At first I didn't think much of it, I thought "how hard could their job be with all the machines available nowadays"? Did you hear that loud beep they use when your answer is wrong? Yup, mine was loud and clear.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the amazing effort the whole organization put in into every pack or bottle they produce. Yup this blog will sound like some school's Science essay but it's a challenge to impart what I discovered without going through the nitty gritty of it all.
It's such a shame we couldn't take pictures for proprietary knowledge reasons... but they do have all the right reasons to keep it a secret. The best I can do is describe it as close as I can to the experience... and of course research the net for some real shots of their teams hard at work.
The concept was thanks to Chef Michael who used to be an executive chef in five-star hotel in the 1990's. He recognised a big gap for high quality fresh juices in the market. Cafeteria type shops do not necessarily ensure high quality produce and standard processes.
This part of Barakat started with 15 people which has now grown to 500 employees handling juices and salads. They also started venturing out to ice cream and microwavable soups. For sure, they'll have more in their portfolio in the years to come at the rate of progress they're going.
The Amazeballs Tour
Barakat, garnering the Environmentally-friendly Award, logically started the tour by showing us how they use technology to conserve and recycle water. Instead of using chemicals to de-wax fruits or sanitise their fresh produce before juice extraction or slicing them for salads, they use a process called Reverse Osmosis. A process that makes desalination (removing of salt from seawater) possible. This process also provides water for them to re-use in their cooling plant (that needs 20,000 liters to cool), sewerage and irrigation of their landscapes. This process actually made their cooling plant maintenance from weekly to three months, smart!
Every conscious step makes a difference:
Each cardboard, crates are either recycled or reused. Each crate are washed and cleaned til kingdom for the next use.
They also tried to discuss with local farmers the possibility of using their fruit and vegetable scraps as animal food but unfortunately, farmers didn't want to use them raw and will only accept their offer if they themselves convert it to pellets. A process which will be too out of the way, if you may, from their core daily business. And so Barakat is coming up with alternative methods to produce something very exciting for later use. I cannot divulge what it is yet as the Chef is still cooking and fine tuning the process but it definitely is about recycling, nature friendly and most especially, simply genius.
We visited the fruit storage area and a melody of scent hit are noses. It's so fresh like as if you have entered the fairyland of fruits. We all wish we can bottle them and take that happy scent with us on our way out. All 90 tonnes of them in that holding area.
Since fresh produce are still not abundant in the region, albeit they try their best to source some of them here, they make sure that they only get their supplies from the best parts of the world on their best season. Their logistics and planning people got their work cut out for them. They have to ensure continuous supplies of great quality fresh produce (65 tonnes of different vegetables and fruits daily), 365 days, from all over the world without taking on costs that will affect a very good relation they have with their clients and customers.
For example, the oranges they use at the moment comes from South Africa, Egypt and a little from Spain. They will also mix oranges from different sources to achieve the right acidity and sweetness in their bottled juice. Pineapples are sourced from Philippines, where it's abundantly grown while other fruits are sourced from India and numerous other parts of the world.
Each box or crate of produce are labeled in detail. Batch no., farmer and certification, this ensures Quality Assurance team will know where to trace a particular production should there be any inconsistency in the end product. Fresh produce gets affected by variables and their QA has to ensure that these variables are still acceptable within their high standards.
Next stop, they showed us how each fruit label is taken off, manually. There is just no way around it. It's tedious but has to be done to ensure no contaminants sticks to the machine that will end up affecting the quality of their production.
The amount of manual work in the factory is more than 50%. Peeling, coring, slicing are all done by hand. Imagine the pineapple peeling and slicing process. By hand, it's twice faster than the machine, they're that good. There are also assigned staff who guards the orange conveyors leading to the presser to ensure that no substandard piece gets squeezed. The machine then do its easy work or squeezing fresh juice from high quality oranges. And there I thought machines does the hard work?!
It is set to squeeze just enough of the orange, not take on pulps or skin oils. It basically punches a hole in the middle and squeeze out juice as if it's doing it per segment. We checked the scraps of oranges and we can see how much more juice they can squeeze from those but Chef Michael explained that those remaining juice will indeed increase the volume they'll produce but it will include oils and pulps which makes some packaged orange juice bitter.
Their orange production is five thousand liters per hour. It is then shocked for 40 seconds in 74 degrees Celsius to kill any bacteria. It takes 4 minutes to fill each small bottle with freshly squeeze orange juice.
They have another machine solely for citrus fruit extraction that gives them a hundred thousand liters a day. It takes six hours to cool them down then they get stored in temperature controlled area before getting delivered to places like Cafe Nero and Spinneys.
They have 125 types of juices and machine can only do so much. Some of the bottles are filled manually. Juice and smoothies alike. Smoothies goes to a process the same way how it's done home made.
So the next time you reach out for that Barakat juice, smoothies or salads... think of how much effort Barakat exert to give you the best quality. It is definitely a labor of love.
At the end of the tour... we were treated to freshly made ice creams and soups, talk about teeth breaking process but we cannot pass the opportunity. I fell in love with their soups!
It was heavenly. As far as I know, they are available at Spinneys but I checked one and unfortunately either it's a fast seller or not available in that branch, I just couldn't get a hold of them. But I am definitely going to hunt it.
What an amazing place, amazing people, just a magnificent place of work. I can only imagine the progress they'll make in another year or so, they are driven and they definitely know what they're doing and I say, they are best in what they do. They offer the UAE and Oman market high quality fresh with no additive produce.