Interview: All about the DEWA-owned Mai Dubai

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Alexander van ‘t Riet, CEO of Mai Dubai, tells Hotel & Catering News ME all about the DEWA-owned brand’s products and developments.

Tell us a bit more about Mai Dubai. 
Mai Dubai, the fastest growing and the second biggest bottled water brand in the country, is an independent Limited Liability Company, which is fully owned by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).  

Since its inception, Mai Dubai has grown to become one of the leading bottled water brands with an exceptional focus on quality. The company’s fully automated industrial facility in Al Qudra runs on solar energy, contributing to 10,000MTs reduction in carbon emissions annually. The production facility is known for having the second-largest solar roof installation in the world.

Who are your main HORECA clients and how do you work with them? 
Currently, our clients in the sector include Habtoor Hospitality, Bab Al Shams, Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah, Palazzo Versace, Meydan, Concorde Hotel Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain Beach Hotel and Stella Di Mare Dubai, among others. Mai Dubai’s dedicated team caters to the unique needs of our HORECA clients, thereby increasing the penetration of our product offerings in the market.

What are some of your newest products and which countries in the MENA region do you cater to? 
The launch of ‘Mai Dubai Zero-Sodium Alkaline Water,’ which combines the goodness of Zero Sodium with benefits of Alkaline water has been the latest milestone in terms of product innovation. With no sodium and an alkalinity of pH8.2, the new 3-1 (three-in-one) product was internally developed and is produced at the Mai Dubai facility in Al Qudra, Dubai.

It’s also unique as no other brand offers a combination of Alkaline and Zero Sodium in the bottled-water segment. The new variant is almost identical in taste to our classic Mai Dubai water and was developed after taking consumers’ preferences into consideration.  

Further underlining the initial market response, this variant won the three-star Superior Taste Award, the highest rating given by Brussels-based International Taste Institute, the world leader in the evaluation and certification of consumer food and beverages by professional chefs and sommeliers. This recognition itself is testament to the taste and quality of Mai Dubai’s Zero Sodium Alkaline Water product.

However, our Red Dot design award-winning glass bottle range is yet to fully penetrate the HORECA market.

What are some of the main challenges you’ve faced in the wake of COVID-19? 
The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted our operations, but we continued to deliver services without any disruptions. During this period, in addition to maintaining our supply systems intact, we also ensured consistent supply of raw material and that we had ample stocks to meet any potential spikes in consumer demand.

We managed a 30 per cent rise in the demand for our bottled water in addition to home delivery services, we were able to cater to this demand, thanks to our advanced automated production facility. By effectively leveraging the efficiency and safety of our production and distribution systems, we continued to achieve our targets of producing over 1.5 million units per day.

Although the overall demand for bottled-water products increased, HORECA businesses did bear the brunt of the pandemic crisis as several establishments had to temporarily close down as a result of restrictions on inbound tourism. Even after reopening, they could not function at full capacities like before as they have to adhere to preventive and control measures.

Some entertainment establishments were also temporality shut. Most hotels had occupancy rates which ran into single digits. All these developments resulted in a serious downturn in the sale with almost no new customers coming in. As flights were grounded during this period, this meant no sales to airlines, including Emirates.

As part of our efforts to adjust to the ‘new normal,’ we have increased the number of our delivery channels which are now more directed to homes and this needs more time than in our usual retail outlets.

Although night-time movement restrictions enforced by authorities during this period had a minor impact on our operations, Mai Dubai’s new Zero-Sodium Alkaline Water managed to make its impact in the market despite being launched during the crisis.

What are your future plans? 
We’re constantly looking at expansion opportunities and innovative ways to build on our regional and global footprint. The introduction of various sizes of bottles, from 16L to still and the sparkling glass range followed by our latest innovation – the Zero Sodium Alkaline water – is reflective of our aspirations to further strengthen market presence.

We will continue to expand our portfolio by adding more innovative products that meet customer expectations and needs, especially in the HORECA sector. Simultaneously, we are also exploring innovative ways to assist our HORECA customers in boosting the sales of our product offerings.

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