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Food – Making the cheddar

Kraft keeps profits cooking in the Middle East

by Executive Staff

The largest food company in the United States and the second largest worldwide, Kraft Foods, has become not only a common household name, but also synonymous with success in the world of fast moving consumer goods. Although the company is best known for its cheese products, Kraft maintains a diversified portfolio with hundreds of well- known brands covering every category from ketchup to chocolate. Patrick Satamian, vice president and area director of Kraft Foods Middle East and Africa, explained how the company has managed to establish and maintain its position as a global leader in the industry. “Kraft is a company that focuses very much on quality, on integrity, on the way our products are manufactured, the way we distribute our products, the freshness of our products; there’s a combination of factors which explain why we are in the leadership position in various categories,” he said.

The cornerstone feature of fast moving consumer goods, like those that Kraft manufactures, is that they are sold quickly at a relatively low cost. With a significant increase in commodities costs, this past year was a difficult one for both producers and consumers of goods. “At a certain point this year, most commodities — like wheat, flour, sugar, cocoa, you name it — reached their historical price-point peak,” Satamian described. As a result, consumer habits have had to adapt. People are more conscious of their spending and are often avoiding unnecessary purchases. Yet, indulgences like Toblerone chocolate, one of Kraft’s luxury chocolate brands, are still selling because the company has managed to keep not only attractive products, but also attractive prices.
According to Kraft’s second quarter results for the Middle East and Africa region, the company recorded double- digit organic net revenue growth at 13%, resulting in a combined organic net revenue growth of 17% for developing markets. Satamian cited successful brand and marketing investments, as well as favorable product mix and pricing that more than offset higher input costs as primary drivers for Kraft’s impressive performance.

Taste of success, hunger for more
Kraft’s success in the region has driven its plans to continue expanding here. April of this year saw the opening of Kraft’s sixth manufacturing facility in the region, located in Bahrain. The company derives some of its core strength from having its factories and organizations on the ground, Satamian explained. “It’s a big asset and advantage. We can produce products that really meet consumer needs, we can produce products which are fresher and we are faster when reacting to consumer trade dynamics,” he outlined. He elaborated on another benefit of operating locally, as opposed to shipping all products from abroad, which is that it creates opportunities for local talent. This, in turn, gives Kraft an invaluable competitive edge because it immediately brings in new and loyal customers, and makes the company much more effective in communicating with its customer base and satisfying their needs.
Aside from several factories on the ground, Satamian pointed to Kraft’s people as one of the chief reasons for the company’s long-standing success. “Getting the right people with the right skills is most important. With this you take the business to another level,” he stated. The multinational company strives for diversity amongst its employees because bringing together different tastes and points of view fosters more creativity, more flexibility, an open-minded attitude; it allows the company to extend its reach across various nations and cultures. When Kraft recently acquired the biscuit division of Danone, it accepted the existing French business culture of the company and simultaneously introduced certain elements of its own way of doing business. “It’s always a balancing act between diversity and integration. You need to accept diversity and welcome different ways of thinking, but at the same time you need to integrate,” said Satamian.
With so many iconic products like Tang, Oreo, and various cheeses, it is obvious why Kraft maintains leading positions is all the categories in which it operates. Aside from the taste and quality of its products, Kraft has the business experience and strategy, the right people behind the brand names and as Satamian put it, “Kraft products make you dream.”

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