Manama Packaging Industry (MPI), one of the Gulf’s prominent manufacturers of flexible food-grade packaging, expects to expand its production capacity by one third by early next year.
Current capacity is 1,500 tonnes per month but new machinery ordered by MPI will increase capacity to 2,000 tonnes by Q1 2016, a report in Gulf Industry, our sister magazine, said.
“The additional 500 tonnes monthly will materialise in time for the start of operations of Mondelez International’s new biscuits plant at the Bahrain International Investment Park, for which we expect to serve as their main packaging supplier,” said the head of marketing and product development, Zahoor A Hakeem. MPI expects to supply 80 to 90 tonnes per month of packaging once the new Mondelez plant is operational.
The company is already supplying sachet material for Tang at the existing Mondelez plant in Bahrain.
“Although we’re here in Bahrain, we cater to the strategic packaging requirements of the rest of the world,” said Hakeem. “Food-grade packaging has become highly technical and very professional. Accordingly, our aim is to achieve high production standards towards maintaining food safety – preservation of food through packaging material and enhancing product value through an increase in shelf life. Our R&D is specialised in testing of film; the film is placed in incubators with different temperature settings for several months to reassure that the structural properties of the film being tested is suitable for packing products at our clients’ end. In simple words, our clients want us to come up with a product that will make the packed food safe and healthy with the original taste and aroma preserved.”
MPI recently formed what it believes to be a suitable and reliable packaging structure for Nabisco Arabia’s Saudi plant which produces Oreo, belVita and Ritz biscuits.
Around 80 per cent of MPI’s packaging is for food processors, while the remainder is supplied to parties including paper plants, detergent factories, pharmaceutical companies and textile and bitumen producers.
MPI supplies packaging to 23 countries globally including the GCC, the wider Middle East, Africa and Pakistan. The company has a service partner in Holland which distributes MPI products to Europe, South America, USA and the Caribbean.
“Our biggest market is the Middle East and North Africa taken as a whole and accounting for 54 per cent of our exports. In the period 2011 to 2014, growth there was 36 per cent,” said Hakim. “In the past decade, the Mena region’s food preferences have changed considerably; they’ve become more sophisticated. As for Africa in general, there is huge potential. We see our greatest prospects there.”
Interestingly, the Mena area is also where a large number of packaging manufacturers from the Gulf are most active. But demand for food and food packaging is ever-expanding which means Gulf packaging producers are kept busy supplying to the market.
The GCC segment constitutes another 36 per cent of exports and over the 2011-2014 period the increase there was 16 per cent. The region has seen population growth and with it expectations for good-quality food, making it imperative for food processors and packaging suppliers to drive up quality.
“For the year 2015, our focus is to increase supply by 100 tonnes monthly within the GCC, by 150 tonnes to Europe, mainly Germany and Poland, and by approximately 150 tonnes to Morocco where we see an increased demand. Morocco is advantageous for us as it virtually shares its border with Europe; some of the shipments to Morocco find their way into Europe through Spain,” said Hakeem.
The company is currently utilising 93 per cent of its total capacity. Distribution will be boosted gradually from this year onwards as some of the new equipment will start arriving in 2015. MPI has built a new plant and a new storage facility very close to its existing site in Al Hidd.
The new equipment will cost approximately $20 million and be multipurpose with the capability to offer food and non-food applications.
MPI, being an existing supplier to the domestic market, would easily expand capacity even further if more food processing plants were established in Bahrain. After discussions with the Economic Development Board, MPI has concluded that there are prospects for new investments in the food processing sector which is going to require flexible packaging. Hakeem says that based on conversations he has had with Yemeni customers, most are interested in setting up a plant in Bahrain.