Almarai Company: Milk and Modernization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
With SAR 14 billion ($3.7 billion) in 2017 revenues, Almarai was Saudi Arabia's largest dairy producer, distributor, and marketer, with a large portfolio of branded dairy products, juices, bakery goods, and infant formula and a sales presence across the Gulf region, Jordan, and Egypt. Almarai employed some 42,000 people across its operations, from its massive dairy farms to its processing plants to its vast sales and distribution operation that reached over 100,000 outlets. Notwithstanding its diverse portfolio, the core of Almarai's business was (1) sales of branded fresh/chilled dairy products, (2) in Saudi Arabia, (3) distributed through the traditional retail channel made up of thousands of small neighborhood shops called bakalas. In October 2018, all three of these focal points were under pressure. Under the economic-restructuring programs of Saudi Arabia's new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, new taxes and subsidy cuts were squeezing household budgets. Concurrently, changes to other government policies were causing expatriates-who made up about a third of Saudi Arabia's population and were a key consumer of Almarai's dairy products-to leave the country in droves. This case finds Almarai's management team, led by soon-to-retire CEO Georges Schorderet, debating how the company can defend and grow its position in Saudi Arabia while also finding new sources of future growth (e.g., bringing its production model to new markets with fragmented dairy sectors or entering new product categories such as fish or ice cream). The decision of how to move forward will be based on an assessment of Almarai's strengths, how they can be best used to drive future growth, and how relevant they will remain in a market that is changing so dramatically.
- 2018 HBS
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