The National News, 30th Dec 2020
Wellness is a word that has been gaining a stronger foothold in our consciousness over the past few years. It’s all-encompassing, a term under which healthy eating and living, weight loss, exercise, mindfulness and so much more falls. It also connotes a certain lifestyle. One that looks at the labels, checks up on the environmental and sustainable goals of companies, and prides itself on staying informed with the latest news and developments.
With 44 years spent producing fresh juices and produce, the home-grown Barakat Group is looking to move further into the wellness arena, with a rebrand that goes beyond labels and logo, and deeper into issues such as sustainability, local produce and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the UAE.
Enter Rashid Mohamed Alabbar, 33, Barakat board member, e-commerce champion, self-confessed fan of disruptive innovation, and passionate advocate for the next generation of tech and brand-savvy business brains in the region.
“With technology, I try to disrupt many channels and come up with new ways to give great customer service,” he says. “On a personal level, I am driven by seeing change and creating impact. Going forward, we will try and explore and develop new products under the Barakat umbrella in the health and wellness space. We’re known for our healthy products – juices and fruits and vegetables – and we’ll stay in the healthy food sector, working on product development among other things. People trust Barakat and that’s a great responsibility.
“The rebrand is very important,” he adds. “The Barakat business needs to be relevant to a younger audience in the way we present and package.”
With an eye on the next 44 years, he tells The National: “From now on, we’re changing.”
What inspired the rebrand?
It’s been a very interesting time for the food service industry. The pandemic brought home just how important the food service industry is. That sparked a lot of interest in me with Barakat as a business, because all of a sudden, you are aware that you’re creating a meaningful service to the community during that time.
What does the next generation customer base look like?
Health-conscious. Young people are more educated. They watch what they eat, and they know of and use an array of health apps, like the ones to see how many steps you’ve done, or how many calories you’ve burnt, or what you should eat based on your blood type. These go hand-in-hand with Barakat’s vision. And with Covid-19, especially, we have all become so much more aware of our health.
How important is social media to the rebrand?
All young people are on Instagram and TikTok and [other] social media platforms, so we’ve been focused on building an amazing marketing team, everyone tech-savvy, all young – much, much younger than me – and they know what the next generation wants. Social media is critical to communicating with our audience, we have to do it right and the content has to be relevant.
What moves are you making towards sustainability?
Sustainability really gathered pace during the pandemic, due to the surge in the use of e-commerce. People would post pictures of the mountains of boxes and packaging they were throwing away from their deliveries, they are concerned about these things. For Barakat, it’s important that the packaging be environmentally friendly and sustainable. It’s also about the efficiency of operation, maximising deliveries and having the right technology. I want to make sure we have aggressive targets to increase efficiency and sustainability.
Will sourcing local produce play a role in your sustainability goals?
Historically, Barakat sourced from all over the world; we were never big on [home-grown] produce, plus, the infrastructure wasn’t there. But now with the government support of local farmers, we’ve grown the number we work with to about 50. It takes [research and investment], but it’s well worth the support. Again, looking at what happened recently, with Covid-19 shutting down airports, and companies unable to ship products from certain countries – it affected how we look at things globally and locally.
How will you develop the business further?
I’m passionate about working with entrepreneurs, and about young, energetic, smart people becoming part of the team. They could be local farmers or producers, or people with great ideas and new technologies. My wish is that we can become a testing ground to support entrepreneurs to support themselves, to create jobs and opportunities for people to explore.