UAE’s Epik Foods nears its Saudi growth phase

UAE’s Epik Foods nears its Saudi growth phase
Epik Foods’ goal is to exceed its customer expectations through culinary experiences, sustainable practices, and community engagement. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 June 2024

UAE’s Epik Foods nears its Saudi growth phase

UAE’s Epik Foods nears its Saudi growth phase
  • UAE firm has an ambitious vision for its influence in the Saudi market

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage sector is attracting interest from new businesses at home and abroad, and startup Epik Foods is one of those eying significant expansion in the burgeoning market.

Founded in 2017, the company now operates over 100 brands and 50 locations across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. 

The UAE-based firm has emerged as a dynamic and multifaceted F&B group, operating virtual brands, dine-in restaurant concepts, meal plan services, and catering services. 

In an interview with Arab News, Epik Foods CEO and co-founder Khaled Fadly shared the company’s strategy for acquiring a 20 percent share of the Kingdom’s market.

A strategic Kingdom 

Epik Foods has outlined clear objectives for its operations in Saudi Arabia, with Fadly saying the company’s immediate goal is to lay the groundwork for sustained growth and success in the Kingdom.

“Through strategic initiatives, strong partnerships, and a relentless focus on quality and innovation, we aim to carve out a significant presence and become a household name synonymous with exceptional dining experiences,” he said. 

“We are committed to establishing a solid foundation that will support our long-term objectives and ensure our continued success in the region,” he added. 

Looking ahead, Epik Foods has an ambitious vision for its influence in the Saudi market.   

“We aspire to influence the sector by continually innovating, adapting, and setting industry standards,” Fadly said. 

The company’s goal is to exceed its customer expectations through culinary experiences, sustainable practices, and community engagement initiatives.  

“Over the next five years, we aim to capture at least 20 percent of the healthy fast-casual dining market share in major cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, while also expanding our virtual brand presence to cater to the growing online delivery segment. Through these efforts, we envision reshaping the landscape of the Saudi F&B market,” he said. 

Fadly elaborated on the company’s expansion strategy, stating that the expansion strategy in Saudi Arabia is multifaceted, focusing on establishing a strong presence, both physical and virtual.  

“Over the next two years, we plan to open 20 dine-in restaurants in key locations such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran for our flagship brands,” he stated.  

“Additionally, we’re launching multiple virtual brands covering diverse cuisines, including Arabic, Indian, Asian, burgers, fried chicken, and desserts which will be available exclusively for delivery through platforms like Jayez and HungerStation,” he added. 

Furthermore, Epik Foods is establishing partnerships with prominent gym institutions to operate Healthy & Co. kiosks within their facilities.  

These kiosks will provide convenient and nutritious post-workout meals, catering to health-conscious individuals and expanding the company’s reach into new customer segments, Fadly explained. 

Fadly confirmed that his company is “actively seeking opportunities” to collaborate with Saudi governmental bodies, adding: “We aim to work closely with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority to ensure compliance with local regulations and standards. Additionally, we are eager to participate in initiatives like the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program, which aims to promote healthier lifestyles and dining options.” 

Through strategic initiatives, strong partnerships, and a relentless focus on quality and innovation, we aim to carve out a significant presence and become a household name synonymous with exceptional dining experiences.

Khaled Fadly, Epik Foods CEO and co-founder

Epik Foods has set ambitious growth objectives for the next year, aiming to open five new dine-in restaurants, achieve a 30 percent increase in online delivery sales, and secure partnerships with at least three major gym chains for its Healthy & Co. and Prep & Co. brands.  

“In the Saudi market, we aim to achieve significant milestones including a projected 60 percent increase in revenue, doubling our dine-in restaurant footprint, and establishing ourselves as a recognized leader in healthy dining options,” stated Fadly. 

Fadly also shared news about new products tailored for the Saudi market. “We’re excited to launch our Daily Meal Kits featuring pre-packaged meals inspired by both traditional Saudi cuisine and international favorites,” he said.  

“The Saudi market plays a pivotal role in Epik Foods’ expansion strategy for several reasons. With its large and growing population, strong economy, and increasing demand for diverse culinary experiences, Saudi Arabia presents a significant opportunity for growth,” Fadly stated. 

