brand and products selection. Our Dairy brands include major names such as Président, Galbani, Lurpak, Arla Pro, Melusine, Grand’Or, Casa Sorentino, Valcolatte, to name a few. Our focus is service and solution-based products depending on customer needs and requirements.
How do you respond to your ever-changing customers’ needs and requirements?
Jiji Mathews: To further enhance our Dairy category, we are currently developing a cheese board solution, targeting Hotels and Fine dining restaurants. The offering will be an assortment of various cheeses that can be customized in terms of selection and size and which can be served straight on the cheese counters without portioning from large cheese logs and wheels.
In addition, as the trend towards healthy and Organic foods is increasing, we are also planning on introducing a new range of Organic Cheeses with as clear focus on breakfast buffets for Hotels and Restaurants.
Are you launching any new range or product for 2019?
Jiji Mathews: In the coming months, we will introduce a range of new products from Arla Pro brand. Arla provides kitchen professionals with exceptional value by combining the best of natural dairy with out-of-home expertise and innovation. The range comes with channel-specific innovations, outstanding service, proactive business partnership, inspiration and engagement with culinary know-how. In addition, we will also be sourcing speciality premium cheeses from France and Italy.
What are the main trends you’re seeing in the Dairy sector right now?
Jiji Mathews: There are different trends based on the market segments within the foodservice industry. First, we are witnessing that the lower tier restaurants are focusing on high-quality ingredients to elevate their menu offering. These restaurants are experiencing higher footfall and value in average spent per cover. Similarly, we also observe a trend towards cost-efficient procuring of ingredients from some Hotels and Restaurants to bring down the food cost. This trend is resulting in procuring inferior quality products.
We also see an increasing trend in using natural cheeses over using processed cheese in many restaurants offering quality Burgers.
What is the main challenge you are facing in the industry?
Jiji Mathews: One of the main challenge in the Dairy industry is the price volatility. In a market where customers are looking for 6-month to 1-year price and volume contracts, the supply chain planning with volatile pricing becomes very challenging. In addition, adverse weather conditions result in shortage of milk and due to change in feed, the ratio of milk solids also changes. This results in low production of certain cheese variants, hence shortage.
What is the supply chain for the Dairy industry like?
Jiji Mathews: From a distributor perspective, it depends on the range of products offering. Some distributors only sell commodity products which generally drives high consumption levels. Therefore, these distributors carry high inventories based on cost opportunity and shelf life. Other distributors who import fresh cheeses air freight the products and generally holds only one-week stocks. Managing fresh cheese supply chain becomes very complex as the demand from customers are not very well forecasted and fluctuates rather frequently. Supply chain must factor various data, forecast, up-coming events etc.
How quickly is the industry growing in the Middle East and what direction do you see it taking?
Jiji Mathews: Though we do not have an audited number for Foodservice Dairy, we are witnessing an impressive growth within our own Dairy category. With the continuous growth in tourism and expatriates’ population, the demand for authentic and speciality cheeses is on a growing trend and the market is expected to further mature in terms of gourmet cheese and dairy consumption and availability.
Questions answered by Jiji Mathews, Dairy Category Manager at Chef Middle East – firstname.lastname@example.org