Insight from South African coffee product’s foray into the Middle East

South African Ella Coffee is a blend of espresso and milk packaged in a capsule for your convenience. It is primarily marketed as a drink that gives consumers an espresso boost (it can be shaken and consumed as a shot), but it can also be poured over ice or combined with hot water to make a cappuccino. Since three years ago, it has been on the shelves of South African retailers and online.

Over the past year, the company has endeavored to bring the product to the Middle East, a journey that can serve as a guide for other brands with similar goals.

Understanding how your product compares to similar products that are already being sold in the target market and determining where you may have a competitive advantage may sound elementary, but extensive research is essential.

The Middle East has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and our research revealed that they pay one of the highest prices in the world for premium coffee – for example, a cappuccino in Qatar costs $6.50. The fact that our product has a shelf life of one year increases its convenience. And because it contains more than 75% milk, it is exempt from sugar tax/excise duty in the Middle East, giving us an advantage over competitors who must pay high excise duties.

However, preparing a product for export is a lengthy process that is made more difficult in Ella’s case because the product contains milk (which is classified as live animal produce, and requires certification). To be able to export, we needed Department of Veterinary Science export approval, Halaal certification, and certification of our labels. However, being FSCC 22000-accredited meant that we already had many of the procedures in place, which were supplemented by the Halaal certification and the export license – both of which allow us to export to the Middle East.

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