Lebanese Pickle Pioneer Expands Reach in Agricultural Value Chain
Local Business Gains Better Marketing, New Products, Quality and Safety Measures
Since the 1940s, when a Lebanese pickle pioneer formed a company to sell his vegetable products locally, Beirut-based Mechaalany has expanded to become a national and international distributor of a variety of traditional Lebanese packaged food and beverages. Today, specialty stores and supermarkets from Asia to South America, Australia to the United States, stock Mechaalany’s traditional quality products such as jams, syrups, olive oil and sesame-based products, including the sweet confection halawa and traditional East Asian anise-flavored alcoholic drink, Arak.
Mechaalany significantly increased sales in 2011 and improved its competitive position locally and internationally with help from the USAID-funded Lebanon Business Linkages Initiative (LBLI) project. With ACDI/VOCA’s support under the LBLI program. Mechaalany achieved:
- Reduced costs by buying produce from local, rural farmers, which benefitted both the farmers and Mechaalany
- Streamlined local distribution channels by outsourcing the service
- Improved packaging quality and labeling
- New product categories in local and Gulf markets
Enhanced Marketing and Distribution Locally, Internationally
The $4.7-million program, which is designed to foster Lebanon’s economic growth and poverty reduction, helped Mechaalany improve its efficiency, product line, marketing and sales through customized trainings and strategic value chain analyses. For example, the program supported the company’s branding efforts, helping Mechaalany better understand its current and potential customers. Mechaalany staff, with input from LBLI staff, developed a sales and marketing strategy based on thorough end-market research.
Mechaalany also improved cost efficiency by outsourcing its distribution to a local company. As a result, Mechaalany increased its local sales by 35 percent.
To increase market recognition in the United States, the LBLI program shared the costs and supported 28 in-store promotions in five key U.S. grocery stores. This greater product awareness helped increase the company’s exports to the United States by 20 percent.
Diversify and Promote New Products
LBLI and Mechaalany staff also worked together to create and launch a new product category, ready-to-eat-meals, which have a long shelf life and do not require canning or freezing. The program helped Mechaalany secure financing to buy the proper processing equipment and linked the company with an equipment manufacturer that helped with product development.
LBLI and Mechaalany staff worked as well to develop customized packaging and labeling, and to identify appropriate local and export market channels. Based on market research, Mechaalany launched, with cost-share from LBLI, an innovative local supermarket promotion to increase shopper awareness. The result was $80,000 in initial sales.
Standardized Quality Control and Safety Measures
To ensure consistent food safety measures were followed, LBLI staff worked with the company’s management team to conduct a systematic quality control review known internationally as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) gap analysis.
Mechaalany then took steps to meet international HACCP standards and additional local and export market requirements, including hiring a full-time staff person to oversee its new processes. Click here for more in how Mechaalany achieved this.
Ever-Improving, Expanding Business
Based on market research and learning, Mechaalany also invested in innovative, modern processing machinery that allows it to offer high-quality, Halal-certified ready-to-eat meals. This product is geared toward the broad Gulf market, including those making the Hajj, a market with the potential to reach millions of consumers.
Pictured at top left: Mechaalany's specialty foods ready for taste-testing at Sahadi Fine Foods in New York.