National Mineral Water Co.
(NMWC) is the oldest natural mineral
water company in Oman, having started
trading in 1979. The...
during times of heavy rain. That water
eventually ends up in subterranean arte-
sian wells, and it i...
with the heritage and development of
Oman. Tradition such as this has been
very important to the lon...
of 3

National mineral water

Published on: Mar 3, 2016

Transcripts - National mineral water

  • 1. National Mineral Water Co. (NMWC) is the oldest natural mineral water company in Oman, having started trading in 1979. The company has devel- oped gradually over the years, eventually reaching its current turnover of around OMR 10 million (US$25.9 million). The history of the company can be traced back to a hydrology investigation carried out by the French company Evian, a global leader in the field of natural min- eral water. Mr Pugh tells us more: “Evian identified the best local source of mineral water in Oman, in a place called Tanuf, in the Ad Dakhiliyah governorate. In this part of the Middle East, natural sources of water are generally found in long ravines called ‘wadis’, which contain water only EUROASIA INDUSTRY | 32 | EUROASIA INDUSTRY NATURAL PROGRESSIONSABCO Group’s National Mineral Water Co. SAOG is the clear leader in Oman’s bottled water market, and is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Managing Director, Mr John Pugh, speaks to Sarah Pursey about the company’s cultural and historical roots in Oman, its sought-after brands and its fresh focus on health-related drinks. Written by Gemma Carter. ‡ DRAFT LAYOUT
  • 2. EUROASIA INDUSTRY | 5 during times of heavy rain. That water eventually ends up in subterranean arte- sian wells, and it is becoming increasingly precious throughout the MENA region. Indeed, as the years go by, access to water will arguably become more valuable than access to oil, particularly in countries with growing populations.” NMWC started out as a family-run operation, owned by theAl Busaidi family, and it is currently listed on the MSM (Muscat Securities Market), although the Al Busaidi family retains a substan- tial shareholding in the business. A major shareholder in the company is SABCO Group, which was established in the 1970s and has since grown signifi- cantly to become an integrated investment, commercial, industrial and services organ- isation. Indeed, SABCO Group is a pres- tigious family-owned business house in Oman, comprising multi-faceted busi- nesses that are leaders in their respec- tive fields. Within the group’s portfolio, for example, is a company called Oman Perfumery LLC, which is renowned for creating some of the world’s most finely crafted and exotic fragrances. Its flagship brand isAmouage, which is aimed at roy- alty and VIP customers, and is reputedly the most expensive perfume in the world. Wholly natural water The company’s natural water source is located in the foothills of the JabalAkhdar (Arabic for ‘The Green Mountain’), which is part of the Al Hajar Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. Rainwater gradually percolates through various layers of gravel and limestone, losing many of its con- taminants en route through a process of natural filtration, while also picking up numerous beneficial minerals, as it col- lects on a bedrock of limestone more than 100 metres below the ground. NMWC then extracts the water via several drilled boreholes, as Mr Pugh explains: “Once we have extracted the water, the first part of production is a water softening process, which is carried out, if required, to reduce the hardness of the water, and we use sand filter sys- tems to remove any impurities or sediment that may be present. The water passes through various levels of filtration until it is completely free of impurities. “Then, the water undergoes a process of reverse osmosis, which ensures that the natural minerals present in the water are balanced – a heavy concentration of sodium, for example, is not desirable. The balance of the water is subject to variation depending on the state of the ground- water,” he notes, “and may require an injection of additional natural minerals if those minerals are absent, perhaps due to heavy dilution as a consequence of an abundance of new water coming into the well.Also at this point, we utilise pharma- 4 | EUROASIA INDUSTRY ceutical-grade microfiltration to remove any particles that may still exist, down to a minimum size of 0.2 microns. This unit is also capable of removing any microbi- ological contaminants, and it is moni- tored on an hourly basis.” Next, the water is put through an ultraviolet filtration process, which is an additional product sterilisation method, before a further ozone disinfection process that uses a highly reactive form of oxygen. “Indeed, the entire screening process is a highly meticulous procedure throughout which the quality testing that was carried out at the original source is compared and is monitored for any anomalies,” Mr Pugh affirms. Brands with a background Once all of these operations have been completed, the bottle filling process can commence – NMWC produces its own PET bottles on-site. “As would be expected, bottling is carried out under cleanroom conditions, to ensure that it takes place within a microbiologically controlled envi- ronment,” Mr Pugh points out. “We invest continuously in our facilities in order to ensure that we are providing a premium product that, being a consumer product, is able to meet or exceed the strict regu- lations that are in place with regard to process controls, purity and safety. We are visited often by the relevant authorities, which have to make sure that our factory is in premium condition, and our food safety management system is HACCP- and ISO 22000-certified. We have more than 100 people working