Lebanon’s FMCG Giants Quenching the Desires of Consumers
Posted on October 21, 2018

During medieval times, people had to be satisfied with whatever goods they had and forget their desires for commodities that were not available in their cities. With time, people began trading to acquire these goods with the first long-distance trade occurring between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in Pakistan around 3000 BC. Nowadays, everything is made available with a few clicks. Lebanese, being a lavish consumer culture, have a passion for buying the best imported products. The Lebanese Customs Authority reported that Lebanon’s total imports in 2016 reached USD 18.705 billion, of which USD 1.184 billion came from the United States. To satisfy the need of this high demand market, foreign exporters rely on local companies to receive the imported products. The fast paced world lead to growth in demand for products that are easy to use and convenient, because those are the kinds of products that people with limited time most appreciate. The extensive need for distributors is then mandatory to ensure Lebanese consumers’ demands are met. You might then wonder about the exact role of a distributor in making those wishes come true.

A distributor is a set of interdependent organizations or intermediaries that, in addition to fulfilling retailer orders, actively sell products on behalf of the producers making a product available for purchase by dispersing it through the market. From managing orders and returns to acting as a sales representative, they go beyond being the middleman between retailers and producers to ensure favorite products make it to store shelves. To know what the favored products are, they frequently perform market analysis. It involves transportation, packaging, delivery and becoming the warehouses for manufacturers and their dealer customers. Distributors are the ambassadors and extensive arm of each company producer quenching our appetite.

Global food production and consumption patterns have evolved over the past decades. This development is largely attributed to higher income, urbanization, as well as improved consumer perception over food quality and safety, especially within emerging economies and developing countries. The FMCG sector is beginning to undergo a quiet revolution in Lebanon, as traditional retail gives up market share to the growing presence of supermarket chains across the country. This sector has traditionally been the preserve of family-owned trading companies, but some of the larger global players are beginning to make their presence felt. According to Nielsen reports, “rapid urbanization and changes in households are also influencing buying decisions of global consumers. Meanwhile, the household continues to shrink at the same time. Therefore, it’s not surprising that consumers say they seek out products which make life easier (31%) and convenient to use (31%), while around one in five consumers are looking for products suitable for small households (18%) and tailored to a specific need (15%).”

Being a high consumer market with a desire for the best, Lebanon has numerous amounts of distributors that brace themselves to give consumers what they are looking for in terms of quality and customer service. Most known distributors in the Lebanese market go on a never ending journey to improve customer service and products. To name a few, Holdal group distributes eye wear, leather, cosmetics, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and pharmaceuticals while Khalil Fattal & Fils distributes beauty products, accessories, food and beverage, tobacco and electronics. Transmed, on the other hand, is fully dedicated to the sales and distribution of high quality FMCG “by having a product offering that caters to all different price segments” as worded by Sami Salman president of Transmed. One-third of the FMCG retail market is in the hands of modern retail.

Holdal Abou Adal group is one of the leading FMCG companies in Lebanon with a specialization in the best global hand-picked prestigious brands. Founded initially in 1947 as “Georges Abou Adal & Cie,” HOLDAL Group consisted of importing and distributing watches and pharmaceuticals. To cater to the growing companies of Abou Adal Group, HOLDAL s.a.l. was established in 1992 as the Group’s Holding Company and is currently home to a distinguished portfolio of brands in distribution, retail, manufacturing and logistics across the Middle East and Africa.

Holdal Group represent Colgate-Palmolive and L’Oréal while operating in nine different categories. Most of their brands are currently ranked among the top three in their respective categories. Colgate Toothpaste has been a success and a number one for more than five years now while Colgate Toothbrushes hold a strong second position, each in its respective category. They are also leading in the Shower Gel category with both Palmolive and Tahiti while Mennen is a number one in the Stick Deodorants segment. Among other categories, they handle shampoo, soaps, all purpose cleaners, softeners and bleach in which their brands hold strong positions.

A history of 32 years partnering with Colgate-Palmolive enabled them to build strong expertise in sales and marketing, strengthening their partnerships with the trade and helping them achieve leadership positions for their brands. There is always room for growth and their foreseen opportunities ranges from geographic expansion and an enlarged category / brand portfolio.

Fattal Group is a leading regional distributor of premium brands operating in the Middle East and North Africa since 1897 with a 52 year partnership with Elizabeth Arden, 83 years partnership with Unilever, 84 years of partnership with Bayer, and 70 years partnership with Novartis among many more. They are a world class leader in many brands ranging from food and non-food categories such as biscuits, chocolates, chewing gum, ketchup, processed cheese, healthcare (Listerine and Strepsils), household disinfectant items (Dettol) among others.

Transmed is one of the leading FMCG distributors in the Lebanese market ensuring the delivery, storage and distribution operations for the biggest FMCG suppliers such as P&G, Gillette, Clorox, Glad, Mars, Sysco, Kellogs, Danone Baby Foods, Mc Cain FS, Bhalsen, Walkers, Dr Oteker and many more successful FMCG brands for the past 22 years. Transmed, the sales and distribution arm of those companies, ensures that their brands get the best promotional exposure through extensive research and marketing strategies, ensuring brands don’t compete with each other in the same territory explained Fouad Es-Said, Chairman & CEO of Transmed. They lead in brand categories such as personal care, hair care, home care, paper (diapers & ladies pads), chocolates, biscuits, gum, chips, frozen meat/chicken, honey, and canned tuna. Their biggest challenge is growth and their biggest achievement is “we distribute brands that people love”.

Transmed’s secret in standing out from their competition? They have the best in class execution. They received several awards such as the sales excellence award from Clorox international for their exceptional contribution in building the Clorox brand in the UAE, “Distributor of the Year” by GOJO Industries, Inc., “Best Turn Around of The Year 2014", and “The Best in Class” award for their outstanding performance. Some of their constant full throttle enhancement to their expertise and partnerships include Transmed and London Business School jointly designing an exclusive leadership program tailored to fulfill their strategic needs and aspirations.

Wondering about some background information on the leading FMCG distributor in Lebanon? Transmed, established in Lebanon since 1946, is a full service distributor managing and controlling the entire distribution value chain with a customer centric service. Their services cover supply chain, logistics, distribution, sales and promotions. Expanding their portfolio, they managed to penetrate other markets in the regions of the Middle East, Near East, West and East Africa, including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and others. 

When asked about how the idea behind Transmed was established, Fouad Es-Said, Chairman & CEO of Transmed said: “My grandfather was very interested in commerce, and traveled to the US to see what the consumer trends were. He brought some items from the US to sell in Lebanon and that's how the business started. He established partnerships with various multinationals like Procter & Gamble, Mars, and Clorox, and grew steadily in Lebanon before expanding into Jordan in 1975, the UAE in 1977, and then other markets in the rest of the Levant, East and West Africa. Today, Transmed is present in 10 markets worldwide with on-the-ground operations, and we work with about 40 multinationals.”

One thing all FMCG companies agree on? In today’s hyper-connected world, convenience is the ultimate currency. In addition, consumers are moving towards a healthier trend in food choice and lifestyle.