Commitment to quality ‘vital to succeed in Saudi market’

47“Industry needs expertise” Al-Rabie Saudi Food Co. Ltd. CEO Monther Trad Alharthi told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

The two main challenges facing the food industry are the talented manpower and the availability of fruit sources, says the top executive of a major food company.

For the sake of the country, employing hard working and enthusiastic Saudi men and women, train and develop them is a responsibility of the business sector and an investment for the country, he said. After all, young Saudis need jobs and enormous opportunities are available in the country.

However, Alharthi added that the Ministry of Labor should have an open dialogue with leaders of different industrial sectors, especially the food industry, in relation to the changes made to the labor laws. Not to forget that each industrial sectors’ requirements are different and they should be taken into consideration by the appropriate authorities.

“We at Al-Rabie have an excellent Saudi work force. The administration helps all the Saudi employees at all levels. This way we provide added value to our economy,” said Alharthi who holds degrees from the United States — the Bachelor degree in business administration from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and MBA from South Western University, Washington DC.

Al-Rabie Saudi Food Co. Ltd., is a founder member of the Arab Beverage Association (ABA). ABA is a member of the Arab Federation for Food industry, which is affiliate of the Arab League.

The construction of Al-Rabie Riyadh factory started in 1978 and became operational by 1980. It was a joint venture with Irish dairy board (ABB), but 1990 it became a 100 percent Saudi company managed by Saudis. At that time the factory was manufacturing long life dairy products (milk and laban) cheese, yogurt and juices. Today, Al-Rabie is mainly producing and wide range of fruit juices and long life milk products.

“Today, our current production capacity is 450 million liters of juice and milk. Therefore, the need to build a second factory is a must and the announcement will be made soon.

Alharthi stressed that the main market for Al-Rabie products is Saudi Arabia — “domestic market is the biggest and cannot be neglected”. The exporting markets are the GCC countries, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. There is a huge demand for Al-Rabie products in North Africa (Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco) and USA. In the near future, we will support the market in these regions,” Alharthi added.

Asked about the future strategy, Alharthi said Al-Rabie is working with international companies to develop dietary products. “Keeping dietary products tasty, healthy and natural is the main challenge.”

The total number of employs at Al-Rabie Company is 550; 100 Saudis and 450 non-Saudi. “We do have women working in the company,” Alharthi said, adding that Al-Rabie is planning to hire more Saudis, both male and female, in the future. For the time being, the company is training Saudis at different jobs and offering English language and management skills training. About sourcing of raw materials, Alharthi said: “Saudi Arabia does not have enough fruit to make industry self-sufficient and so we depend on imports”. All raw materials come from abroad — mango from India, apple from Austria, orange concentrate from Brazil, etc. “The company maintains strict specifications and quality control for all the raw materials.

Al-Rabie manufactures two types of packaging formats — long life and short shelf life.

“Saudi market is a very competitive. Therefore, it is important to maintain the good quality of products to survive the demanding and the expanding market. Al-Rabie Company follows the Saudi standard of Saudi Food & Drug Administration (SFA), which follows the international regulations of American FDA,” Alharthi said.

Al-Rabie Saudi Food Co. Ltd., a company with 100 percent Saudi capital, is one of the pioneer companies in the manufacturing of dairy products, juices and food in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Rabie has achieved outstanding development, obtaining a wide recognition of its products and succeeded to increase its share in the market. The reasons for that achievement are the quality of the raw material and the strict control system that is applied to guarantee high quality products.

“The company succeeded to occupy a distinguished position and to gain confidence among its customers and consumers, to the extent that the company will always remain their first choice of quality,” Alharthi said.

“Investing in the right people and the best new technology helped Al-Rabie occupy a position that helped producing exceptionally high quality products that we believe the consumers deserve,” he said.

Al-Rabie always strives to provide the best and latest products to its customers, keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the market. In that respect, the company launched Prisma Nectar, a combination of delicious and appetizing fruit juices that give a double sensation.

Saudi Arabia has made magnificent strides over the years to become one of the world most advanced nations. Consequently, the quality of life has improved a lot in all fields, not least in the production of high quality foods for a rapidly expanding population.

“Al-Rabie is extremely proud of having played an active role in the development process for so long. In the future, I expect to see more and more of effective strides,” Alharthi said.

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