at the factory, while our general management, sales man- agement, financial management and logis- tics operations are based in Muscat.” The bottled water is then transported to the company’s warehouse, and from there it is distributed to retail outlets on a daily basis. “We have seven depots and a fleet of distribution vehicles, and each of the regions we serve has its own merchan- disers and sales teams,” he continues. “We serve not only the large retail chains, like Carrefour, Al Fair and LuLu, but also the general retail trade. We deliver six-packs of bottled water in shrink-wrap, in one- litre and 500ml bottles, as well as six-litre twin-packs and five-gallon returnable and non-returnable containers for water coolers in both offices and residences. “Our champion brand, as it were, is the Tanuf brand because it originates from Tanuf, which has a historical relationship ‡ DRAFT LAYOUT
  • 3. EUROASIA INDUSTRY | 7 with the heritage and development of Oman. Tradition such as this has been very important to the longevity and con- tinued success of the company. I recently met the buyer for the InterContinental Hotels Group, for example, and he was quick to inform me that when his father wanted a drink of water, he would ask for “a glass of Tanuf”. Indeed, the Tanuf brand is deeply rooted in Omani culture and his- tory,” Mr Pugh reports. “Our other brands include El-Jabal El-Akhdar, Salsabeel and Assaha. We have a longstanding strategic partnership with Red Bull, whereby we are responsible for routing to market and selling Red Bull-branded products in Oman.” NMWC also distributes facial tissues bearing the same brand names as its bot- tled water. “It is common in the Middle East for mineral water bottling companies to also produce and sell tissues, but that is not the result of some cultural associ- ation between water and tissues,” he clari- fies. “The branded tissue boxes simply act as a marketing tool to further reinforce the brand name of the mineral water.” Providing healthy beverages Having been appointed as NMWC’s new Managing Director late last year, Mr Pugh is in the process of overhauling the company’s product portfolio and finding innovative ways in which to differentiate NMWC from other bottled water pro- ducers in Oman. “For example, we are looking to add larger-sized tissues or per- fumed tissues to our product offering,” he reveals. “Unfortunately, however, if we are successful, the biggest compliment we will receive is that our competitors will follow suit. “Under my direction, the company is narrowing its focus to concentrate entirely on health-related beverages, such as nat- ural mineral water and isotonic drinks for people taking part in sporting activi- ties,” states Mr Pugh. “We no longer market imported soft drinks and juices of questionable quality, for example, or drinks containing E numbers and artifi- cial colourings. Other companies oper- ating in the Omani market tend to be general beverage suppliers – Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, for example, distribute soft drinks as well as bottled water in Oman – whereas we are trying to send out a mes- sage that NMWC represents healthy prod- ucts, and this is the direction in which we are heading.” Part of that message is education, and to that end the company has started receiving visits from groups of school- children at its facilities in Tanuf. “We had our first visit in January, when we received 80 children from the British School Muscat,” he recalls. “In order to educate young people on the precious nature of natural water, we show them around our facilities, explain how everything works and give them some mementos.” Mr Pugh also points out that unlike NMWC’s products, not all bottled water is from a natural source. “Some of our competitors’ water is desalinated water that has previously been used in indus- tries such as hydroelectric power gener- ation – this does not mean that it is bad water, but it is water that has been recy- cled. Our water, however, is natural water from an artesian well, which is very dif- ferent from taking water from a munic- ipal source and subjecting it to the same purification processes.” Aiming for the top The future is extremely bright for NMWC, with demand for bottled water expected to continue growing strongly in Oman and throughout the Middle East. “Indeed, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are among the top consumers of bottled water in the world, which is amazing when you consider the relatively small size of the populations in those coun- tries,” Mr Pugh remarks. “Incredibly, the UAE consumes more than 200 litres per capita, which is a phenomenal amount. Moreover, all of the Arab countries com- bined only hold about 1.1 percent of the renewable freshwater in the world, while they contain around 4.6 percent of the global population. As a result, bot- tled water sales are expected to grow sig- nificantly – possibly by as much as 20 percent per annum. “Going forward, our portfolio will include a combination of internationally recognised brands, like Red Bull, together with a strong focus on high-quality prod- ucts that are produced locally in accor- dance with our specifications. This will likely lead to the formation of additional strategic partnerships in the future. Innocent Drinks, for instance, the UK- based producer of fruit smoothies and juices, has no interest in supplying any of its products into the Middle East market, and I know that because I have been in touch with them. We are cur- rently exploring the potential demand for and benefit of providing these kinds of products in the Oman market. Essentially, it is our intention to become the number one provider of health-based drinks in Oman,” he concludes. o 6 | EUROASIA INDUSTRY DRAFT LAYOUT

Related Documents