“By establishing a strong foothold in Saudi Arabia, we can leverage our success to further penetrate neighboring markets and enhance our international brand recognition and reputation. Thus, the Saudi market serves as a cornerstone in our strategic roadmap for sustainable expansion and long-term success,” he added.

“We prioritize maintaining open communication channels with relevant authorities, regularly updating our policies and procedures to align with new regulations, and investing in employee training and development to ensure awareness and compliance at all levels of our organization,” Fadly explained.  

Additionally, the company leverages technology to streamline regulatory processes and minimize compliance risks.  

“We actively participate in industry associations and forums to stay informed and contribute to shaping future regulations, demonstrating our commitment to responsible business practices and regulatory compliance in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Business fundamentals  

“Throughout our journey within the Saudi Arabian market so far, we’ve encountered various challenges that demanded our attention and strategic maneuvering,” stated Fadly.  

These challenges include navigating the intricate regulatory framework, tailoring offerings to resonate with the distinct Saudi culinary palate, efficiently tackling logistical complexities in supply chain and workforce management, and carving a distinctive identity amidst a bustling landscape of local and global competitors.  

“To tackle these obstacles, we’ve embraced a holistic approach rooted in cultural insights, agile adaptability, and a commitment to delivering quality and innovation,” he added. 

“At Epik Foods, our business model is a fusion of various services tailored to meet the evolving needs of today’s consumers,” Fadly explained.  

The company operates a diverse portfolio comprising dine-in restaurants, innovative virtual brands, corporate catering services, personalized meal plans, and convenient meal kits.  

“While each avenue contributes to our revenue, the primary sources stem from our dynamic virtual brands and bustling dine-in restaurants,” he added. 

“We are proud to share that our company has achieved profitability at the country level,” Fadly revealed.  

“We are excited about this achievement and remain focused on further growth and success in the future,” he added. 

An Epik inception 

“The motivation behind founding our company stemmed from a desire to bring something new and innovative to the F&B market in Dubai,” Fadly recalled.  

In 2017, Fadly and his current co-founder Ranya Basyuni, both transitioning from corporate roles, identified a significant gap in the market, the absence of poke restaurants.  

This realization led to the opening of their first poke restaurant, marking the beginning of their journey in the F&B sector. 

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 presented unprecedented challenges, compelling Epik Foods to adapt its business model.  

“This period of adversity prompted us to pivot towards virtual brands, a strategy that not only allowed us to sustain our operations but also to explore new culinary avenues,” Fadly explained. 

The formation of Epik Foods was a strategic move to consolidate their ventures, merging the operations of Happy Platters Kitchen and Sweetheart Kitchen with KR&CO.  

“As we continue to evolve, we are looking forward to announcing the launch of Epik Catering, our catering service, to further expand our culinary footprint and cater to the diverse needs of our clientele,” he added. 

“At Epik Foods, we measure success through a multifaceted approach, relying on key performance indicators such as customer satisfaction scores, revenue growth, and the expansion of market share,” Fadly noted.  

The company is also committed to customer retention and operational excellence, which relies on prioritizing adaptability to local nuances and swiftly responding to evolving consumer preferences.  

“Our top metrics include an analysis of customer feedback and local market penetration,” he added. 

“We have raised a significant amount of funding, which we are strategically utilizing to expand our presence in Saudi Arabia,” Fadly shared.  

Specifically, these resources are being channeled towards opening more than 20 physical dine-in restaurants within the next two years.  

“This investment underscores our commitment to growth and delivering exceptional dining experiences to our valued customers,” he added. 

“Yes, we are actively exploring opportunities to secure additional funding to support our expansion plans,” Fadly confirmed.  

The focus is on enhancing infrastructure, scaling up operations, and entering new markets within Saudi Arabia.  

“Securing additional funds will enable us to accelerate our growth trajectory and better serve our customers in the region,” he said.  

He further shared the company’s current objectives that extend beyond financial metrics. 

“With Saudi Arabia’s vast population and diverse culture, we anticipate becoming integral to their lives and attracting even more customers,” he said. 

“The expansion potential in Saudi Arabia is immense, surpassing that of the UAE, and our success will serve as a regional springboard, enabling us to leverage synergies across neighboring countries,” Fadly elaborated.

