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The food industry professional celebrating Australian flavours in the Middle East: Alistair Rossouw

Alistair Rossouw is not a chef by profession. But he is serving up sweet memories, in Australian style, in the UAE.

He’s the International Sales Manager – North America and EMEA at Frosty Boy, the iconic Australian dessert brand that is growing its presence on the global stage.

Having relocated to the UAE in January this year, Alistair is connecting UAE with, as the brand describes itself, the “symbol of fun and summer”, and exciting the taste buds of both expats and locals in the Middle East with the unique Australian flavour.

We caught up with Alistair to talk about the learning curve for him to work abroad, food industry in the UAE and his global journey.

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.

What made you move to the UAE?

I have always wanted to work in roles where I can make an impact to the future of the business, not just going through the motions.

When the opportunity arose via the ‘globalisation’ strategy for Frosty Boy to open our presence in UAE as a representative office for the EMEA region, I jumped at the chance!

I have been travelling to Dubai for the past 10 years and I am always amazed by the pace of change and vibrancy in the city. Working abroad was something I was always open to expand my professional skillset and network as well as for personal experience, so for me personally it was an easy decision, but I needed to discuss and really consider the impact for my wife and two sons as well – which took some time!

Can you tell us more about your role?

The Frosty Boy product range covers a diverse platform of dessert and beverage products, many which are developed as customized solutions for clients such as Global Restaurant and Café chains as well as the independent HORECA and Foodservice trade. As the International Sales Manager for EMEA and North America, I work with our team in Australia to develop new business opportunities, manage accounts for our clients as well as key global clients who are based in these regions.

What’s your favourite part of working in the food ingredients industry?

I studied Nutrition and Food Science at University of Queensland and have now been working in the industry since I graduated in 2004. Food is an integral part of everybody’s, everyday lives and now more than ever there is a big focus on what, why and how we eat. To be a part of that, is a dynamic, challenging and exciting space to be in. It is an industry that is continually and rapidly evolving on both sides, the supply side and the demand side. From marketing trends to innovative products to new startups to consumer habits, there is constant evolution within the industry. To me, going from initial client meetings, scoping projects, through product development and commercial negotiations, seeing the product in market and the final, cathartic experience of consuming the product in market is a process that I really enjoy.

Can you tell us some interesting facts about the industry?

o   Globally, Dubai is second only behind Paris in restaurant footprint (restaurants per million residents)

o   F&B was selected as a focus sector in Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, among five other sectors.

o   60% of UAE population visit malls to eat and drink according to CBRE research, the highest in the world.

o   10 million residents, approximately 80% of which are expats, 26 million visitors p.a.,

o    #4 on the worlds most visited cities and #1 in terms of spending per visitor

o   UAE boasts a very favorable environment for F&B business, according to BMI Risk/Reward index, UAE ranks first in the region and 4th globally in F&B investment environment attractiveness

o   All of this in a country that is officially not even 50 years old and has seen much of its international awareness and growth occur in the past 25 years.

How do you see the industry/ market growing in the UAE?

Cautiously optimistic. QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) and cafes are seeming to maintain solid growth and confidence especially with the prevalence of delivery suiting this base, however competition and subdued global economic confidence has also impacted the industry, particularly the upper-middle to higher tiers of the food and beverage industries.

Social Media continues to make the world a smaller place, and the UAE like any other developed countries has been influenced by global trends, which has created great, new opportunities for the food industry.

A big part of UAE’s past and future success lies in its location. If you look at a map of the world with two views – one with UAE in the middle and the other with Australia, the view of UAE has almost 70% of the world’s population, whilst Australia has a lot of blue ocean. That hasn’t stopped Australia from having great market access, but this is a result moreso of great competitive advantage with agriculture products (specifically referencing the food industry) rather than location. Market access here in UAE is very good for food suppliers, as well as being a great logistical hub and additionally UAE is gaining ground and becoming more and more self-sufficient in food supply. The export reach into Africa will be a huge platform for growth in the coming decade for food suppliers based in, or re-exporting from the UAE.

Perhaps the rates of exponential growth have passed, however there are solid plans to ensure sustainable growth in the future, with less reliance on oil in Dubai and the continual support and development of world class tourism and trade. Other countries have not fared well in recent times due to oil price crashes, however UAE has managed to withstand the worst of the impact due to the amazing foresight from the government and there is a high degree of confidence that foresight will continue.

Expo 2020 will be a major event for the UAE, forecasting 25 million international visitors for the 6-month show and it will set a new springboard for future growth and attract interest from the world.

What are some of the unique opportunities you’ve been afforded in Dubai?

Embedding and conducting business in the EMEA region has presented great cultural, career, network and character-building opportunities that I would not have had, based in an Australian office and simply travelling ad hoc to the market. Many more opportunities both personal and professional present themselves when you become a ‘local’.

Add to this the amazing food and travel hub that Dubai and Emirates provides – it is within easy reach to Africa, Europe, Mediterranean and central/western Asia, which can be reached quick and direct.  

What do you miss most about Australia?

Apart from the network of friends and family, coming from Brisbane it would have to be the weather and year-round outdoors lifestyle. Dubai’s climate can be described as ‘6 months hot, 6 months not’ and the heat can be brutal, restricting any outdoor activities to early morning or late at night, if at all! 

References

Dubai Government Dubai Exports 2018 report http://www.dedc.gov.ae/StudiesAndResearchDocument/Food-and-Baverages-Sector-Report.pdf)

KPMG UAE Food and Beverage Report 2018 (https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/ae/pdf/food-beverage-2018.pdf

Mastercard Global Cities Index Report

(https://newsroom.mastercard.com/documents/global-destination-cities-index-report-2019/).