An Arabian Moment…
Made in California?!
“Everyone has a plan until
they get punched in the face”
We get asked this question a lot… so here’s the full (unedited) story…
When we came up with the concept behind nai, our hope was to one day make a product that was 100% from and “of” the region. So we dived right in, looking for locations on which to build a factory, hiring manufacturing consultants, visiting with leading equipment suppliers and short-listing chefs. We were scouting land opportunities in Jeddah and in and around Dubai and had even begun to look at lease agreements when it dawned on us that we were about to spend millions upon millions on equipment, fixtures and systems before we had a clue what products to produce, which items or categories would work or what our volumes would be. It’s one thing to build an iced tea bottling factory… it’s a whole other thing to build a factory in which you hope to produce iced teas, snack bars, dips and a bunch of other categories. What type of snack bar did we want to produce? Did we need an extrusion machine? Did we need a filling line? What is an extrusion machine?!!! We kept getting asked questions to which we had none of the answers. And that’s just on the production side. Concurrent to managing a factory with dozens of employees we also had to plan the creation of a sales and marketing oriented organization (that would cost millions and millions more). We quickly realized that we would have way too many balls to juggle at once.
Ok… so we won’t make it ourselves… but there must be others in the region who can, right? Wrong (or – if you are indeed out there – we haven’t found you yet)!
We spent 6 months speaking to over 20 different factories across the region hoping one of them could produce on our behalf… but when all was said and done we could find no one able to manufacture at the quality or standards we sought. We felt that working with a regional solution would have meant having to make fundamental compromises to some of our brand’s core values: Authentic, Arabian, Natural, Healthier, Quality Ingredients. We would have had to – for example – use a tea concentrate to add flavour to water as opposed to naturally brewing real tea leaves in kettles. We would have had to add corn syrup as opposed to honey or cane as a sweetener to our teas. That’s not to mention issues pertaining to packaging, minimum orders, and recipe copyright issues. These were all non-starters.
Come December 2014 – and following 12 months of work – we were totally stuck. We kept asking ourselves, “we know exactly what we want to make, it’s an Arabian version of products we see in Western supermarkets all the time… why can’t we figure out a way to get the product?!”
What changed? One night – as with everything else in this modern digital age – we found the answer on the internet, specifically via our LinkedIn Premium account (one tool – whatever the industry – we advise any entrepreneur to sign up to… a lot of people use it as a recruiting or job search tool… we find it to also be a great source for expert advice). We sent out a few messages with the headline “Looking for Natural F&B Specialist Advice” and went to bed. The following morning, waiting for us in our inbox, was a response from California that began “Natural food is what we do… how can we help?”
Why California and why the US? Because the US natural and organic food segment is a US$ 120 billion industry (source: Natural Foods 2015 Market Overview), representing nearly 20% of overall grocery sales and growing at a robust 9.1% over the past 12 months. There is an entire industry of quality, sophisticated suppliers, manufacturers and service providers ready and available to support. You want to produce an authentically brewed Hibiscus tea with natural pomegranate and rose that is slightly sweetened using real honey… it can be done… and they will help you source premium Hibiscus flowers from Egypt! Finally, we figured no one can ever fault us for sourcing products from California, especially if talking about a natural food product!
So every time you try a nai product know that what you are tasting was 100% inspired by Arabia. It was 100% conceptualized by people from the region. Our brand is from all of the Middle East and it will always look to give back to the region from which we came. Finally, know that our initial dream of sourcing sustainably grown hibiscus from Egypt, pomegranates from Jordan, rose petals from Syria, honey from Yemen and having it all brewed and made in Saudi Arabia – a quintessentially 100% Arabian produce – is very much alive. Its been delayed for a few years but is still one we hope to realize in the very soon.
To be continued.