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COVID-19 helped us to speed up investments

05 June 202013 min reading
Eng. Walid Al-Hazaa Al-Hazaa Investment Group Operations Director

“Thanks to our QC team we are trained to handle such pandemic as part of our food safety strategy. This pandemic of COVID-19 made us focus more on the unpredicted scenes that might happen in the future and trained us and our team to make quick responses. The Group’s main focus today is on the expansions that are taking place at our different factories, mainly at the noodles and pasta factories. These expansions are necessary in order to satisfy the increasing demand for our noodles and pasta products especially during these days of COVID-19, we are adding new production lines in both factories in cooperation with Bühler.”

Al-Hazaa Investment Group with investments that complement each other in the fields of grain grinding and storage, pasta production, feed production, plastics industry and energy and it has been growing with its world giant partner Bühler that is based in Switzerland. Al Hazaa is operating in the Middle East countries Jordan, Irak, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. The next target market for the group will be Saudi Arabia. Al-Hazaa Investment Group Operations Eng. Director Walid Al-Hazaa gave an interview to BBM and talked about their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic which upset the world’s balances. He said that thanks to their QC team they were trained to handle such pandemic as part of their food safety strategy and their products are available at markets to cover the huge demand during the crisis.

The young manager highlighted that Al-Hazaa Investment Group is among companies with strong capital in the Middle East and recently they are especially known with investments in pasta and noodle production.

He also said that as an investment group that works mainly in the grain milling sector, they are considering the best time for establishing a modern bakery chain that will enable them to apply all their milling experience transferred to them through many generations to produce the best quality traditional and modern pastries.

Replying to our questions Walid Al-Hazaa said:

Hello, Mr. Walid Al Hazaa, first of all thank you for accepting the interview request of BBM Magazine. Can you give us information about Al Hazaa Investment Group? How would you like to introduce yourself to Turkish and global markets? Al-Hazaa Investment Group is a family business established in 1940’s, the founder of the Group is Mr. Sharif Al-Hazaa, peace be upon him. Despite the limited capabilities available at that time in his small city Tikrit in northern Iraq, he decided to build a new modern flour mill, as his father had been working in grain farming and trading in Iraq. He knew that this project would be beneficial for both himself and his society and country, and here I would like to quote him saying: “working in this field brings us reward and recompense.”

Establishing the first flour mill in its modern terms was a big deal at that time in Iraq. His passion has transferred through generations and reached us today.

I am Walid Al-Hazaa, a mechanical engineer graduated from the German Jordanian University in Jordan, I also studied at Reutlingen University in Germany and attended many courses at Bühler training centers in Uzwil and Beilngries. As for my working experience, I worked for Robert Bosch GmbH in Reutlingen as an intern and after graduation I started working with my family group. In 2018 I worked on a project between Al-Hazaa Investment Group and Bühler AG to build the first and only instant noodles factory in Jordan. Our CEO, Mr. Jamal Al-Hazaa has always had the vision of investing in the development and modernization of the food industry in Jordan and the Middle East and that was the reason behind establishing Halloumi Foods factory.

WE ARE CONSIDERING THE BEST TIME FOR BREAD PRODUCTION You have investments that complement each other in the fields of grain grinding and storage, pasta production, feed production, plastics industry and energy. Which will be the next area for your Company Group. For example, will there be an industrial bread production? The Group’s main focus today is on the expansions that are taking place at our different factories, mainly at the noodles and pasta factories. These expansions are necessary in order to satisfy the increasing demand for our noodles and pasta products especially during these days of COVID-19, we are adding new production lines in both factories in cooperation with Bühler. After Ramadan we will launch our new product of Noodi cup noodles and we are also in the process of launching instant pasta.

Of course, as an investment Group that works mainly in the grain milling sector we have the goal of establishing a modern bakery chain that will enable us to apply all our milling experience transferred to us through many generations to produce best quality traditional and modern pastries.

