Y International, one of the biggest food and household importers of U.S. goods to the Persian Gulf region, celebrated the opening of its first U.S. warehouse Thursday in Lyndhurst.
The Y International export center will purchase, re-label and export food, non-food, chilled and frozen products made in the U.S., according to officials at the event.
The company, which currently has 75 employees at the 75,000-square-foot facility, is expected to eventually need 200 to 250 employees at the site.
Attendees at the ribbon cutting, including local and foreign officials as well as members of the Indian-American business community from around the country, were thrilled by the impact the company can have throughout the state.
“In addition to bringing new jobs to our state, Y International’s export center will give New Jersey and U.S. manufacturers the opportunity to reach new markets in the Middle East and beyond,” Choose New Jersey CEO and President Michele Brown said.
Y International, based in Abhu Dhabi, is a subsidiary of Lulu International.
Lulu operates retail chain stores and shopping malls, in addition to wholesale distribution, food processing and hospitality, according to Choose New Jersey. Lulu operates in 37 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya and Egypt, among others. The company has a 32 percent market share in the Middle East.
Brown said New Jersey is a perfect fit.
“Our state is so diverse; we have populations from so many different countries,” she said. “We felt they would feel both welcome and at home.”
Brown thinks New Jersey companies will be eager to greet them.
“The business they will be conducting out of this site is meeting American companies to buy goods and products to then export to their own consumer base,” she said. “We have literally thousands of companies in food in New Jersey.”
New Jersey, Brown said, is also home to companies in the apparel and consumer goods industries, which could serve the needs of the company’s Hypermarkets.
Lulu’s managing director, Yusuf Ali, originally from the state of Kerala in India, has grown the company to occupy more than 22 million square feet of commercial space. He noted in his remarks that the company is ranked in the Top 10 fastest-growing retailers in the world.
“Our group has been importing U.S. products for a long time,” he said, highlighting the longstanding relationships between Lulu and farmers and manufacturers in the country, with a special emphasis on California.
Ali said there has been growing demand for U.S. products in his company’s retail chain stores, which are located throughout the most well-known shopping destinations in the world.
Mohammad Althaf, director of Lulu Group in Doha, Qatar, said there is an increase in demand for U.S. food products, specifically gluten-free and organic products.
“There is a huge demand,” Althaf said. “America is a powerhouse that people underestimate.”
He said California would likely be the next site for a U.S. warehouse.
The ribbon-cutting was followed by a presentation in an outdoor venue tent set up inside the warehouse. The seating reflected a taste of the Gulf Coast, combined with the table settings and floral arrangements of a wedding reception. There was also a large cake with the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty, along with the Lulu brand and a U.S. flag.
The celebration was a point of pride for the Keralites (individuals from Kerala) in attendance.
Jiby Thomas, an advisory board member of Kwik Mortgage in South Plainfield, said the community was thrilled by the presence of and attention given to Lulu’s entrance into the U.S.
“He is the biggest employer outside India,” Thomas said. “This is just the start; we are expecting Lulu marts here, too.”
Ali, whose net worth is an estimated $4 billion, is the recipient of one of India’s highest awards, the Padma Shri, which is conferred by the federal government onto civilians for distinguished contributions in various areas.
An official from the Kingdom of Bahrain embassy in Washington D.C., Mohamed Bahzad, said Ali’s company, aside from being successful, also is known for its corporate social responsibility.
Bahzad said that a strong relationship with the U.S. is a core strategy for Bahrain, where Lulu is opening its 10th market, and anticipates a market will open soon in the U.S.