Dariush Rakhshani, partner and CEO of Country Hill International and Prime Gourmet, founded the company in 1999, a UAE supplier of chilled beef, lamb, veal and poultry.
Please tell us more about Country Hill International’s market presence in the UAE, and the concept behind Prime Gourmet.
CHI is the pioneer in Australian Wagyu beef, HGP (Hormone Growth Promotant)-free Angus beef and certified organic beef as well as natural hormone-free, grass-fed New Zealand beef, lamb and chicken in the Middle East, and solutions provider for the retail and the foodservice industry.
In May 2018, CHI was acquired by the Gulf Japan Food Fund (GJFF), a private equity fund established by Mizuho Bank, Ltd., the Norinchukin Bank, and other investors. The acquisition has facilitated the addition of the Japanese Wagyu to the CHI portfolio, bringing imports to ten tonnes in 2019.
The step has also triggered CHI’s expansion beyond UAE borders, especially in Saudi Arabia, where it will establish its operations within this first half of 2020. The goal is to grasp the opportunities that the growing Saudi F&B sector offers and grant our existing customers in Dubai, who are opening in Saudi, access to the same quality of product they use here.
In 2010, we felt that we needed a space to showcase our products to our clients, and this is what brought on the creation of Prime Gourmet. Initially established as a showroom for top executive chefs of five-star hotels and independent restaurants interested in value-added, portion control and processed gluten-free sausages and patties, Prime Gourmet soon became a concept of its own, where the retail consumers could gain access to the same high quality steaks they would enjoy in restaurants, and experience cooking or BBQ at home.
Why have you decided to open in Dubai?
In the late 80s, the UAE was a commodity-driven market, where all imported meat was frozen. I clearly saw a future opportunity to start developing a chilled product supply chain. After the establishment of CHI, the incredible development of the logistics infrastructure of the UAE made it clear that Dubai would become a very central hub with invaluable access and exposure to the main international commerce routes.
This development and growing sophistication of the market has made CHI concentrate on a model based on the import of high-quality proteins, becoming a pioneer in the import of chilled all-natural meat, HGP-free, as well as organic beef and Australian Wagyu.
The addition of such an exclusive product like the Japanese Wagyu is an integral part of the evolution. For the first time in the Middle East, Japanese Wagyu won’t be limited to fine dining restaurants alone, but will be consistently accessible to retail consumers through Prime Gourmet, and hopefully very soon other retail outlets.
What are your top products in this market?
In terms of meat consumption, this market traditionally had a preference for so-called loin cuts. However, more recently, we’ve observed that there has been growing demand for other cuts which have great performance in terms of juiciness, flavour, tenderness and price point.
Who are your top clients, and why do you think your products appeal to them?
We supply the majority of the top fine dining restaurants, as well as hotel chains, standalone restaurants, retail and quality fast food concepts.