The Middle East Organic and Natural Digital Trade Week for Gourmet, Savory Snacks, and Packaged Foods was yet another successful week. During a live webinar conducted at the time, several experts from the region gave their input on this sector.
The global snacks market is 380 billion dollars, out of which 7 billion dollars is in the Middle East
“When we look at the global snacks market, it is 380 billion dollars, out of which 7 billion dollars is in the Middle East, and 1 and a half billion snacks. We estimate around 5-10% to be organic/natural. That is a number that is growing and has been growing over the years, but I think that the curve of that growth has gotten a lot more exponential with the pandemic. With COVID-19 people are staying at home, and are getting a lot more health-conscious, exercising, and having a healthy lifestyle,” started Ananya Narayan, managing director of Hunter Foods, Middle East & Asia’s leading snacks and food manufacturer, packer, and distributor.
“If I had to break up the Middle Eastern market, Saudi Arabia comprises 50% of the market, followed by the UAE and then the rest of the GCC. Saudi is an important piece of the puzzle, and if anyone wants to enter the Middle East market, you should start with the UAE as it has over 200 nationalities,” Narayan continued.
Meanwhile, Roy Koyess founder of Freakin Healthy a part of BMB Group, the largest manufacturers and private label of Mediterranean confectionery in the GCC region opined, “Based on what I have seen over the last 5 years, the GCC, and to a greater extent the Middle East, is on the precipice of moving towards a far healthier lifestyle. There is a high prevalence of chronic disease in the region. The government also encourages programs to promote health. We also see that globally in natural and organic, food is growing twice as fast as conventional food, for 2020.”
He also mentioned how the region’s population has a lot to do with following healthier trends, “The GCC’s population is young, with 50% below 25, and this segment is more tuned to western trends, predominantly following the US, Australia, and some of Europe. Trends take around 5 years to establish themselves in the region. In fact, this region is perfect to launch a brand because of the diversity of cultures.”
The debate on taste VS health
While consumers in other countries might opt for taste over health, the Middle East tells a different story.
“Even if we look at the growth for natural or organic products, that definition is very different for Europe, the US, the Middle East, or Asia at large. In the US and Europe, people are willing to comprise taste for health, but in Asia and the Middle East, it’s still been the fact that people do not want to compromise on the taste. As a result, suppliers are elevating the taste, and consumers are adapting more to say their health matters,” Narayan commented.
An expanding eCommerce frenzy
“Post-pandemic, there was a big shift from brick and mortar to online. Pre-COVID, we didn’t focus on eCommerce, and after ward, we were aggressively pursued by platforms to list online, and our sales went up. Consumers who were apprehensive going online before are now much more comfortable,” Koyess said.
Manu Mahdi, the founder of Organic & Real, the biggest online platform for organic products in the UAE, added, “Online purchase and delivery are set to increase in 2021 and beyond!”
Myriad varieties of products are in demand in the organic and natural sector
“I would see fortifying vitamins, superfoods, prebiotics, functional foods, organic coconut sugar, and agave rise in the future,” said Koyess when asked about the products in demand.
Narayan shared, “Organic, “better for you” cereals are in demand. Indulgent snacks are doing so well too even though they are also better for you.
Mahdi saw an increase in several product lines, especially during the pandemic, “We are seeing a big spike in packaged products in the organic segment, including grains and flour (rye flour, almond flour, wheat flour). Also superfood powders such as Acai. People use it as a breakfast product and snacks product.”
“Proteins and nuts is another category, and we have seen a lot of new brands that came in from Europe, the US, and Australia. Packaged pasta and ready-to-eat pasta are also on the rise. Oat products are a category on their own with oat milk, oat cereals, oat powder, oat flour, and more. Cereals and granolas are other popular categories,” he continued.
You need to have a good value proposition
Narayan advised international suppliers to provide more value and they will succeed, “The product has to be more appealing to the consumer, as well as, healthy. Have a good value proposition.”
Predictions for 2021 and beyond
The predictions for 2021 and after were very positive.
“I think 2021 should be a very good year, now that the expo is moved to next year,” Narayan stated.
“I still see 2021 to be an opportunity, as organic is growing faster than conventional and online will certainly help,” Koyess concluded.