The economy may have melted down, but there is no melting of ambition at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream brand, which plans to open an additional 50 stores in the Gulf region within the next 12 months and further extend its lead here in the retail ice cream market.

Baskin-Robbins, known for its ‘31 flavours,’ opened its 450th store in the region on Wednesday, at the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Together with Galadari Ice Cream Company, its exclusive licensee in the Gulf, the US brand expects to open 25 new parlours by the end of this year and another  25 by the end of next June, executives told a news conference.

“We are on an aggressive stance to pursue our expansion plans in spite of the general economic slowdown. We are confident of a sooner-than-expected turnaround in the region,” Manoj Loya, General Manager of  Galadari Ice Cream, said in a statement.

Baskin-Robbins is one of two brands owned by privately-held US company Dunkin’ Brands Inc.; the company’s other brand is Dunkin’ Donuts, which also operates outlets in the Gulf.

Dunkin’ Brands Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis said that for the past two years, the Middle East has been the fastest-growing market in the world for Baskin-Robbins.

So far this year, the brand has seen its sales in the Middle East grow by more than 20 per cent compared to the same period of 2008.

Travis declined to specify the brand’s revenues or profits.

“We believe the Middle East will continue to do well,” he said.

“Despite some of the struggles at the moment the Dubai will continue      to grow for long-term…Global circumstances affected every country in the world but despite the trouble we are doing 
very well.”

Baskin-Robbins claims to have a 90 per cent share of the region’s ice cream parlour business.  It opened its largest store in the world in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in March; the parlour covers a total store area of 5,000 square feet. In the UAE, it operates 108 stores.

“Our commitment to the public is to serve premium-quality Baskin-Robbins ice cream no matter where they are in the GCC. We are proud to reach a landmark 450 stores and there are more coming up,” said Khaled Soliman, chief operating officer of the Galadari Group, which owns Galadari Ice Cream.

Loya said Baskin-Robbins and Galadari are exploring new markets in the Middle East such as Jordan.

“It is still at an early stage. But hopefully by the next year at least we will start in one or two new markets in the region,” he said.

“The company is also looking at South Africa. There are some strong local players, but the good thing is that there is no international brand.” Galadari Ice Cream’s plans include diversifying into new store formats such as Café Baskin Robbins and BR Express, Loya added.

Khaleej Times