This step should be taken sooner or later but we are still considering the best time to start this project, it is definitely on our upcoming strategies.

NOODI IS GAINING A STRONG POSITION IN THE MIDDLE EAST MARKET What would you like to say about your investments especially in the instant noodles sector, your production capacity and the technologies and technical infrastructure you use? The idea of establishing an instant noodles factory was very new and challenging since most of the noodles sales in our region are dominated by one big player, consumers are used to their brand and it was difficult to introduce a total new competing product. But we relied on our expertise and experience in flour milling to produce better-quality noodles.

The factory is fully supplied by Bühler’s high-tech machines and latest production lines, through these state-of-the-art machines, Al-Hazaa experience in flour milling and my experience in mechanical food machinery, we were able to produce a healthy, delicious, halal noodles free of chemicals and preservatives that suits the Arabic taste in terms of flavors and added spices and that complies with the highest food safety standards and quality requirements. I also received a lot of support from Mr. Pai from Chuan Soonly Foods Ltd. Company, he helped me a lot during the project and shared many of his know-hows about the instant noodles business. And in a very short time frame our brand Noodi has succeeded in entering the market and gaining a strong position in the markets of Jordan and the Middle East.

Our production capacity is 600, 000 pack per day and we are adding a new production line to increase the capacity by additional 480,000 pack/ day.

Could you share your workings on the noodle market and your thoughts on the future of this market? This business is promising because we are seeing a lot of demand on the ready-to-use quick meals such as instant pasta, ready mixes, instant noodles, etc... This demand will be, in my opinion, even higher because the population is growing and because the time today is very precious, in the past people were used to cook every day but in today’s modern life this point has changed, and people tend to have faster meals.

Where do you get the raw material you use in pasta and noodles production? The main raw material for our pasta is semolina and for the noodles is wheat flour, these raw materials are supplied by our mills in Jordan. We receive the wheat flour and semolina according to special specifications that suit our recipe to produce our end products in the factories. Other ingredients like salt for example are bought from other local or regional suppliers.

What kind of products do you produce especially in the field of pasta? What makes your production different from the rest producers? What are your best-known brands? In Halloumi Foods we produce instant noodles under the brand name Noodi and in the New Food Industrial Company we produce different kinds of pasta and spaghetti under the brand name Pasta Mamma. What differentiates us is the great quality of the raw materials we use, the best technologies implied at our factories, the amazing Bühler machines and also the distinguished taste that matches the consumers’ needs, as people in the Middle East are used to a certain type of taste that is different for instance from the European or Asian taste.

What activities does your R&D team do for the pasta production? Do you consider the tastes of the countries you export it to? Yes of course, as mentioned above every country has its special taste preferences and it is very important for us to satisfy those preferences, in fact our employees at the R&D department are doing a great job in this field by conducting many tasting tests. We also make sure to attend exhibitions and get feedback from our distributors at different countries.

JORDAN OFFERS A SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR INVESTMENTS What are the advantages and disadvantages of the location you are in? The most important advantage is that Jordan offers a suitable environment for investments, the country has many trade agreements with Europe, US, some Far East countries like Singapore and African countries like Kenya which helps us to export our products to these countries easily. Moreover, Jordan is part of the GAFTA (Greater Arab Free Trade Area) which is an agreement to facilitate and develop trade among Arab countries, which enables us as well to export our products to Arab countries without any custom duties.

As I mentioned before some of the raw materials like flour and semolina are supplied by our mills here in Jordan and that’s an important advantage too, operating in the same country facilitates the transport of raw materials.

As for the disadvantages I would say the high energy costs in Jordan especially for factories, but Al-Hazaa Investment Group has overcome this obstacle by building a solar energy power plant that supplies all Al-Hazaa Group’s factories with clean energy.

Do you have pasta production for the Far East market, eg. Japan? No, not yet

Which markets do you export your products to? What are your target markets? We sell among Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, KSA, UAE, Qatar, Yemen, Oman, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Holland and the US.

