Multinational brand on course for expansion in the UAE

Soft drinks, water and more snacks in the future

In 2016, the bottler Dubai Refreshment, franchisee for PepsiCo products, relocated to its new plant in Dubai Investment Park 2, just over 30 km south of the city centre. The new site, a greenfield project that currently employs around 700 people, was deliberately designed for continuous capacity expansion and, in addition to the state-of-the-art setup of European machine builders for its water and soft drinks bottling, not only offers plenty of space for additional equipment in the future, but has also taken a number of sustainability and environmental measures into account during construction and implemented them in a future-proof manner.

Interview meeting with Dubai Refreshment Company (DRC)
December 5, 2023
We met: Mr Wael Nehme, VP, Supply Chain And Projects
(photo top on the left)

The history of Dubai Refreshment goes back to the late 1950s. It all began in 1959 with the establishment of a glass line for returnable Pepsi bottles and 20 employees in Deira in northern Dubai. In 1962, the company became an official Pepsi franchisee and delivered its drinks to customers with five trucks. Over the decades, many other products from the multinational brand’s range were added. One main product, Aquafina still water, has been bottled here since 2004 and was listed on the stock exchange in 2007.

Five bottling lines are now in operation in the new factory, an investment of around US$ 200 million. A total of 15 different beverage brands roll off the production line here: Pepsi, 7 Up, Mirinda, Shani, Lipton Iced Tea, Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Mathieu Teisseire, Ceres, Rockstar, Robinsons, London Essence, Evervess, Britvic, Gatorade, Life WTR and Ceres Juice. Pepsi and Aquafina make up the majority with more than 90%. In addition, the snacks Dofreeze Cakes, Edita Wafers and, more recently, Lay’s Crisps are also sold.

The plant comprises two turnkey KHS lines for PET with 40,000 bph capacity for 0.33 l to 2.25 l bottles, two turnkey KHS lines for cans with 90,000 cph each for 0.15 l to 0.33 l, as well as a Simonazzi glass line with 24,000 bhp for 0.25 l CSDs as well as for 0.33 l and 0.75 l Aquafina. These, as well as one of the PET and one of the canning lines, were taken over from the previous site and modernised. In addition to water and CSD, the two newly added lines can also hot fill. Preforms (PCO1881 in clear and green for CSD, 29/25 in clear for Aquafina) are bought in from various sources, and bottle blowing takes place on Sidel blow moulding lines (SBO12 for Aquafina, SBO8 and SBO14 for CSDs). The latest technologies in the range include 100% rPET bottles for the Pepsi, Pepsi Diet and Pepsi Black brands, which the company launched in October 2023 with the new legislation on the use of recyclate in food contact. PET accounts for 47% of total production. The plant currently has over 300 stock keeping units and produces over 60 million crates annually.

1.5 l bottles of Mountain Dew on their way to the palletiser

“We are talking about one of the most modern production facilities in the Middle East,” explained Mr Wael Nehme, BSc and MBA graduate from American universities in Cairo & Dubai respectively, at the meeting. He has been working in operations and supply chain for more than 30 years. His personal career led him via Pepsi Société Moderne Libanaise Pour Le Commerce (SMLC) in Lebanon, Pepsi United Beverages in Kuwait and Pepsi Al Qahtani in Saudi Arabia to Dubai Refreshment in 2001. Here he started as Operations Manager and became responsible for the entire supply chain, from procurement, production, maintenance, quality control and safety to warehousing, logistics and the delivery fleet. His responsibilities also include sustainability and project planning, as well as the planning and implementation of this factory, where we met for the interview, and the company’s own distribution centres in various parts of the Emirates. He has 300 employees working under him. “This factory,” Mr Nehme continued, “is Industry 4.0-capable and a number of precautions were taken during construction to ensure that it also meets future sustainability and energy-saving requirements.”

Several processes and filtration steps are used in the water treatment plant with a capacity of 150 m3/h, including ultra filtration, carbon purification, reverse osmosis, microfiltration & UV disinfection. Aquafina also receives ozone treatment. For the water source, Dubai Refreshment mainly uses municipal water from the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa). Cochran boilers can use gas or diesel fuel for steam generation, Gea ammonia compressors for the central cooling system, Atlas Copco compressors for low pressure air and AF Compressors for high pressure air. Krones equipment can be found in the syrup room. Here, the sugar and water is mixed with the concentrate and pumped directly into the bottling line. The water is treated using Veolia technology. “The production process and the lines are fully automated and run at 86% efficiency,” said Mr Nehme.

Plenty of space for further filling lines, currently used as an additional warehouse

The site covers a total of 140,000 m2, of which only around 50% – 50,000 m2 – is used for production and delivery and 20,000 m2 for waste water treatment, administration and staff areas. Five more lines could be added at any time.

The company has a waste water treatment system and large-scale solar thermal and photovoltaic panels. The wastewater treatment plant has a nominal capacity of 1,100 m3/h and is reused in utilities and for watering the outdoor greenery. Mr Nehme explained: “We can currently reuse around 85-90% of the wastewater produced in this way, around 500-600 m3. Our solar system creates a capacity of 70 m3/h for hot water and with the photovoltaic system, consisting of 11,000 panels, we cover more than 30-40% of the plant’s energy requirements with a capacity of of 3.7 MW.” An optimised system for transporting and delivering goods is also used in logistics, with automatic route planning, digital mapping and utilisation of the 150 trucks, which reduces emissions and increases efficiency. In addition to this main plant and hub, there are also four warehouses in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. In total, the company has more than 1,000 employees and serves over 15,000 customers.

Syrup room with Krones equipment

The company’s expenditure has been recognised many times, both nationally and internationally. A hall of fame of these awards and certificates can be seen in the foyer, including the recently added Leeds Platinum Award, presented by the US Green Building Council (USGB) in recognition of the company’s sustainability achievements. “We also want to be more active in the snacks sector in future in order to develop from a pure beverage manufacturer into a beverage and food company,” said Wael Nehme, looking to the future.

Format overview
PET CSD: 0.3 l, 0.5 l, 1.25 l, 1.5 l, 2.28 l
PET water (Aquafina): 0.33 l, 0.5 l, 1.5 l

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