Company Reports - AATCO
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AATCO's aggressive growth strategy continues to keep it at the top of the condiment game
The business model followed by AATCO, part of the Ali & Abdul Karim Group, is very clear within seconds of talking to General Manager Geert Buijsman. “We are customer savvy – everything we do revolves around the customer’s needs,” he states.
Founded in 1983 and based in Oman, AATCO has established itself as a leading manufacturer of sauces and condiments in the Middle East and Africa in 43 countries.
The firm describes itself as a “preferred culinary partner”, offering tomato ketchup, hot sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressings, sauces, essence and tomato paste along with tailored solutions for food outlets and other such businesses.
AATCO employs 280 staff and makes a determined effort to employ as many Omani people as possible and give young people opportunities after leaving education and entering a tough job market. This is reflected in a very young workforce, Buijsman says, of which he is one of the oldest members aged 37.
While providing the necessary training in hygiene, safety and quality awareness, at management level the programme is adapted each year. “At the moment we are focusing on effectiveness. We do it on a needs basis, depending on which skills we need to have in the company.
AATCO prides itself on its short lead times from order to delivery – even when a new product is created from scratch.
“Unlike other companies we make to order, so need a very responsive supply chain. The normal lead time is two weeks and to continue to achieve this we are expanding and building another factory soon in Saudi Arabia. From idea to commercial application, the process takes between six to eight weeks for new products.
“We use local ingredients where we can, such as oil, which is of a very good standard locally. However one of the most important ingredients for us is emulsifying agents from egg yolks. We have sources in Europe where we import from because quality-wise they are much ahead of the rest of world. We are very much trying to create locally adapted flavours making us unique, our end products should deliver the tastes of the world.”
AATCO’s food solutions side of the business caters for the likes of internationally recognised brands such Pizza Hut, Burger King and Subway. Buijsman puts the strength of these client relationships down to the highest quality service.
“Our clients can reach us any time of the day, seven days a week. We frequently visit them to stay on top of orders and offer real solutions,” he says.
A part of this is AATCO’s qualified chef who can produce tailor-made recipes to suit each individual client’s needs.
“Our company has grown with our customers, with many of them just starting their restaurant chains out in the region. We keep investing as per their needs and grow in line with them.”
On the back of its success in providing businesses in the industry, AATCO also has its own brands available in supermarkets, the flagship being Delicio, which offers a wide range of ketchup, dressings and mayonnaise and is also extending to pasta sauces. AATCO also co-manufactures for A brands such as Campbell, California Garden and Heinz.
AATCO’s range of products and packaging is diverse – from small 8 gram sachets to pouches, jars and bottles. “If you look at our processing output we can produce very small batches at low losses and very large volumes with cost benefits. We support our customers in what they really need and how they really need it,” Buijsman beams.
AATCO’s growth in the past 18 years has been very impressive, highlighted in its strategy of doubling the size of the business every four years. Demand has paved the way for another factory to be built in Saudi Arabia, which Buijsman adds will signal the “next stage of growth”.
“We want to make sure our customers have no reason to find a back up plan. If anything major happens to our one factory we would be unable to deliver, however with two factories we now have a contingency plan and would be able to fulfill orders in the case of emergency.”
Since inception, AATCO has set itself ambitious targets and continues to do so. With the four year plan in place, the new factory has been the biggest capital expenditure and Buijsman is confident this will reap the rewards.
“The Middle East and Africa market is very vibrant; there are a lot of changes taking place. What we see is more localisation and innovation. Menus are changing much more frequently and our food solutions service will benefit from customers doing this.
“Our own brands are well known across the region and we are focused on making sure that our sauces remain the ‘taste maker’ of a meal, are good quality and value for money with us being at the top of the markets we serve,” Buijsman confidently signs off.