Lesaffre rises to the occasion as the Middle East ferments with new opportunities
With bread-making having originated in the Middle East in ancient times, and as the region boasts one of the highest bread consumption per capita figures in the world, Lesaffre – a key global player in the fermentation of microorganisms (yeasts, bacterias) for baking, taste, healthcare and biotechnology – has earmarked the region for its substantial global expansion rollout in 2021.
Established in 1853 and headquartered in Marcq-en-Barœul, France, Lesaffre has brought its pioneering global expertise in fermentation to the wider Middle East region and Arabian Gulf region in particular, with the November 9, 2021 commissioning of an advanced Lesaffre Baking Center located at Dubai Silicon Oasis, Light Industrial Phase 5.
This ultra-modern facility is part of a worldwide network of 47 such proprietary Baking Centers, including one each in Istanbul and Cairo, and now offers Lesaffre customers and partners in the UAE and wider Gulf region on-the-ground product and process development, sensory analysis, technical support and training.
Given the fact that the Middle East region has a rich and varied history involving traditional Arabic bread-making and as the region capitalises on consumers’ fast-growing preference for modern breads, it was essential that Lesaffre ramp up its long-term presence in the region, according to Jose Juan Berruga, President of Lesaffre Middle East & Central Asia.
In an exclusive interview with MENews247 at Gulfood Manufacturing 2021, held live and in-person at Dubai World Trade Centre, and where Lesaffre exhibited its latest innovations for bakery and food ingredients, Berruga said the Gulf’s unique “Arabic bread-making heritage combined with consumers’ growing affinity for modern bread products, such as packet breads, buns, and toasts”, made it imperative that Lesaffre scale up its operations in the region.
From bread-making to human, animal and plant health, Lesaffre currently functions in more than 50 countries, operates 70 production sites around the world, and distributes its products in 185 countries, with Berruga confirming that although the Gulf market is highly competitive for his company, his main target is “to remain at the very top with continuous innovation and by bringing down production costs for customers and partners, thus allowing them to be more efficient every day”.
Set up and equipped to function on a baker to baker modus operandi, Lesaffre’s new Baking Center in Dubai addresses its Gulf baking customers and partners’ key requirements and expectations involving industrial and craft bakers, retail and wholesale distributors, the horeca value chain, as well as home bakers. With this bespoke facility, Lesaffre is especially galvanising the regional baked foods industry by upskilling local independent and group bakers, and ensuring they become master bakers, via the world-class products, hands-on training and skills they encounter at the new Baking Center in Dubai.
With global bread sales already surpassing the 88 million kg threshold in 2021, and as the international bread market is expected to grow annually by 3.85% (CAGR 2021-2026), Lesaffre is ever mindful of ongoing Gulf expansion, and in this respect, Berruga does not rule out Lesaffre opening a full-fledged Baking Center in Saudi Arabia, where the company is already commercially present as one of the biggest bread-making players in the vast country,
A Lesaffre Gulf subsidiary, set up in Dubai in 2017, provides bread-making solutions to baking professionals and home bakers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq and Yemen, and has been registering double-digit sales growth year-on-year; a trend that is set to continue into the next decade as the human population in the Gulf region rises exponentially and the baked foods sector grows in parallel.
According to Berruga, everything that Lesaffre (AED9.37 billion/US$2.55 billion/€2.2 billion turnover) does on a daily and a global basis features fermentation at the heart of all activities and is powered by the company’s philosophy: Working together to better nourish and protect the planet.
In this regard, and with nearly 170 years of expertise in fermentation, strict adherence to sustainability best practices and an avowed net-zero target under its belt, Lesaffre is working on developing the means of healthily and sustainably nourishing more than nine billion people worldwide by 2050, through intense R&D involving the generally overlooked process of fermentation.
The pandemic has affected the global bread-making industry on a global scale, noted Berruga, especially, on the one hand, prompting consumers to substantially uptake their appetite for packet breads, while also seeing a phenomenal rise in bake at home activity. This scenario affected industrial and craft bakers worldwide, especially in 2020, said Berruga, adding that “in 2021 the global bread-making sector is increasingly seeing a return to pre-pandemic trends and levels”.
Berruga singled out craft bakers in the Gulf region for their continuing to adhere to traditional forms of Arabic bread-making while also embracing modern bread-making methods, a fact that Berruga confirmed is crucial to Lesaffre; that of merging “bread-making roots with modernity” when it comes down to the company doing business internationally.
A highlight of Lessafre’s presence at Gulfood Manufacturing 2021 was a new-look modular pavilion complete with an onsite Bakery Lab where food trade visitors could experience the company’s latest bakery solutions and food ingredients through daily interactive presentations and demonstrations involving Lesaffre international specialists consisting of master bakers, food experts and formulators.