Bateel: Building a World-class Gourmet Date Experience

Bateel is Arabic for the young branch of a date palm — one that can be used to grow a new tree.   The word Bateel, therefore, is very much associated with the date, an important fruit in Islamic history and culture.

Thus the word Bateel is very much associated with the date, an important fruit in Islamic history and culture.

Symbolically, Bateel, of the Bateel International LLC of Saudi Arabia, has taken dates from being just a commodity, to becoming a gourmet delicacy and a premium brand in condiments.  It has recreated the perception of dates as a product, by crafting a strong branding experience.

KEY FACTS

HQ: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (date groves in Al Ghat, Saudi Arabia)
Product: Bateel Retail stores with 20 varieties of dates with premium packaging and other confectionary products
Locations:  Regional office in the UAE, operations in 14 countries extending from London to Jakarta
Brands Extensions:
Café Bateel
Type: Privately held
Website: www.bateel.ae

In a culture where dates are consumed like water, the Bateel Group rebranded the image of a date from being just a consumer good to one that boasted premier branding. The genesis of Bateel is based on the most generic reason for all businesses—viability!

A new “Premium” strategy:

In 1992, the wholesale pricing strategy of the company had become unviable. The cost of production in the state-of the art- factory at Al-Ghat was more than the sales value that was being recovered from the mass market rates. The necessity of ensuring profitability and business survival brought about the birth of “Bateel – World’s only Gourmet Date Experience,” a whole new branding strategy.

In crafting their strategy, Bateel started with a simple concept, a high price point which was based on a unique range of high quality products targeted to a well-defined market segment in an upscale and elegant retail environment.

The concept was unique, offering a selection of products not available from any other source, in a range that was not known prior to the availability of Bateel’s suite of products, and in an ambience that exuded class and quality. Tied to this was a very clear understanding and insight into the emotional needs of the target group.

In a short time Bateel became a runaway success with growth rates of 30-40%.
Bateel’s initial success can be attributed to:

1) Premium positioning:  Bateel became one of the very few marketers (in the region) who elevated a common everyday mass produced product to a unique, premium offering, and tied its brand association with the cultural custom of gifting dates.

2) Product innovation: Bateel capitalized on the synergistic marriage of chocolate and dates, creating a premium brand “for connoisseurs.” Just as high end quality chocolate has certain product qualities which are heightened with packaging, Bateel went into a product extension of making date-based chocolates for its group, bringing innovation and creating a new category of its own.

3) Full Brand experience: Bateel made it a priority to deliver the premium quality of the brand experience consistently throughout its  product range; taking the care to even design an upscale ambience which permeated their physical stores, with the ultimate goal of  providing a new brand experience for the target group.

Creating a brand out of a commodity is one of the hardest branding exercises, as differentiation becomes difficult when similar products are available at a much lower price point.

Customer appeal:

Bateel’s management understood the need and the value of incorporating consumer insights in order to evolve into a viable premium brand. Consumer acceptance was vital in the progress as creating a good product was half the battle. Towards this end, the strategy focused on providing a unique and holistic brand experience, in terms of visual aesthetic, comfort, as well as taste. The product extension into date based chocolates supplemented this strategy and added to the premium image of the brand.

Visually, two key elements added to the brand’s premium identity:

(A) The packaging of the dates was on par with that of expensive gift items. This, possibly, was one of the key reasons for the immediate success of the brand; the target group felt proud to be associated with the brand as it represented their class and taste.

(B) The retail interior design of the Bateel shops exuded shops exuded decadence, elegance and class in their designs, reflecting Bateel’s brand persona of a good fusion between Western elegance and Arabic cultural roots. The ambience was bolstered with a nuanced, and soothing visual identity.

Product Extension:

In 2007, the brand decided to extend its footsteps and take the “World’s only Gourmet Experience” further. The brand’s extension into cafés, serving North Italian Umbrian cuisine alongside exotic Middle-Eastern fare, was yet another innovative way of further expanding the Bateel brand experience as well as entrenching itself in the broader positioning of premium gourmet.

The café concept was another innovative streak of the Bateel experience and environment, providing a strong reason for its core target group to feel rewarded with their relationship with the brand. At the same time the brand widened its reach by appealing to new target groups of business professionals and discerning customers.

Bateel—is a Date to be remembered, and to be watched as it progresses strongly to establish its brand identity across the region.  It has re-defined dates by its innovative branding and has raised the profile of this important fruit of Islamic history and culture.

Key Learning Points:

  1. Commodity products may appeal to the masses, but a careful executed branding experience can alter the perception of the product: elevating it from commodity status to premium status.  In the case of Bateel, the consumer product of a date became a high quality delicacy that boasted premier shopping and café dining experience.
  2. Bateel capitalized on the Arab culture of giving dates as gifts and positioned their dates as luxury gifts in order to attract clients who were inclined to giving luxury gifts as part of their culture.
  3. Packaging and later superior shopping experiences through elegant visual stimulation through the Bateel shops and cafés enhanced the brand image of Bateel as a high quality service provider.