Mezzan Holding Company’s rich history starts in the late 1920s when Jassim Mohammed Ali Al Wazzan was born in Sharq, Kuwait during a time when the community of Kuwait thrived on the fruits of the sea: fishing, pearl diving, and importing from neighboring ports. Then, with the discovery of oil, during the 1930s ushered in a new business community for the small Emirate of Kuwait.
Life in Kuwait changed drastically and wealth quickly attracted multinational companies, merchants, goods and services. Jassim Al Wazzan, a multilingual young Kuwaiti was an eager entrepreneur and sought to seek his fortune and take part in the economic boom by investing in a small grocery business in Kuwait City in the early 1940s in the Kuwaiti Old Souk that is currently known as Souk Al-Mubarakiya. As the only Kuwaiti-owned grocery store among those operated by foreigners, the teenagers' shop charmed locals who gladly lined up to buy their share of imported goods. Selling basic household necessities as well as preserved and canned food products imported comparatively more industrialized neighboring countries, the future Mezzan Holding Co. founder, began developing relationships and leveraging his keen ability to establish contacts with manufacturers wanting to enter a new market and a community, built largely of British troops and foreign oil workers at the time, who desired foreign food products.
He then was quick to recognize the demand for certain foods and goods, and seize the opportunity to grow his business through exclusive deals with foreign manufacturers. The first success was realized in the 1950’s with his first major partnership with Claire Ghee from Holland, followed by American companies Pillsbury Flour and Crystal Hot Sauces in addition to various Italian tomato paste brands and Baird’s Vinegar from Scotland. These brands remain a staple among Middle East families and closely aligned with the name Al Wazzan.
As Jassim traveled the world, his reputation grew and with it more international partnerships with food manufacturers and suppliers. The business at the time was so successful that by the 1960s, after a visit to Germany, Al Wazzan complimented the business by adding manufacturing to the portfolio. With the purchase of the first production line of meat mincing, mixing and packaging machines, the Gulf Region was introduced to a new brand, Khazan – the Gulf’s first meat processor. The 1960s, proved to be a growth period for Al Wazzan. As his reputation grew, he continued to be a market leader and introduced new food products to the Gulf region such as partnering with the Dutch and established one of the region’s first potato chip facilities in Kuwait. Al Wazzan launched the Kuwait Indo Trading Company (KITCO), which continues to this day to be one of the most trusted suppliers of the potato chips in the region.
Al Wazzan, an innovative businessman, knew early on that his integrity, his faith and his ability to develop and maintain fair and profitable partnerships was the key to his business success. Accordingly, this realization laid the foundation that attracted additional business partners such as Sara Lee, the foray into agriculture and the purchase of Red Danish milking cows, through which Jassim sold fresh milk directly from the farm to consumers, and the introduction of Lurpak Butter and Plumrose, the Danish meat and dairy brands.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Al Wazzan’s businesses looked to diversifying into new market segments as a sustainable business strategy, a strategy which has been passed down to the next generation. These explorations away from food lead Al Wazzan to new business ventures such as Italian baby products manufacturers, Chicco. The partnership proved to be a huge success at the time, and attracted two of Al Wazzan’s largest and most internationally recognized partners, Johnson and Johnson and Reckitt Benkinser and their large collection of consumer products were launched successfully.
With a growing business and family, Late Jassim Al Wazzan’s sons gradually joined the business in the mid 1970’s. As young men, they were tutored on the fundamentals their father learned over the previous 30 years which were: to know their market and consumer, to provide quality products, to develop and maintain honest and productive partnership, to be creative and diverse in their strategies, and finally to maintain the highest business ethics. Al Wazzan entered the Basmati Rice business in Kuwait around that period, by partnering with reputed Indian Basmati rice suppliers, he private labeled his supply of rice under the brand name “Al Wazzan” that was later to become synonymous with the Al Wazzan family.
During the late seventies Al Wazzan explored the luxury brand market with blossoming well established brands that included Gucci, Christian Dior, Cartier and many others, to experience a different business model and management structure. The venture proved a good move which encouraged Al Wazzan to continue diversifying the business with a commitment to apply the same high quality standards Al Wazzan had instilled into the other companies.
This strategic approach to managing the business continues today. The diversity of businesses under the Mezzan umbrella did not stop after the passing of Jassim Al Wazzan in 1989. This was illustrated during the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when Al Wazzan’s sons continued to support the Kuwaiti community and their commitments to their partners. Moreover, it was because of the values and principles Al Wazzan infused in his business, employees, and family members that the businesses were able to recover and flourish after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, despite the large devastations to the business.
The 1999 restructuring of Al Wazzan’s businesses under one family owned umbrella, Mezzan Holding Co., continues the heritage, values, and principles that Al Wazzan followed in his lifetime. These business strategies, values, and principles are only a fraction of what is at the core of the rich legacy of Mezzan Holding Co.