Noura Speaks to the Heart

Noura Speaks to the Heart

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The iconic Lebanese pastry brand Noura has launched a new flagship store to celebrate its milestone 70th birthday this year and mark the company’s repositioning in the market. HN sat down for an exclusive interview with Julien Khabbaz, Noura’s CEO, to hear more about his future plans for a brand that he admits is very close to his heart

New beginnings
Julien Khabbaz, Noura’s CEO, has a very clear view of what was needed for Noura. “For me, Noura was like an unpolished gem that required some passion and care to unleash its true potential and grow it going into the future,” he told HN. “In fact, despite its iconic heritage, it has never been developed geographically, till now.” Khabbaz explained that the new concept design for the store, created by Marine Bustros and comprising a chic, modern, inviting space, showcasing chocolates and pastries that are displayed in an unprecedented fashion, is unlike any other Lebanon has seen. “What, to a large degree, differentiates us from others is that our premium chocolate is artisanal and therefore each piece is handmade and carefully wrapped,” he noted. “Though on the one hand that is a skill that is quickly disappearing, we on the other hand believe this is where our strength lies, namely in the preservation of a soon-to-be-lost art, and our flagship store was intentionally designed to highlight and showcase our quality work.”

Past, present and future
Khabbaz added that on a personal note, he has many fond childhood memories of the brand, having celebrated all his birthdays by blowing out candles atop a Noura cake. “Noura’s delicious food was also present at all the family’s Sunday lunches, Christmases and special occasions, which is why it’s dear to my heart,” he said. It was these memories, the brand’s history and his deep fondness for Noura that spurred Khabbaz, along with his brother Pierre, to restore its luster. This they set out to do by strengthening the company’s divisions to reaffirm Noura’s commitment to quality, craftsmanship, freshness and innovation. “We took a long hard look at the catering and retail sides of the business, which includes pastry, chocolates, baked goods, ice cream and confectionery,” he explained. “We kept all the team members and also hired a few more, raising the number to about 75 individuals in total, to prepare for growth. In addition, we created a quality management system, which includes operational manuals, and installed software programs to optimize all aspects of the business and ensure the quality and consistency of our offerings, while minimizing errors. We will also be adding new products to our catering menu in the coming year, with the help of award-winning chefs.”

Operational scheme
Khabbaz added that a decision was also made to upgrade the brand’s stringent food safety protocols, which support its zero tolerance policy for shortcuts. “The beauty of our production setup is our ability to produce more than double the habitual capacity using the existing facility and resources,” he explained. “Our kitchen can easily support production for a few additional stores without a hitch. We optimized the space and by reciprocity, the business. Put simply, Noura has the DNA of a world-class brand and all of us are committed and fully dedicated to growing it into an international success.”

Extended reach
On the subject of expansion, Khabbaz explained that the brand’s development strategy initially is to extend its local reach and highlight its offerings in a modern way before looking abroad. “In addition to Downtown, we will therefore be renovating our two existing stores and opening a new branch in Antelias next year to cover all major access points across Lebanon,” he said. “We will also, in the near future, expand regionally by opening the retail side of the business to a franchise model.”

In keeping with the times
Khabbaz told HN that with Noura celebrating its 70th anniversary and moving up a level, it was felt that the time was right to rebrand the concept. After a year of work carried out with help from Leo Burnett, Noura is now being relaunched with its new modernized, yet still traditional look. “Today, it will come across as a luxury brand, combining age-old tradition and modern-day novelty, destined to compete at a higher international level.”

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