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 
Updated 14 July 2024

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

RIYADH: A new digital platform will allow government agencies to access their accounts in the Saudi Central Bank easily and conveniently. 

The central bank, also known as SAMA, has announced the launch of Naqd, a platform for government banking services. The service is designed to provide government entities with easy and secure access to their accounts at the central bank and to conduct financial transactions through a trusted digital platform. 

The initiative is part of SAMA’s strategy to offer banking outlets to government entities and support digital transformation. 

The central bank is fostering digitalization across the spectrum with the launch of several initiatives. 

In May, SAMA announced the launch of a new undertaking — “View My Bank Accounts” — for individual bank account holders. The service enhances reliability and reduces the risk of suspicious transactions, unauthorized account use, and impersonation.  

The Naqd platform aims to digitize financial transaction services for government entities, providing a unified and secure platform. 

It facilitates round-the-clock access to account information, account management and real-time monitoring of transactions conducted from and to government accounts. 

The platform is intended to deliver electronic banking services that support government financial transactions, enhance user experience, and increase efficiency and productivity in financial dealings using the latest technologies.

Additionally, it aims to reduce the time required to execute government banking procedures. 

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector
Updated 14 July 2024

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s fisheries sector is set to receive a boost thanks to a new direct financial support program launched by the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli will oversee the financial support for the Reef Saudi program, which aims to open new horizons for the development of the fisheries sector and stimulate the industry, according to a statement. 

The Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program, or Reef Saudi, seeks to improve the rural agricultural sector to raise the standard of living of small farmers and rural families, increase efficiency and productivity, and improve lifestyle and food security.

This move falls in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as the program is an important step toward achieving several strategic goals, including strengthening the nation’s local economy.  

It also aligns well with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture’s continuous efforts over the past years to boost the fisheries sector, including establishing a national program to protect fish stocks and the industry as a whole, the provision of concessional loans to assist small-scale fishermen with the purchase of boats, and initiatives to modernize ports in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.

Moreover, the program requires that fisherman wishing to obtain support must have a fishing license, in either the Saudi artisan category or Saudi sailor category. 

The fisherman should also not be an employee in the public or private sector, be no younger than 18 years old, and be based within the Kingdom during the period, in addition to the duration of each fishing trip being no less than six hours.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia highlighted its role in leading and unifying international efforts to develop the fisheries sector during its presidency of a special UN committee dedicated to the industry. 

This came during the conclusion of the 36th session of the body, which was held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome and was chaired by the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the FAO, Mohammed Al-Ghamdi.

During the meeting, Saudi Arabia reviewed its most prominent efforts to promote and develop the fisheries sector and achieve its sustainability during its two-year presidency, the Saudi Press Agency reported at the time.

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881
Updated 14 July 2024

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Sunday, gaining 89.14 points, or 0.76 percent, to close at 11,881.55.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.36 billion ($1.69 billion) as 154 of the stocks advanced, while 68 retreated.  

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu slipped 79.18 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 25,696.86. This comes as 34 of the listed stocks advanced while 36 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index gained 15.65 points, or 1.06 percent, to close at 1 1,488.02.

The best-performing stock of the day was Miahona Co. The company’s share price surged 9.96 percent to SR37.00.

Other top performers include MBC Group Co. as well as Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co.

The worst performer was Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance, whose share price dropped by 7.27 percent to SR209.20. 

Other worst performers were Saudi Advanced Industries Co. as well as Arabian Pipes Co.

On the announcements front, ADES Holding Co. has announced that it has amended its existing syndicated facility, securing an additional equivalent to $3 billion, with the majority of existing lenders participating along with new, leading local and regional financial institutions.

According to a Tadawul statement, the new upsized financing is divided into the equivalent of a $2.7 billion standby term tranche to finance the group’s expansion plans and an additional $300 million revolving credit facility tranche to be applied toward the general corporate purposes of the company.

While the financing duration of the standby term tranche is eight and a half years, with a final maturity in December 2032, that of the RCF tranche is eight years, with a final maturity in June 2032. 

The financing entities include Saudi Awwal Bank, Riyadh Bank, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp., and Arab National Bank, as well as the Saudi National Bank, Alinma Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, and Aljazira Bank. Arab Petroleum Investments Corp. and Commercial Bank of Dubai PSC are also included.

