The quality of a product or service provided by a company is very important to both the consumer and the producer. High quality products and services results in customers satisfaction that often translates into customer loyalty and improved performance for a business. Masafi Mineral Water Company is an example of a company that achieved success and excellence through compliance to high quality standards. The company is a market leader in production of drinking water in the Persian Gulf, and its case is important in discussion of quality standards and management. This document examines the company and its product and how it has adhered to high quality standards, and provides literature reviews on certification in United Arabs Emirates as well the country’s water industry, and discusses issues of water quality.
Masafi: products and quality
Masafi is a company situated close to the Masafi Mountains within the Ras Al Khaima area of United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was established in 1976 as a producer of bottled mineral water, but today it has grown to include other range of products. The company has been a market leader for several years, with its popularity spreading in almost the entire Gulf region (Masafi). Its main market for its products is UAE and the surrounding areas. It juice products, apart from being sold locally, are also sold in the South-East Asia and East Africa markets. It is worth to note that UAE is highly dependent on groundwater for its drinking water need, and is the second largest country that produces desalinated water.
The company offers a wide range of products. These include bottled mineral water, juice, chips, mineral water bottle and vending machine, water cups, and facial tissues (Masafi). Its juice products include the “Orange, Apple, Mango, and Tropical flavours” as well as the “Soothing Berries”, “Truly Caribean”, “Zesta Citrus”, “Gracious Apricots” and “Mellow Melon” brands (Masafi). The company also manufactures flavoured Water. This flavoured product that was launched in 2007 (Masafi) contains flavourings such as lemon, strawberry, peach and mint-lemon. Its water product is free of additives as the company uses ozone for sterilization – an approach that allows the preservation of the naturalness and purity of the water.
These products are well positioned within their respective market segment. The Still Flavoured Water has a 72% share in the non-carbonated water sector, while the Masafi Juice commands about 5% of the juice sector (Masafi, “About us” ). The company leadership in the market is supported by factors such as its endeavour to enhance its products, while it aims to promote its products through continuous reinvestment.
Masafi provision of quality products is demonstrated through its achievement of various awards and recognition. The company complies to international standards for providing quality products (Masafi). It was the first company within the Gulf region to acquire an ISO 9002 certification, which was complimented by the ISO 9001:2000 certification in recognition of the companies efforts to develop and maintain better Quality Management System (Masafi). It has also received the “Best Marketing Strategy of the Year” award in 2006 for its Masafi Juice. The company further prides itself of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification. Besides that, the company is also a member of both the Asia Bottled Water Association (ABWA) and International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). These organizations help in ensuring that their member firms adhere to quality standards that are satisfactory to the consumers. The company’s mineral water has also the approval of the United States’ NSF International that audits the quality of its bottled water. Its commitment to environmental conservation is mirrored in its use of poly ethylene terephatalate (PET) packaging that are eco-friendly. Masafi uses recyclable bottles that are environment-friendly.
Quality is an important aspect in the water industry for various reasons. Besides the fact that quality of a product guarantees customer satisfaction, quality of water is a point of concern as far as the health of people is concerned. Water is a commodity that may affect the health of its consumer and its quality has to be guarded. Therefore, the issue of quality is not only sensitive to the users, but also to the government and authorities that are responsible in safeguarding the health of its citizens.
Literature review on certification in UAE
There are several certifications and awards that companies in the United Arabs Emirate can benefit from for their efforts in guaranteeing quality products. These include the HACCP and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as well as other quality awards such as the Halal Award, and Sheikh Khalifa Award.
The HACCP is a systematic approach that guarantees food safety through preventive measures that involve analysis and control of chemical, physical, and biological hazards in various processes of production as well as distribution and consumption. It aims at identifying the weaknesses in the production process, rather than have hazards on the finished product. HACCP certification is provided to organizations that have fulfilled the requirements provided under its principles The certification is important to the water industry because it provides a basis in which firms can be judged on their adherence to processes that ensure safe water for consumption. While meat and juice product entering the United States market must be HACCP certified, the certification is voluntary for other food industries (Food Safety Research Information Office) including water products. Nonetheless, the HACCP certification is globally recognized by food businesses and government authorities (ABS Quality Evaluation). The HACCP standards are also embraced by the ISO and some of its elements features in the ISO 9000 guidelines (ISO).
The ISO certifications are awarded to organizations that have met specific standards set by the International Organization for Standardization. This organization that was founded in 1947 establishes both commercial and industrial standards and makes them available for adoption worldwide. The ISO standards are important in the sense that they are ubiquitous and have been adopted globally (Singwatlom and Phalittaphan 95). More than 300 sets of standards created by ISO are freely available to the world and the public (ISO “Freely Available Standards”, Jelliffe). Most of these standards, nonetheless, are available through purchase (ISO “General information on ISO”), and some organizations or users have found them to be expensive (Jelliffe). These certifications are credible in that they are able to serve specific requirements for a particular industry (ISO “General information”). The fact that ISO has strong collaboration with various governments, and that its standards have often been adopted as national standard or through treaties to become law (Singwatlom and Phalittaphan 100), makes ISO standards and certification powerful and important. There are several family of standards created by the ISO that are vital to organizations in the UAE, especially those in the water industry. One of these is the ISO 9000 that ensure quality management systems.
