Q&A with CEO and co-founder House of Pops, Mazen Kanaan
Q&A with CEO and co-founder House of Pops, Mazen Kanaan
What’s your role with House of Pops, and how do you see it evolving?
I am the co-founder and CEO. In the initial phase, I was fully involved in all executional details, but as the business is growing, the role evolved into building a stronger team and working on the culture. I have also been working heavily on developing the growth roadmap and the expansion plan for the coming three years.
What makes House of Pops different?
House of Pops offers so much more than a healthy treat. Yes, our pops are delicious – but it’s the values behind every pop that really sets us apart. As consumers navigate the world, different brands and options – there’s a checklist they have, and every consumer has a different checklist. Some are looking for healthier treats, some are looking for plant-based options, some are looking for something that just tastes good – the list goes on. But with House of Pops, we are able to offer a pop that ticks every box while remaining true to our values. Our pops are intrinsically natural, rich in fiber, plant-based – we don’t use refined sugar. But there’s so much more beyond that, because every step of the way from our first sale to date we’ve stayed true to our values. Purity, wellness, sustainability, quality, creativity and customization have been at the forefront of developing our range from the very first pop. You can see our values come to life in everything we do.
Our six value propositions are purity, wellness, sustainability, creativity, customization and quality.
How has the brand grown since launch?
The brand has been growing massively since launch – mainly due to our channel expansion – we started initially doing events, once a week – we now operate in six channels:trade, HORECA (hotels, restaurants, catering),schools, direct retail, franchise, online and events and catering.
We have increased our footprint in each of these channels. We went from just the two of us, co-founder Marcela Sancho and I, to now more than 70 people – all giving their 100% to the brand we know and love.
What challenges do you foresee, business-wise? And opportunities?
Our main challenge is getting the right people to join the organisation. When you are growing at this rate, you will need to look for the best people to join you, and they will play a key role. It’s crucial to get the right ones on board. And this goes beyond technical skills. We strive for people with the right mindset that share the same values and have the same guiding principals as people, beyond just professionals.
The main opportunity is taking the brand regionally across the GCC. The opportunity is huge, especially in KSA. Consumers in our region understand more and more the importance of their well-being – and choosing the right brands with the right ethos.
Are you expanding regionally?
Yes, we have already launched in KSA, next will be Bahrain and before end of the year, we will be across the GCC. The world is our oyster, and our vision is to set up and grow across the continents.
You launched a franchise model – how’s that going?
We are doing great! We have already sold four franchises with more in the pipeline. Our first franchise beyond the UAE is doing remarkably well. Consumers in KSA love the pops, we’ve been receiving great feedback from our partners in Saudi and it’s just the beginning.
We expect many more to join our journey as we offer a very profitable model for our franchisees – with low investment and high returns, and our entire support and training plan to ensure they hit the ground running and make good profits.
Are there any plans for new products or flavours in the near future?
We are always innovating. We recently launched Ramadan exclusive flavours. We always like to offer our consumers new exciting flavours. We make sure there’s always something new to try, based on what our consumers ask for, and the latest trends we see. So, there’s always something cooking! Keep an eye on our social media to be the first to know what is next.
Where do you see future food trends?
Since day one we bet on health and wellness and this is where the trend is going.
Plant-based, keto friendly, protein-enriched products are in high demand and create a lot of excitement. I think the recent pandemic just sped up this trend – people care more about their health and the latest health trends than ever before.
We also see that beyond the product being “good for you”, consumers are also looking for conscious brands – brands that value the environment, and so they’re looking for eco-friendly options as well (from fashion and tech to F&B).
Do you think modern consumers seek healthier snacks, or is your growth just a happy coincidence?
We know people are very much on-the-go, so snacking is an important part of the day to keep the engine running. And data shows that modern consumers are looking for healthier snacks – they are more aware of what they are consuming and choose the best. Just like the pandemic drastically sped up the trend for online shopping in our region, we’re seeing that same effect on demand for healthier snacks. In the UAE, a 2022 study showed that as high as 75% of consumers have actually opted for healthier alternatives while shopping.
Where do you see House of Pops in five years?
In five years, House of Pops will be a strong regional player, a leader in the health and wellness ice cream industry, and available across the GCC, Middle East and key European markets. We’re on track to get there, we have the right people, and are looking to grow the team even further.
What about sustainability? Are you concerned about that?
We have a very strong sustainability agenda. We were the first company in the sector and country to adopt 100% compostable, biodegradable packaging – plastic free. Even our delivery cartons are plastic free, laminated with a water-based coating.
This is a core value of our brand and we will not compromise on that. We try as much as possible to go beyond our packaging. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and sustainably use resources – wherever and whenever possible. At our production facility in Jebel Ali, we sort our waste and work with local recycling companies to play a part in minimising waste going to landfills. We even opt for recycled material in our uniforms – whatever way we’re able to contribute and ensure we’re operating responsibly. At the end of the day, we think: our ingredients are sourced from nature and we need to be mindful and respectful of the world’s natural cycle.
What’s next for House of Pops? You have your carts, kiosks, fridges – what’s next?
House of Pops is on a never-ending growth journey – from the products, to flavours to the concept. We are always working on developing the concept further and offering new experiences to our ever-evolving clientele. That could range from a very unique flavour, format, or to a full-fledged ice cream store! We’re always on the lookout for the latest trends, and we will always have something new and exceptional to offer.
Mazen Kanaan Bio
CEO and co-founder of House of Pops, Mazen Kanaan is a well-rounded B2B/B2C and FMCG marketing professional with 16 years’ experience working with multinationals in the Middle East.
Mazen is taking his deep experience in the region’s F&B sector, where he used technology, marketing and market research to great success, and putting it into developing House of Pops as a strong regional player in the health and wellness sector.
He holds a BSc in Economics from Beirut’s Lebanese American University, and his stellar career has always been bolstered by his high energy and passion.
When not pursuing his passion for healthy, sustainable treats, Mazen enjoys travel, chess, Padel tennis, reading and photography. He is fluent in English, French and Arabic, and holds a number of awards for his business acumen. He also received a Fulbright Scholarship with the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in September 2005.
About House of Pops
House of Pops is on a mission to spread happiness sourced from nature, one pop at a time. Our pops are plant-based, all natural, rich in fibers and with no refined sugar. We care about the environment and our packaging is plastic free. Our brand is steeped in six value propositions – purity, wellness, sustainability, creativity, customisation and quality.
To find out more, visit: https://www.houseofpops.ae/