Algeria – A travelogue part II

A stranger’s a stranger only in a strange land (Karl Valentin)

Small breakfast. Pictures hanging on the wall opposite me. Motifs and depictions of Berber women. A woman with a spindle in her hand. Two others appear to be squabbling. Four men are riding on magnificent horses – evoking folklore tales of bold Berber warriors. The Algerian flag is in a corner, on the left at the back. I’m given a bottle of still water. The brand: Guedila. And that’s precisely where we’re going today.

On the way to the client

Together with Marketing Manager Mouloud Hamdi, we leave Biskra. We drive northwards, and leave the “Gateway to the Sahara Desert” behind us. A barren, austere landscape stretches out in front of us, a sea of ochre-coloured rocks. The region we’re going to is called Djamora. Goats and their herders at the roadside. People waiting in the shade for the bus. Suddenly, islands of green palm tree groves. Dates. The best in the world, Mouloud explains. They will be harvested in November.

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After half an hour, we reach Guedila at an elevation of 1600 feet. Up the road to the left. Arrived. First of all, we’re introduced to Abdennour Hayouni. He’s the Quality Officer at Guedila. And then, finally, we can express our thanks for the invitation and all the organising: we meet the company’s owner, who’s also its Technical Director, Abdeljalil Hoggui. He takes us on a guided tour of the two new Krones PET lines for still water. They’re a mere four months young, commissioned in March of 2014. Everything is spotlessly clean. My impression is this: here you could literally eat off the floor. And intuitively I just know: things are going to stay that way! And there’s one other thing I notice (or rather feel) immediately: air-conditioning in the hall housing the two new bottling lines.

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How the Guedila brand evolved

As we talk, I learn a lot about the water producer: the Guedila brand has long been established on the Algerian market. The spring was discovered in 1986, and was at first subject to a government monopoly. In 2003, it came into the private ownership of the Hoggui family. A clan that is invariably receptive to new markets, and that translates its entrepreneurial talents into corporate success. The Hoggui family is still Algeria’s market leader for construction materials. This take-over from the private sector marked a new beginning for the Guedila water brand. And indeed in the whole Algerian market for bottled water. You could put it this way: packaged water in Algeria is growing as fast as totally new markets do.

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Consumption patterns for bottled water in Algeria

According to a study commissioned by Euromonitor International in 2010, per-capita consumption of bottled water was running at 48.4 litres. A consumption figure of 75.9 litres is being predicted for 2014, and an impressive 120.6 litres is forecast by 2018. That’s a steep growth curve. A trend that’s attributed to rising awareness among consumers in regard to their own health. In the hot months of summer, particularly, consuming water is a vital necessity. Expectations for the product’s visual appearance have changed as well: consumers are attaching progressively more importance to an appealing bottle design and attractive packaging. As far as direct product sales are concerned, small independent dealers lead the way. Their shops have the advantage of very long and concomitantly consumer-friendly opening hours.

Guedila is a very important employer, and above all a dependable one. 400 people work here for the water bottler. The majority of the staff have a technical remit. Only 20 per cent of them handle administrative matters at an office desk. The employees are highly qualified. At Guedila, it’s engineers who operate and look after the machines and the lines. Upmarket quality – this is the watchword for proprietor Hoggui Abdeljalil. And in his function as Technical Director, he also invests in this kind of machine technology. He got to know Krones at the 2009 drinktec, and then and there decided: the next two lines will be bought from Krones. And so it came to pass.

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