DUBAI // Exports of the national fruit are expanding globally as a local company plans to double its production of chocolate-covered dates.
With Chocodates already being shipped to 35 countries, Notions Group is moving production to a plant in Dubai Investment Park, which is much larger than the current one.
"The new location will take care of shifting our facility, which is in Al Quoz, and it will be four times larger," said Fawaz Al Masri, chief executive of Notions Group. "We will be expanding our operations in the fourth quarter of this year."
The sweets were on display at Gulfood, the region's largest food industry event, which began at the Dubai World Trade Centre yesterday. The factory churns out 3,000 tonnes of chocolates a year, half of which are Chocodates - chocolate-covered dates with an almond in the centre.
"We will add 1,500 tonnes of chocolate in 2014 and eventually, our production will possibly double for all our products in the following years," Mr Al Masri said.
"We have the ability in the new facility to take the production up to four times our current capacity so hopefully, in less than a 10 years, we can produce four times more than now."
The company sources one variety of dates- which it wishes to keep secret - locally from three farms in Al Ain, and regionally from five in Saudi Arabia and two in Oman.
"It's not as simple as taking a date, putting an almond inside and covering it in chocolate," said Mr Al Masri.
"There is a process that is unique to us and we try to protect it as much as we can."
And the sweets have sold well in countries including Canada, the US, France, Belgium, Hungary, Libya, Singapore, Tunisia and Japan.
"Dates are very popular in other countries," Mr Al Masri said. "By virtue of being a product coming from the region itself, we have captive consumers here who love the product.
"People from outside the UAE may not be happy with the taste of dates but when they taste it with chocolate and almonds, they love it because it has a combination that makes it a different taste experience. It appeals to people from all over the world."
The dates are available in the UAE from supermarkets including Carrefour, Spinneys, Choithrams, and at petrol stations and duty-free shops.
They are also offered as complimentary treats to people who visit the Burj Khalifa.
"What we're ambitious about is to have the product available globally," Ms Al Masri added.
To help encourage that, the company set up a website and formed a partnership with Fedex to allow online ordering around the world.
"It's an original idea to merge dates, almonds and chocolate and it's really tasty," said Margaret Bridge, a visitor to Gulfood.
"I'm not a big fan of dates in general but they taste much better with those other components."
Prices for the Chocodates vary between Dh5 for three pieces to Dh100 for large gift packs.
The company also plans to double the capacity of its factory in Saudi Arabia, where it produces potato chips, cheese balls and assorted crisps.
More than 4,200 exhibitors from 110 countries will display their products at Gulfood, which runs until Thursday.