With year-round sunshine and soaring summer temperatures, it makes sense that the UAE is home to Baskin-Robbins’ biggest master franchisee worldwide.
But Galadari Ice Cream is about to get even larger, with ambitions to add 350 stores to its current network of 650 outlets in the region within the next two to three years to reach 1,000.
“Over the last five years we’ve doubled our business in the Middle East,” said Abdulmonem Suliman, the general manager for Galadari Ice Cream.
“The market is fantastic. We have a very strong brand equity in the market as measured by Nielsen. We are the No 1 ice-cream player in the region. We have a very strong foothold in all of the GCC countries.”
The company prides itself in having stores in dozens of neighbourhoods, malls and high streets across the Middle East, and it is practically the only brand well spread throughout Saudi Arabia, with a particularly strongly performing branch stationed outside the gate of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
In the UAE it operates 156 stores, and aims to reach 165 by the end of the year.
It also plans product launches carefully, tailoring items for the local market. It chose this Ramadan, for example, to launch the mini-treat, a miniature version of its ice-cream cakes which have been a hit so far with people attending iftars.
“In terms of ice-cream consumption per capita, the northern European countries, the UK and the US are far ahead of the consumption in this region. So we are seeing that there are opportunities for growth,” said Mr Suliman.
Business is also brisk at the other end of the market.
Vasa Vasa, an Italian ice-cream company, opened its first branch in Al Muneera, across from the southern tip of Abu Dhabi island, last September and is on the lookout for suitable premises for a possible expansion in the UAE.
“Our ice-cream is completely different from the kind of ice-cream that you find here because it is made in Italy,” said Silvia Martinelli, the owner of Vasa Vasa, which also operates two stores in Italy and three in Singapore under the brand name Note di Sicilia.
The company, which ships its ice-cream from its main factory in Italy, offers two kinds of chocolate ice-cream and says it only uses milk from a certain area in north-west Italy where it claims the cows graze outside most of the time.
“We have been open almost one year. We are happy because we have customers coming from the very beginning,” Ms Martinelli added.
As with Baskin-Robbins, Vasa Vasa’s business stands to take a hit during Ramadan because of reduced working times. However, like Baskin-Robbins, Vasa Vasa also has a trick up its sleeve to keep sales ticking over.
“We started a home delivery service and we are working a lot with the home delivery. At the beginning it was only Italian people starting to call but people are getting used to it,” said Ms Martinelli.