The Horeca Trade team who work at the Dubai office. The Horeca Trade team who work at the Dubai office.

Wael Al Jamil, general manager of HorecaTrade UAE and Oman, told Caterer Middle East about the company's growth and its CSR activities.

How competitive is the foodservice market in the region at the moment?
It’s very competitive but here is a big pie for everybody — everybody is doing his role and working hand-in-hand to make the offering to the end consumer better. In the last 20 years, the consumer has gained so much more choice and availability of different cuisines because of the distributors, so it’s more collaborative than competitive.

How easy do you find it to grow the business in this region?
It’s not easy to grow the business but the UAE is better than a lot of places. The government is supportive in making sure the segment improves. We’re part of a bigger segment — the hospitality segment — and the government is very keen to improve the overall segment. As much as it is challenging to penetrate, we have to thank the government for creating a supportive environment.

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What are you currently trying to achieve?
We are continuing to do what we need to do in terms of service. Service doesn’t only focus on product delivery or the knowledge of the team, but on all fronts, whether it’s our product portfolio, giving back to the community, giving back to the shareholders, amd so forth. It’s about focusing on all fronts and improving our relationship with all of the stakeholders.

What are the main challenges you will face this year?
The key challenge for us is trying to initiate change from a community or eco-friendly standpoint. We see a huge opportunity when it comes to reducing the UAE’s carbon footprint and improving the overall eco-system, to make it a greener country. It’s very challenging to have a lot of people tick the same box. The government is very supportive [of becoming more eco-friendly], the customer is supportive to some extent but not willing to pay the price for it while the consumer is not as informed as they should be about how this could change everybody’s lifestyle. We are very adamant on this but it’s a key barrier for us to overcome.

The community [encompassing the environment] is one of our five top pillars and it will continue to be one of our top pillars for as long as we exist. Our employees are our number one pillar — making sure they have a working environment that is rewarding and entrepreneurial — our customers are our second pillar, our suppliers are our third pillar and our shareholders are the fourth.

Can you tell me about the agreement with Nestlé Waters to add Perrier sparkling mineral water to Horeca’s beverage portfolio?
Perrier has been on the radar for Horeca and Bidvest for a long time. We have a very special relationship with Nestlé Waters as a whole and our promise to the business of Nestlé Waters is to always increase its penetration and reach to the consumer. So, whether it’s with Sanpellegrino, Acqua Panna or with Perrier Vittel, we’re aiming to do that. With Nestlé Waters right now, we represent Sanpellegrino and Acqua Panna as the table sparkling water and still water, respectively, that goes with fine dining moments. [Other brands] Perrier Vittel, are all-day beverages and Sohat is water that comes from Lebanon. Those offerings are supported by the Sanpellegrino sparkling fruit beverages [in our portfolio].

How will you be participating in Gulfood?
At Gulfood we are very supportive of the brands we represent. Most of them will either have something new [product wise] or a new relationships to showcase.