Emirates Food Industries' CEO Wasfi Kaso can call in all production needs from two dairy farms and a factory in Al Ain. His plan is to have the new brand across UAE retail stores in one go. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Keep an eye out for the latest dairy brand to turn up at UAE’s supermarket shelves – Hayatna. Because the company behind it, Emirates Food Industries, certainly has ambitions on where they want to take the brand in a highly competitive category.

This is so even with dairy prices being among the most closely monitored by UAE authorities and any retail price increase needs official clearance. None of this fazes Wasfi Kaso, CEO of EFI, “Not many outside of the dairy industry know that the UAE still imports a sizeable share of its requirements, which is at 30-40 per cent. So, with the emphasis on National Food Security needs, we want to be that new home-grown dairy brand that can gain marketshare in the 30-40 per cent imported space. That in itself is quite substantial.”

Certainly, in the last two years, existing brands such as Al Rawabi have raised their production capacities. Emirates Food Industries already operates two dairy farms – National and Masaken - and a factory in Al Ain, with a herd size of more 6,000 putting out 39 million letres of milk a year. Some of that production will now go into developing the Hayatna range.

Having those two farms and factory meant that additional capex was not much needed on the sourcing and production. Apart from milk, the Hayatna range will include juices, yoghurt, cheese and fresh cream.

“In time, we will have a full basket of F&B products; we are starting with dairy,” the CEO added. “By year-end, we ant to have 150 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) of which 40 per cent will be value-added. That will also help us compensate for those of our products that will be price restricted.

“We are a partner in the UAE’s Food Security Council, and that means we have to be in control of the full supply chain. That will decide the critical part of securing supplies with the least disruptions.”

The mention about supply chains and disruptions is a nod to what’s been happening the last two years and, since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, been happening again. Food supplies the world over are encountering some of the biggest problems to date, and adding to the industry’s woes have been crop failures or difficulties in shipping out.

Upstream, downstream

Interestingly, EFI’s primary interests were in the animal feed business. “That’s what we have done in these 15 years – so from there to launching the dairy products makes us a fully integrated foo business,” the CEO said. “In time, we will take care of everything from the farm to the table.”

The new brand will be introduced in one go at supermarket and other quick-service stores in the UAE. “There is no point taking a staggered approach when launching in the home market,” said Kaso. “As I said, the dairy range will come out first, but immediately followed by health and wellness focused food and beverage. That’s where we will bring in the real value-addition.”