If you’ve ever flown with Emirates, Qatar Airways or even fly dubai then your inflight meal was most likely prepared by Food Point. So, if you ever questioned the quality of your mile high meal, rest assured that all Food Point meals are produced using high quality ingredients, and the omelettes are made by hand – all 25,000 of them daily. Catering News ME tours the factory
It’s not easy to provide over 40 million meals a year. It requires lots of hard work, efficiency and the most advanced technology, however, Food Point manages to serve customers through- out the Middle East and potentially the world, from a 10,000 square metre, high-tech facility in Dubai, UAE.
Stuart Murray, senior commercial manager, Food Point, says: “We have the flex- ibility to meet any customer need from a small batch of 300kg of sauce for ho- tels and contract caterers to a large-scale batch of 15,000 meals for an airline. We listen, we care, we collaborate and we deliver what you need when you need it. “Our management style follows the basics of a high performing organisation and is based on our custom-designed In- tegrated Management System (IMS) with a strong emphasis placed on principle- based leadership. Our main core values are self-responsibility, creativity, passion and continuous improvement.”
Food Point is situated at Dubai Invest- ments Park in Dubai, UAE, a half hour drive from Dubai International Airport. The facility was designed with meticu- lous attention paid to health and safety ensuring a safe environment for employ- ees whilst maintaining the globally rec- ognised best standards in food hygiene. For instance, all the floors, walls, ceilings and belt conveyors incorporate Microban technology to provide continuous anti- bacterial and antifungal protection.
Stuart adds: “The facility was designed with meticulous attention to detail, incorporating Microban technology to provide continuous anti-bacterial and anti-fungal protection. Food Point implements and maintains the very best practices in food hygiene whilst maintaining health and safety and ensuring a safe working environment for employees.
“We rigidly follow our HACCP plan and have incorporated ISO 9000, 15014000 and OHAS 18000 procedures into our Integrated Management System. In addition, we have incorporated several hygiene procedures of our own which we believe are critical and which set us apart from other food manufacturers. By our rigid adherence to stringent hy- giene and safety principles as well as our methods of continuous assurance we are able to offer our customers our unwaver- ing commitment of providing restaurant quality food from a guaranteed food-safe environment.”
THE VISION… GREAT FOOD BY CREATIVE PEOPLE
From the farms of its suppliers to the Food Point goods out dock, each step is fully audited to ensure impeccable hygiene levels as well as faultless main- tenance of the cold-chain. Food Point team members personally inspect each and every supplier to ensure that rigid standards are maintained. Once satisfied that everything is up to standard, the raw materials are delivered to Food Point and inspected at the goods in area. They are then allocated to one of the various temperature controlled storage locations to be used on a First In First Out basis ensuring freshness is maintained.
The food is then cooked by experienced chefs, trained in various parts of the world. While automation is indeed useful in large scale production Food Point knows that the trained and discerning human eye, and palate of a chef, is needed when dealing with organic mate- rial to adjust the processes from time to time to ensure that everything is cooked to absolute perfection.
Steam-jacket kettles in various sizes enable the use of more traditional cooking methods as chefs have total control over the required cooking temperatures and times, while the new Cook Quench Chill system enables raw ingredients to be cooked in various batches to a kitchen finish via three step method, which is particularly effective in achieving an aldente finish on vegetables and pasta.
There are tumblers for vacuum-assisted marinating, the various size Brat pans to prepare authentic biriyanis as well as the large-capacity mincer, the continuous fryer and the inline combination oven and chargrill that can roast, steam or give a BBQ finish.
In the assembly area, the products are plated or packed to every custom-er’s individual specifications in CPET or
aluminium dishes, in bags, in crates, as bulk products or as individual portions. Food Point is able to tailor its processes to every customer’s individual require- ment. In the case of a fresh product, after assembly each pack is coded and then stored in the various finished goods stores awaiting dispatch. In the case of a frozen dish, the spiral freezer (operating at -37 degrees Celsius) seals in the freshness prior to storage in the finished goods store awaiting dispatch.
Stuart adds: “We track the entire process and we even go so far as to X- ray each meal before dispatch as a final check.”
