Pedal to the Metal! – in the Middle East
When Wael Abu Awwad considers the growth of the Jordanian company bearing his name, he gets excited about how fast things are happening.
Since 1968, Wael Abu Awwad has served mainly grocery stores and restaurants in Jordan. The family-run business has always prospered, but expansion plans offer even greater opportunities in the future.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Abu Awwad said. “We’d love to expand into markets beyond Jordan. We have great contacts in the Gulf and our neighboring countries. We’re not there yet, but we are starting to get quote requests from those areas.”
Abu Awwad recently collaborated with Whitehall Specialties to introduce a new line of slice-on-slice (SOS) cheese product last year called “7 Boys.” Named in honor of his seven sons – ages 4 to 15 years old – the new product has filled a niche in his home country.
“There is a big demand for American products in Jordan,” he explained. “We thought this was a high potential product category for us. We just needed the right partner.” When Abu Awwad met Kris High, Vice President International for Whitehall Specialties, at last year’s Gulfood show, he knew he had found that partner.
“We just clicked. We told Kris about our needs and she had a good story to tell, so next we decided to visit the company in Wisconsin. We saw how the operation worked and it just took off from there. We went from zero to 100 miles per hour in no time to launch this product.”
The success was so fast, in fact, that the company was recognized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan for its Support, Contribution & Success in advancing their objective of increasing US-Jordan Business. “In a few months we generated $360,000 in sales and are forecast to reach $1.2 million in under a year. They were very impressed with the amount of American export,” Abu Awwad added.
The award validates what he already knew was a great partnership.
“We have been on the same track with Whitehall from the start,” Abu Awwad said. “There’s always a big learning curve at the beginning of these relationships, but that’s okay because we moved forward with mutual respect working in each other’s interests.”
While Abu Awwad sees so many ways to cultivate a relationship with Whitehall, he’s determined to take things one step at a time.
“Whitehall has a lot to offer, but, as this was a new relationship and a new product for us, we decided to initially focus on just the SOS product for catering and foodservice,” he said. “We then entered into retail with our line of individually wrapped slices (IWS). When we see the product working both in food service and in customers’ homes, well, you know, we have a great chance of success.”
In addition to working out product regulations, pricing and packaging, Whitehall Specialties was able to meet the requirements needed to be HALAL certified, according to Abu Awwad.
“Every country has its own procedures to ensure health requirements and religious considerations are met,” he said. “We were able to get those certifications here, but we also give Whitehall credit for understanding the challenges involved and working hard to help us meet those requirements.”
Abu Awwad credits Whitehall’s one-on-one style of business as a big reason for the successful start to the relationship. He especially credits Kris High.
“Kris is not only a visionary but she’s done great things already that will last forever,” he said. “The way she works with us makes it very easy to get things done with Whitehall. That’s critical to us.”
It’s a lasting relationship Abu Awwad wants for his company and the next generation of the family.
“Yes. We already have them working,” he said of his 7 boys. Instead of playing on their phones they help us with research in the stores and checking prices. Instead of playing, they are making money!”