Gerard Muermans, commercial director of Rademaker, told Food Navigator at Gulfood Manufacturing that the oil price issue is making people reconsider: “We just spoke to a customer that wants to do a deal – they said they were planning three lines, they’re going to do one, and they think they have a hole in their head for doing so, but they’re going to try it anyway. You can see from that emotion there’s still some insecurity around making an investment.”
Egypt’s currency struggles
He also noted Egypt had some particular problems, despite customers’ enthusiasm: “A big challenge in Egypt is to get investments going, if you have to apply for a limited company – it’s a lengthy process. The transfer of money from local currency to Euros is a lengthy challenge. Customers have ideas, have investment plans, have the money, but how to get it out of the country – that’s a big challenge.”
For Rademaker, Muermans said a lot of interest was coming not from bakery producers, but other food manufacturers, looking to diversify and offer more added-value products.
“For instance, they are into meat processing – so they say, we’re making hamburger patties, how about if we also make the burger buns, so we can supply them to our retail chain?” he said.
No gluten-free, but lots of innovation
Muermans dismissed the trend towards gluten-free, saying customers had not been talking to Rademaker about it at all. Instead, he said regional customers were most interested in long-shelf-life products, especially croissants, that can cope with the extended supply chain requirements in the Middle East.
He noted pizza products and flatbreads were also popular – but there was little interest in “European-style” breads at the mass-production end of the market. What was most important for regional producers was innovation, said Muermans.
“Customers are looking for new products – they want to outperform their competition by looking for new end products. We see customers here are typically not so interested in the machinery itself – they’re interested in what kind of end product you can make with that machine,” he said.
“This is different from Europe and the US, where the customer already has a pre-set idea when they approach us, they know what product they want to make. Here it’s much more people wanting to get into bakery – but wanting us to give them some new ideas about end products their competition is not yet making,” added Muermans.