Hygiene is the responsibility of each and every one of our Food Point team members, of which there are more than 600. This is intrinsic in each job function across the board. Stuart says: “We follow ISO, HACCP and ITCA (International Travel Catering Association) guidelines as well those laid down by the Dubai Mu- nicipality, which are amongst the strict- est in the world and based on EU prin- ciples. In addition we have added several tests of our own which we consider to be essential.
“In fact, it is our claim that we are now part of the world’s elite when it comes to guaranteeing food hygiene in food preparation.”
The production facility is a glass-free environment, as glass is considered to be a high-risk contaminant. All incom- ing products are manually check for any obvious contaminants, and the in-house laboratory checks everything that comes in and out of Food Point: from the raw in- gredients to the finished meals, including process water and staff uniforms as well as the food and beverages in the staff can- teen. “Our positive release mechanism guarantees the sale of only safe products,” says Stuart.
“Our lab conducts microbiological tests to pick up any potential micro- biological contaminants on a daily basis throughout the entire process. Our en- tire facility is temperature controlled by a sophisticated Building Management System which highlights any changes in temperature, humidity and/or air quality. And Food Point has a SCADA traceabil- ity system in place which identifies each and every meal or meal component batch with ID codes. This means we have a full and complete traceability of all the ingredients in each meal,” he adds.
Leela Manickam, technical manager, Food Point, heads up the laboratory. She explains: “We have a system where we positively release the food. Samples are taken for microbiological testing, following the British CCFRA method, and only if it the samples pass a battery of tests will we release the product for the customer.
“We test all ready to heat and ready to eat products before they are assembled, for E-Coli, coliform, staphylococcus aureus, bacillus cereus , vibrio cholera, clostridium perfringens , listeria and salmonella, but as raw will be cooked it is not tested.”
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
New product development (NPD) is the foundation of everything that happens at Food Point. This is where Food Point in- terfaces with the client and talks through their exact needs and requirements. The NPD team comprises a group of chefs each one specialising in their own culi- nary field. The chefs are supported by a team of food technologists and together they ensure a good combination of culinary and technical knowledge.
Stuart says: “Once we have talked through the details of the customer requirements we get to work preparing a range of options in our fully-equipped NPD kitchen. This kitchen is a replica of the main facility only on a smaller scale. This ensures that the meal designed in the NPD centre is the same as the one produced on a large scale in our main facility.
“The customers are invited to actively participate in NPD sessions such as white board exercises, concept cook- ing sessions and product tastings. We are a fully consultative team and value our customers’ input into the process. Once the product has been agreed our team devises and tests the recipe which is then given a full test run in the main facility,” he adds.
The data is then entered into the Enterprise Resource Planning System, catalogued and confidentially stored. Daily checking of products continues, which includes re-heating as a customer would to re-evaluate quality.
THE HUGE GROWTH POTENTIAL
Today, 70% of Food Point’s operations are for Emirates, producing all economy meals, as well as omelettes for economy, business, and first class service. Believe it or not, there is a row of employees churning out 25,000 handmade om elettes every day!
Aside from the Emirates Group, Food Point supplies to Qatar Airlines and fly dubai, as well as the Saleh bin Lahej group, Yum!, Spinneys, and Emirates Leisure Retail.
Stuart says: “Our plans for the future are to get raw growth from Emirates Air- lines, with the number of routes they are opening up and to grow in the African markets. We are targeting hotels, retail, and QSR; there is a big franchisee we are currently in negotiations with in Saudi Arabia.
“We will continue to study the hotel market in Dubai and see if we can find new markets for our soups and sauces. We are a volume producer and that is what we want to do.”
Stuart argues that the business model in the UAE is different to that of Eu- rope and the UK, in that retailers here manufacture products themselves, and so become competitors to Food Point, taking away some areas of business growth potential.
He adds: “We used to sell under our own brand years ago but the market was not ready for it. Our biggest potential now is export markets, Africa, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. We will not compromise on food quality and safety – they are our key USPs.
“We have plenty of capacity to grow as we currently only run six days per week and we have further growth plans. We can do anything, from Indian to western meals. But our caveat is to stick to what we are good at. If we aren’t an expert we won’t do it – we are effectively an air- line/ready meal manufacturer.”
Stuart proudly states that Food Point purees its own herbs, and uses only fresh vegetables and chicken. He says: “Every day of the week we do a tasting panel so everything that is produced is benchmarked against a reference sample to ensure it is matched in quality. If it falls short of our standards it won’t leave the factory.”