“Compared to traditional dairy products, the industry of camel dairy is in its infancy.” Patrick DoraisDirector of Sales
European Food: In Europe, your product is exclusively sold in high-end retail markets, such as the KaDeWe in Berlin and the equally famous Julius Meinl am Graben in Vienna. How did you convince your high-end retail partners to list your exotic product?
Patrick Dorais: Our camel milk supplier Camelicious opened in 2006 and remains the only modern camel dairy farm to this day. As a matter of fact, it is the only EU-approved camel milk dairy facility in the entire world. Despite the fact that they have an impressive herd of over 5,000 camels, yield is limited, as camels on average produce much less milk per day than cattle - only about six to eight liters. Hence, the camel milk powder we depend on for the key ingredient in our chocolate is an extremely rare and thus expensive commodity; it costs anywhere between 18 and 25 times the price of cow milk powder.
Our commitment to quality is also reflected in many other aspects of our product. Our base recipe consists of only five ingredients: camel milk powder, cocoa butter and mass, real Bourbon vanilla, Acacia honey and sugar. We do not use any vegetable fats, palm oil, cheap substitutes or compounds. You won’t find any ‘nasties’ in our recipes. We also invest in top quality packaging materials, which we mainly purchase from suppliers in Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy.
"We do not use any vegetable fats, palm oil, cheap substitutes or compounds. You won’t find any ‘nasties’ in our recipes." Patrick DoraisDirector of Sales
In order to reflect this difference in the cost of our key ingredient alone, we had no choice but to position our product at the premium end of the market. With average retail price points of approximately 150 USD per kilo, but reaching up to 900 USD per kilo, we would not survive in a mass-market food distribution model, hence our approach of targeting five-star hotels, tourist attractions and duty-free shops in the United Arab Emirates and around the world, as well as specialized premium purveyors of fine foods. Besides the KaDeWe in Berlin and the Julius Meinl am Graben in Vienna which you already mentioned, our product can also be found in the Oberpollinger in Munich, the Alsterhaus in Hamburg and the Galeries Gourmandes in Paris to name only a few. Our reach today is global and spans from Sydney, Australia to San Diego, California.
European Food: Were consumers from the West and the Far East open to your product from the beginning? And where does camel milk chocolate sell especially well?
Patrick Dorais: Our core market remains the UAE. The first camel farm there opened in 2006, about two years before we launched Al Nassma. At first, we only produced our products for the local UAE market, but we quickly expanded to foreign markets, the first of them being Japan and Switzerland.
A significant proportion of our sales is made in duty-free shops in airports. The Middle East in general and the UAE in particular are transit hubs – an estimated 80% of passengers in the airports there only pass through Dubai or Abu Dhabi on their way to their final destinations.
We believe that we catch these passengers’ eyes during their transit time in the duty-free areas and they quickly become curious and interested in trying something new and unique, or they want to pick up a bar of camel milk chocolate as a memento of the short time they spent in this region. Once they have arrived home and have enjoyed our chocolate creations, they see beyond the novelty effect of camel milk chocolate and are keen to purchase it anywhere around the globe. In the USA, for example, our chocolate is distributed coast-to-coast via Lolli & Pops a specialist confectionery retailer and available there in 60+ outlets.
Our nationality analysis has shown us that customers from mainland China alone account for 14% of our sales, while the whole Far East region accounts for roughly one third of our sales, which is similar to our share in the West.
European Food: Al Nassma already offers various flavours and varieties of its chocolate products. Are there plans to introduce yet more? And are there other camel milk products besides chocolate which Al Nassma might take an interest in introducing?
Patrick Dorais: We have recently launched our whole-nut range. We are very proud of the fact that it was recently nominated as a finalist in a vote by travelers in the duty-free industry. We continue to have several projects in the pipeline for the months and years to come, both in chocolate and in adjacent categories, building on our commitment to grow this unique category within a category.
Interview: Julian Miller, Photos: Ralf Baumgarten, Al Nassma Chocolate LLC