The ISO 9000 standards are often administered by certification and accreditation organizations, although it is maintained by ISO. An example of an ISO 9000 standard is the ISO 9001:2008 that addresses key processes in a firm. The standard requires an organization to set procedures for all the crucial business processes, monitor processes to make sure that they are effective, keep sufficient records; examine output for faults and make appropriate correction, review regularly the quality system and each processes for effectiveness, and facilitate continuous enhancement. While the ISO 9001 certification is an indication of the formal business processes used in an organization for production of products or provision of services, it does not guarantee the quality of the end product or service.
The Halal Journal Award honours exceptional achievements marked by excellence, innovation and quality (Halal Journal Team), while the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award is given to organizations that have made tremendous achievements and ones that show that the total quality has made significant impacts in terms of increased performance (“Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award”). These awards were designed to encourage organizations to emphasize on quality management and achievement of business excellence. The Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award recognizes the importance of total quality of an organization as opposed to the quality of a single service or product, such that they gauge organizations in terms of how they meet their operational and financial needs as well as the expectations and needs of its staffs, customers, and the community.
Literature review on water industry in UAE
The water industry is critical in the United Arabs Emirates. The country is highly dependent on desalination to meet its water demands. This technology is used to meet about 70% of the country’s drinking water requirements (Cech 381). U.A.E is currently the second largest producer of desalinated water in the world. The 2003 data indicates that U.A.E has about 382 water desalination plants that produce about 5,465,784 cubic meters of water per day (Cech 381). It is also worth to note that out of the world’s 7500 desalination plants, about 60% are situated in the Middle-East; United Arabs Emirate is part of the middle East (Ame Info; Cech 381; Pickford 230). Ground water in the U.A.E. contributes to a very small percentage of the drinking water available in the United Arabs Emirates. It is found in springs and some water companies bottle it for sale to the public. This water serves less than 30% of the drinking water needs in U.A.E (Cech 378). The country is highly dependent on bottled water for its drinking water needs, even though studies have shown that tap water is generally safe for human consumption (International Bottled Water Association).
There are several water producers in the United Arabs Emirates. To start with, Masafi Mineral Water LLC is the largest producer of mineral water in the Peninsula Gulf. It commands about 40% of the U.A.E market share, a position that it has maintained for several years (Husain; Kammoun and Iyer). Approximately 30% of Masafi water is exported while the rest is consumed locally (Husain; Kammoun and Iyer). This is reflected nationally where most of the water produced in U.A.E is consumed locally because of the countries dependence on bottled water. The Masafi water brand has an approximately 95% presence in retail outlets (ITP Digital Limited). Other water producers in the United Arabs Emirates include Awafi Mineral Water Establishment, Dubai Crystal Mineral Water & Refreshment, Emirates Pure Spring Water Company, Oasis Pure Drinking Water, Sana Mineral Water, Trimex International FZE, and Jeema Mineral Water (PSC). There are several other companies such as the French Bottled Water, National (FZE) and Extreme Brands that are involved in either distribution or/and sale of water.
Quality issues on water company
There are various quality issues that would face a water company in both the United Arabs Emirates and abroad. Water companies have received criticism over the bottles they use for packaging water. While some sector do not like the idea of using recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles – which are mostly used in water packaging – others object their use on the basis of too much waste and environmental pollution (International Bottled Water Association 1).
There are also claims of health effects associated with bottled water. Distilled water or one that is produced through reverse osmosis often lack the fluoride ions that are sometimes found in ground water; conceivably, this promotes tooth decay (Smith). Furthermore, a survey conducted by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) indicated that “at least a sample” of the approximately “22 percent of” bottled water brands tested during the survey had “chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits” (“Bottled water”). Some contaminants are likely to cause health problems, especially if taken for a prolonged period of time. The study further indicated the risk of plastic bottles to the safety of water contained in it. This is supported by a different study carried out in Germany by Goethe University that revealed that many bottled water in plastic bottles had estrogenic contaminants (United Press International). The National Resource Defense Council links plastic bottle to phthalates chemicals contaminants (“Bottled water”). These claims and revelations are likely to have profound effects on any water company that bottles it water.
Since several companies, especially those that produce bottled drinking water, rely largely on plastic bottles for packaging, these issues of bottle contaminants affect them. The Masafi Mineral Water Company is a case in point. The company was recently compelled to recall its water bottle from the market after revelation that they contained impurities (Husain). This is likely to have negative impact to the company including on customers loyalty and its competitive edge in the market place (Summers 680). Bottled water has also the disadvantage of dissolved minerals. While these solids may be beneficial if taken in the recommended amounts, over consumption may lead to health complications. For instance, it is known that excessive intake of calcium – an element that is sometimes dissolved in bottled water – may lead to hypercalcemia (Barash 318), and increase the risk of gallstone or kidney problems (Greenberg and Cheung 608). These issues work against the popularity of bottled water while promoting the popularity and value of tap water. These revelation have in fact compelled some authorities to institute measures aimed at eliminating dependence on bottled water (International Bottled Water Association). However, this dependence may not fade easily citing the lifestyle, accessibility, and portability associated with bottled water.