The bourse filing also revealed that the guarantees offered for the financing entail mortgages over offshore rigs, share mortgages or pledges over entities that hold onshore or offshore rigs as applicable, and security over the collection accounts and debt service accrual account. 

They also include assignment of receivables under client contracts, assignment of receivables under insurance contracts in respect of financed rigs as well as promissory notes.

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh
Updated 14 July 2024

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to enhance private sector cooperation with Thailand as the Southeast Asian nation opens its first Board of Investment office in Riyadh, a top official announced. 

On the sidelines of a business forum in the Saudi capital, Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih highlighted that this marks Thailand’s inaugural office in the Middle East, encouraging stronger bonds and new investment opportunities in both countries. 

This came as the minister lauded the steady trade relations, that saw business soar to $8.8 billion in 2023, up from $7.5 billion following the nations’ restored ties in 2022. This represents nearly 22 percent of Thailand’s total trade with the Middle East, underscoring a flourishing economic partnership. 



Addressing the business delegation at the Saudi-Thailand Investment Forum, Al-Falih said: “Representative offices from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and your country will do a great deal of facilitating private sector to private sector cooperation and allowing us to reach the potential that I mentioned.”  

He added: “I believe it will continue to grow at double digits as it has been the last couple of years. In investment, we’ve also seen growth, although from very small numbers, with FDI (foreign direct investment) stock doubling since 2019 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”  

The minister added that travel and tourism are returning to previous levels, with close to 200,000 tourists and visitors traveling from Saudi Arabia to Thailand. He also noted that over 30,000 Thai visitors had come to the Kingdom the previous year to experience Saudi Arabia. 

The Thailand BOI office will cover a total of 13 countries in the Middle East, including Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkiye, and the UAE. 

The Riyadh headquarters is Thailand BOI’s 17th overseas office, with two additional locations in China and Singapore set to be added soon.  

“We hope investors from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East will consider making Thailand an investment base to expand business in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and take advantage of Thailand’s membership in the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) agreement, the world’s largest free trade area,” said Narit Therdsteerasukdi, secretary-general of the Thailand BOI. 

He added: “We believe there is a strong potential for investment and cooperation in several key sectors, including agriculture, processed food, renewable energy, healthcare and medical services, as well as automotive, especially electric vehicles.” 

Additionally, Al-Falih explained that the Thailand BOI office will boost areas of cooperation between both countries in several areas. 

“Before I do that, let me assure you — and this is not just me, not our Ministry of Investment, not the government, but the entire Saudi Arabia — we are very bullish on Thailand and indeed very impressed with your achievements,” the minister said.  

He continued: “Your GDP (gross domestic product) per capita has tripled in 20 years, while your export structure has evolved significantly into increasingly sophisticated products in the same time frame.” 

Furthermore, the minister recognized Thailand as one of the founding members of ASEAN, a significant economic alliance that holds importance not only in Asia but globally. 

Due to Thailand’s strategic location and economic strength — the second-largest economy in ASEAN with a GDP exceeding half a trillion dollars — it is a crucial partner for Saudi Arabia.  

“Especially as you are bolstered by ASEAN free trade agreements with most major economies, as you outlined to me this morning. These agreements include big economies in East Asia, as well as South Asian economies. Of course, anchored by India,” Al-Faih said. 

The minister stressed common parallels between the two countries, noting they share a “great deal of complementarity.” Thailand has its National Strategy 2037, whereas Saudi Arabia has its Vision 2030. 

“Which naturally leads me to emphasize the energy sector, including its multifaceted branches downstream: biofuels, biochemicals and CCUS (carbon capture utilization and storage), hydrogen, and renewables,” he said. 

Al-Falih added: “This is obviously an area where we share common ambitions, and the Kingdom has unique capability, creating numerous investment opportunities for both countries in terms of supply chain products as well as project development.” 

Saudi Arabia’s demand for agricultural and food processing products is expected to reach over $130 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.5 percent.  

Meanwhile, Thailand’s agricultural and food processing sectors were robust in 2022, with exports totaling $45 billion. 

