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Tanmiah went through a successful IPO on Saudi Tadawul last year. It operates three plants, two in Saudi Arabia and one in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: One of Gulf’s biggest names in fresh chicken and processed meat, Tanmiah Food Company, is giving serious thought to get into plant-based protein foods. And UAE could well be the test market for this venture by the Saudi company, which last August went in for a $107 million IPO.

“We do believe a market is there for plant-based protein products in the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar in particular,” said Zulfiqur Hamadani, CEO. “There are some initial studies we find particularly interesting as consumers seek healthier options. So, if they find plant-based protein options that taste like chicken or beef, we could try and serve them what they want. We will decide this year which way to head.”

Tanmiah operates two processing plants in its home market, Saudi Arabia, and another in the UAE, which was commissioned in 2009. The latter producers chicken and beef burger patties and nuggets and is currently going through a doubling of capacity to around 10,000-12,000 metric tonnes a year. The company is one of the key regional suppliers of processed meat to quick-service restaurants such as Burger King, McDonald’s, etc.

Stock - Zulfiqur Hamadani Tanmiah CEO
“If we get into plant-based proteins, we could either do it at the existing Dubai Industrial City factory, or have them made in Saudi Arabia and then shipped over,” the CEO added.

Choice of UAE

According to Hamadani, Dubai and the UAE would be an ideal test market for healthier plant-based products. “The demographic mix would make it ideal to bring such a concept,” he added. “We have the big QSR brands as clients here too, and we find that while chicken options remain ever popular, beef is becoming less so.”

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Image Credit: Supplied

Plant-based meat options have been tested out by some F&B brands in the UAE, but it is yet to get the kind of mass appeal that would warrant massive investments in new production capacities. So far, these are niche servings offered to a limited user base.

Tanmiah, meanwhile, is also working on its meat options. “We are primarily a fresh poultry company and we are committing capital expenditure on a new facility in Saudi Arabia, where the capacity will be 300 tonnes in a day,” Hamadani added. “That should be commissioned in the fourth quarter this year.”

From production to serving?

Tanmiah, interestingly, is growing into a full service food company. From food production, it is now in the business of serving as well, having acquired the master-franchise role for the US fried chicken restaurant brand Popeyes. “A Popeyes outlet was opened in Saudi Arabia in December and will soon be expanded with five more,” he said. “Operating a fried chicken restaurant is also a natural evolution for us, I say. We have the rights for the entire MENA territory, but in the UAE there are two sub-franchises.

“Fried chicken is big business – everywhere.”