A water company like Masafi may benefit from various quality awards as well as suffer from various quality issues. There are several awards that a water company can benefit from in the United Arabs Emirates for adhering to high standards of quality. These awards, which have been mentioned above, are beneficial to a receiving water company in various ways. One of the immediate benefit is the pronouncement that a company is well established with the right tools and processes for providing high quality services and products (Queen’s Awards for Enterprise; Summers 670). A company also experiences increased media attention after winning an award, which further promotes its products and business. Similar benefits are felt by companies that acquire various quality certification such as the ISO and HACCP certifications. Summers has noted that companies that have been certified for quality compliance have experienced increased revenues among other benefits (670). Being certified for compliance to high quality standards has the potential to increase purchase value, customer satisfaction and loyalty, and increased efficiency that allow reduction of production costs (International Charter); Singwatlom and Phalittaphan 96).
The lack of certification and awards to a company may have negative impacts to a water company. It might be difficult to attract the attention that companies with quality certification and awards have, hence result in reduced performance and increased competition. Singwatlom and Phalittaphan agree that certification is vital to an organization and lack of if might be harmful to a company (97). These two elements are important as the basis against which people and other organizations judge a company. Non-certified companies are also likely to be viewed negatively by government authorities, since these standards are often applied by authorities in judging organizations. In the United Arabs Emirates the ISO 9000, for instance, is widely adopted with 1007 certificates having been issued by 2000 (Thawani 2). A company that is therefore not ISO 9000 certified is likely to suffer from reduced competitive advantage. However, certification of the ISO remains voluntary for companies in the U.A.E.
These certifications are also important in the sense that government authorities have relied on them to approve companies compliance to quality standards. Even though several of these certifications are designed to be adopted on voluntary basis, some governments have made it mandatory for companies to get certified, or have created laws that features these certification standards. For instance, the United States government requires juice companies to be HACCP-certified in order to sell products in its market (Food Safety Research Information Office). While Masafi is primarily a water company, marketing its juice products to the United States would not be possible without the HACCP certification. In several other markets certification of HACCP and ISO are also voluntary.
Water companies also require registration and permission licences to operate. These registrations and licences are given after the fulfilment of certain minimum requirements. In the U.A.E. the safety of a product is critical. Water companies are required to put in place measures that would guarantee the safety of the drinking water produced. They should have control measures in place to prevent contamination of water or other measures to ensure detection of such contaminations. The whole process of production including the distribution of the water must be monitored to further enhance the safety of the product. It is mandatory, for instance, that a water company must observe basic hygiene. The other requirement that a company in U.A.E would have to fulfil concerns the staff welfare. Firms are required to have measures that ensure protection of their workers. It is also necessary that a company must have enough capital to sustain its operations and its set up. Government authorities conduct inspections to ensure that companies adhere to these minimum requirements before they get registered and licensed for operation. Environmental protection is another requirement for companies operating in U.A.E. All these requirements are also applicable in many other countries in the world. In the United States, for instance, a company like Masafi is required to also conduct an assessment of its water system to ensure that it is not vulnerable to terrorist activities.
Recommendation and suggestion
There are several measures that Masafi Mineral Water Company and other water companies should take to ensure efficient operation and improved performance. Masafi Mineral Water Company should strive to maintain or improve its image. It is worth to note as much as being a market leader is beneficial to an organization, it comes with several challenges and great responsibilities. The acquisition of awards and certifications is a plus for the company, and it should endeavour to maintain them as well as acquire more. And since the company has a global image, it should not only emphasize on fulfilling quality requirements set at the local level, but also those that apply worldwide. The company should update its quality management system and acquire the latest ISO 9000 certification. While the company exploits other opportunities like provision of juice products, chips, water bottles and cups and other products and services, it should not allow compromise of its main products. It is also important that the company is able to maintain or enhance its quality standards in provision of these other products.
It is wise for a water company to acquire the key quality certifications like ISO 9000 and HACCP certifications. These are vital in enhancing a company’s image in terms of its commitment to deliver quality products. These certifications are also important because they are recognized globally and a company would be better positioned to expand its market outside the local borders. Preventing a problem is better than trying to solve one that has already occurred. In this regards, the HACCP – which is internationally recognized and whose some elements have been adopted in ISO guideline for quality management – is very vital to water companies including Masafi. It is also necessary that water companies acquire certification for minimum compliance required by the local authorities such as the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority in the United Arabs Emirates. Besides that these minimum requirements enhance a company performance, they are mandatory and lack of compliance could lead a company into legal problems. In addition, water companies should strive to get important awards that recognize a company’s efforts towards achieving total quality management status. In the UAE, these awards include the Sheik Khalif Excellence Awards, Halal Journal Awards. Credible international awards that recognize adherence to quality are also important.
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