Selma Roth – Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Following an initial investment of $60 million and allocation of an additional $150 million over the next decade, Mars Saudi Arabia will open on Tuesday its first chocolate factory in the Kingdom at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh.
During a press conference on the occasion of the inauguration here on Monday, Sami Darouni, Mars, Inc. regional president of the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said although Mars had been present in the Kingdom for over 30 years, he was very proud that the first chocolate factory in this country and the third in the region — following plants in Dubai and Egypt — is now up and running.
“We’re very proud to say that we have the Platinum status” at the Ministry of Labor’s Nitaqat program, as 60 percent of our associates are Saudi employees, Darouni said, using the word “associates” for the employees hired at the factory, a term Mars uses to reflect its culture of equality.
Apart from this, the new factory, which will produce a range of Galaxy chocolates, the country’s most popular brand, is unique in being the first food manufacturer to obtain the LEED Gold Standard in Saudi Arabia, Darouni added. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an international set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods, in which gold is the second highest level of certification.
Based on their principle to give back to the community and businesses, the regional president continued, Mars Saudi Arabia would be committed to train and develop their associates as well as to bring the best expertise from across the world.
In this regard, the company also announced that in its future Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy for the coming years, it would prioritize human capital development with a focus on women empowerment in addition to environment and natural resource preservation.
Welcoming the opening of the Mars chocolate factory, Rayan Qutub, CEO of the Industrial Valley at KAEC, said 82 factories had already signed with KAEC, of which 8 had started operations and almost half were in the production phase. “These companies are key players in the Kingdom’s aim to diversify its economy,” he said.
Currently, only men have been employed in the production line at KAEC, but Darouni assured the management would hire women as soon as it had ensured that “all our policies are adapted to women.” He was, however, unable to give a timeline for hiring women. “It was a condition [we agreed upon] with KAEC that we can assure that women can be working and will be working (in the chocolate factory).”
For the time being, only Galaxy brand chocolates are being manufactured at the new chocolate factory; however, in the future Mars Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its range into other chocolate brands and hire a total of nearly 400 associates at the plant.
Mars, Inc. is a fourth generation family business founded and based in the United States. With annual net sales exceeding $33 billion, Mars operates in six business segments: chocolates, chewing gum and confections, food, drinks, pet care, and symbioscience. The company has some 75,000 employees working in over 365 sites, including over 135 manufacturing facilities operating in 74 countries.
In the Kingdom, the Al Naghi Group is the company’s sole distributor, while there are currently 65 local suppliers. Saudi market sales currently amount to $1.2 billion, and growth is projected at 11 percent, a percentile similar to other emerging markets in Latin America and Asia.