BÜHLER IS A VERY TRUSTED PARTNER FOR US What is your strength and feature that makes you successful in your location and encourages you to open up in the Middle East and some Arab countries` markets? To be honest, innovation, credibility, courage and being openminded. With these features you will make good relations with clients and partners, open new plants in different countries. In addition to the history of our family group in the field of food production and that is over 70 years, Al-Hazaa has built over time strong and important relations with powerful suppliers in the field, our relationship with Bühler for instance, the leading company in the field of food production, safety, and technology. Bühler isn’t only a supplier to us but a very trusted partner we are also the agents of Bühler in the Iraqi market.

As a company, how do you face the coronavirus crisis (COVID-19) that upset the world's balances? What kind of measures did you take? Did you manage to provide products in all the markets you operate in? Thanks to our QC team we are trained to handle such pandemic as part of our food safety strategy, our products are available at markets to cover the huge demand during this crisis.

We have a strong plan in cooperation with food and health authorities to protect our workers, who are working hard and risking their lives during the current pandemic and to also make sure that our products will be 100% safe to use and that all the packaging are clean, we are taking advantage of technology as much as possible to cover the most possible amount of tasks and business remotely in order to keep everyone safe.

Will this coronavirus (COVID-19) cause the changes in your company's future plans? Has there been any change in your goals? This pandemic of COVID-19 made us focus more on the unpredicted scenes that might happen in the future and trained us and our team to make quick responses.

Our main focus points that were taken into consideration and implemented more strongly during the crisis of the Coronavirus are plant Hygiene, product tracking, maintaining the safety of workers and ensuring the availability of enough quantities of raw materials.

OUR VISION IS INVESTING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF FOOD INDUSTRY IN THE REGION You also work with companies that have a voice in the world market, such as Bühler and Starlinger. You are leading the way to establish competing factories in some Middle Eastern countries. Could you tell us a little bit about that? You bring new competitors to your own market. Having competitors is something very good because it makes you work in a different way, we see the competitors that we helped to start their business as partners because we don’t only support them by selling machinery but also with technology and know-hows, even after after starting their business we would still help them in any case. This is compatible with Al-Hazaa Investment Group’s Philosophy that focuses on the development and improving of local society and economy, our goal is to improve the food industry in the region.

Could you please share with us your opinion about Turkish market? The Turkish market is very huge and diverse, people in Turkey are also very loyal to local brands and factories which makes it hard for us to sell inside. Turkish companies’ products are reputable for being of high quality and they are strongly competing with our products in the Iraqi market.

As you know, there is excess capacity in the market of flour and pasta production in Turkey. Because of this, some companies may suffer. You are a Group with a strong capital. Is there any company which Al Hazaa Investment Group intends to acquire whole company or have a partner company in Turkey market? The Turkish market is a huge and challenging market. I believe that this step is a bit far from our future plans.

OUR NEXT STEP MIGHT BE ENTERING THE SAUDI ARABIAN MARKET What areas are of interest to you and you say that we should definitely be there in the future? We are focused on Arab markets, our next step might be entering the Saudi Arabian market. In fact, in 2019 our Group has taken a step in this direction which is building a new flour mill in Aqaba, Jordan on the red sea port, which will enable us to export some of our products to the Saudi markets.

Could you share your investment plans with us for the upcoming period? Our investment group is in continuous growth, we always consider the possibility of new projects and plans. Currently we are considering building new plants for wafer and for flour premixes and concentrates used for bread and cakes.

What are your latest trending products? Our latest product is Instant Noodles in the flavor of “Mandy” a well-known Arabic dish.

If there is any other information you want to add, you can share it with us. We are living in very difficult and unusual times because of the Coronavirus situation, we thank all the workers in the health and food sector, their great efforts are the reason we are able to face this virus. As a member of Al-Hazaa Group I would like to thank all the workers at our group, they are working very hard to satisfy the needs of people in Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Egypt and Cyprus.

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