“This presents a huge area of complementary that would boost trade and investment as well as enhance food security in both nations,” Al-Falih underscored. 

Moreover, during the event’s opening speech, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maris Sangiampongsa, underscored the robust private sector collaboration between both countries, noting the success of the International Mega Fair organized by the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia. 

This event featured over 30 Thai businesses showcasing 1,000 products from 200 brands, significantly boosting Thailand’s presence in Saudi Arabia. 

Looking ahead, Sangiampongsa announced the upcoming International Mega Fair 2024 in Riyadh, scheduled for November. This event aims to promote trade across diverse sectors, such as construction materials, hospitality, and defense technology. 

The minister expressed confidence in Thai investment representatives’ readiness to strengthen cooperation with their Saudi counterparts, building on the momentum of past successes.  

“As both our nations are located strategically at the crossroads of continents, we recognize that connectivity and efficiency are part and parcel of any feasible development strategy,” Sangiampongsa stated. 

He continued: “That is why, as part of our plan, Thailand launched our flagship Landbridge Project, which will connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. This bold initiative will reduce commuting time and costs by 15 percent.” 

The forum saw the signing of 11 memoranda of understanding between Thai and Saudi companies, covering cooperation in areas including energy, infrastructure, engineering, agriculture, and forestation. 

The event also featured bilateral meetings and discussions between private sector representatives, which reviewed developments in the investment environment in Saudi Arabia and Thailand. 

Additionally, Saudi Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak met with Therdsteerasukdi to discuss ways of cooperation and developments in the work of the Saudi-Thai Coordination Council. 

Further, a meeting was held between Saad Al-Khalb, CEO of Saudi EXIM, and Senior Executive Vice President of Export-Import Bank of Thailand Benjarong Suwankiri, discussing areas of cooperation aimed at enabling promising investment opportunities. 

In 2023, Thailand’s applications for investment promotion surged to a nine-year peak of 848.3 billion baht (approximately $24 billion), marking a 43 percent increase from the previous year. 

This growth was driven by significant foreign direct investments primarily in five key sectors outlined in the BOI’s new Investment Promotion Strategy: green industries, automotive (including electric vehicles), and semiconductors. Additionally, investments in advanced electronics, digital and creative industries, and international business centers contributed significantly.  

These sectors accounted for more than half of the total investment pledges. Leading sources of investment included China, Japan, Singapore, and the US. 

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 
Updated 14 July 2024

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region is set to see improvements in water services, with the National Water Co. initiating 14 projects valued at over SR561 million ($150 million). 

The state-owned firm announced that its Northern Cluster has initiated the implementation of water and environmental projects across various parts of the region. These initiatives aim to enhance water and wastewater services, improve their quality, and meet the growing demand. 

Saudi Arabia ranks among the world’s largest water consumers. With limited natural resources, the country continues to rely on the construction of desalination facilities to meet its increasing water demands. The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture has announced several investments in water projects scheduled for the coming years. 

These projects are part of its strategic goals to expand water and environmental services, meet growing demand, and enhance the quality of life and services for the population in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030. 

The Public Investment Fund-owned company noted that the initiative includes seven projects worth about SR283 million. These include sewerage channels and networks totaling over 329,000 meters and the construction of a lifting station capable of handling 1,350 cubic meters per day. 

Additionally, the company outlined seven water projects valued at over SR278 million. These initiatives involve networks and pipelines spanning more than 833,000 meters and the establishment of a water distribution system for the Al-Mukharram and Umm Hazm well areas. 

On July 10, the company announced that its northern cluster had initiated 12 water and environmental projects across various parts of the Hail region, amounting to over SR531 million in total costs. 

Five of these projects, totaling about SR238 million, will focus on pipelines and networks spanning more than 226,000 meters, alongside the construction of a lifting station capable of handling over 3,900 m3 per day. 

Also, the NWC has commenced seven water projects aimed at supplying regional customers, involving the construction of reservoirs, water pipelines of various diameters, and water pumping stations, totaling more than SR293 million. 

The network lengths exceed 374,000 meters, complemented by 56 operational reservoirs with a combined capacity of 33,500 m3.  

The projects also include three pumping stations with a total capacity exceeding 53,600 m3 per day, along with multiple water tanker filling stations, as reported by the NWC.