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Thu 7 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Dante lands debut in Dubai’s retail sector

MD fires up strategy to profit from untapped potential for gourmet sandwiches in market.

Dubai-based outside caterer Dante has extended its presence into supermarkets in the emirate and aims to open five independent retail booths annually, its MD has revealed.

The company has responded to untapped potential in the market for "natural, wholesome" takeaway food, and its products have won shelf space at Géant's hypermarket at Ibn Battuta Mall and at Le Marché at Arabian Ranches.

Cris Ferguson, managing director for Dante LLC, admitted the move into the retail sector "happened so fast, they welcomed us with open arms and we were really pleased."

The company's gourmet products stand apart from existing ranges at the stores, and Ferguson attributed the deals to the packaging, brand and products selling themselves.

"As soon as they seen what we were offering, we didn't have to convince them to put us on the shelf, as we were not going to compete with existing players."

"They're selling AED3 (US $0.81) sandwiches, and we're selling AED18 (US $5) sandwiches, so we're attracting completely different audiences."

Ferguson said Dante has filled the niche for gourmet sandwiches in the emirate, and the range has lured a new bracket of consumers to those buying rivals' products.

"Shoppers buying our products don't even look at the other items on the shelf."

The launch at Le Marché has received an overwhelming response from the company's target audience, "thrilled to have access to good quality, natural food that is fast and easy to take away," and Ferguson is now eager to "meet with as many retailers as we can" to firm up its retail ambitions.

"Dante is a volume business and our margins on each item are so low that we need to be selling huge amounts to make profits and break even."

"Although we wanted to be the ones selling our products so we could explain each item to consumers that is not possible all the time."

Ferguson said the company plans to open its own retail kiosks for takeaway sales using Dante's trademark branding, which could potentially be positioned building foyers.

"Our ambition is to open up to five kiosks per year, and the first could be rolled out after this summer," she said.

Retailers in the UAE are chasing ‘foodies' seeking gourmet cuisine with new openings, however she said its small population has meant demand is "not yet overwhelming, but big enough for those of us on the ground to really step up our game and expand."

Ferguson admitted the company had already lined up meetings with other retail groups in the near future to discuss retail opportunities.

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