Established in May 2009, Gourmet Point is one of the United Arab Emirates’ premiere shops specialising in a wide array of the most exceptional artisan foods, award-winning gourmet foods, the freshest organic items and other high-end specialty fare. From chips and preserves, to oils, dressings, syrups and beyond, you’ll find a wide array of premium foods using the finest ingredients. We interviewed the founder, Punit Bhatia, on the industry.
What type of natural/organic products/services do you sell in the Middle East?
We sell a range of Artisan organic oils and all natural gluten free snacks. Our primarily customers are online and at various community markets and farmers markets. Our best selling oils are Walnut Oil, Avocado Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Virgin Sesame Oil. We also sell various Gluten Free and all natural snacks like Jalapeno Chips, Popcorners, and Falafel Chips.
In your opinion, how popular is the organic industry in the UAE and the Middle East?
It is extremely popular. If you visit some of the weekend markets, you will realize that a big movement is in place and there is going to be major disruption ahead in this category. UAE has a wide range of organic certified farms and the produce here is growing every year. Also consumers are well aware of their choices and they understand the benefits of going organic, having all natural products and also gluten free. Major supermarkets like Carrefour, Lulu and Union Cooperative Society are now offering exclusive organic sections, all natural sections, gluten free and diabetic friendly sections. They also stock local organic produce and the organic industry is at an inflection point.
Why, in your opinion, do people prefer buying organic nowadays?
I feel that there is always a realization point in everyone’s life when they decide to make major changes to the way they eat, think, and work out. It could be because of a major health issue within the family or it could be during the pregnancy or birth of a new born. For me the realization came when my mom had a major disease. I started educating myself on why it could have happened, the reasons, and how many people have cured themselves. I read and researched so much that I have now educated myself on different super foods, Raw Food Diets, Natural Fasting, and various books how to get the best nutrition for your body. No one focuses on nutrition these days and there is a lot of educating required on good nutrition. People always ask does organic food taste better? However, the real deal with organic food is not taste but nutrition. Organic food give you the best nutrition possible. The fruit or vegetable stays longer on the plant to absorb more nutrition from the soil and therefore the final produce or product is highly nutritious.
How do you determine the products to sell in this market?
I personally visit organic expos and natural food product expos around the world to choose, taste and learn more about the product. It is extremely important to meet the manufacturer and supplier to learn every detail about their process and product. I have to be passionate about the product I carry to be able to convince my customers about the product. Every organic product that comes to the market is not good. An organic potato chips is no good than a non-organic one. They are both bad for us. The reason to get organic and all natural products is more than just getting a product under the category. I make sure the product we offer is the best in its category and the producer is ethical and also sustainable. The product needs to tick all the right boxes for us because if we give our customers the best, our customers will never go anywhere. Our Virgin Hazelnut oil and Virgin Walnut oils are possibility the purest hazelnut and walnut oils available on the market today. They are Virgin and that means they are first pressed and not chemically extracted. Our coconut oils or Organic, Raw, and Extra Virgin. It is the best because it ticks all the boxes for getting the highest quality oil from a coconut.
Any other facts you might want to add about the natural/organic industry.
The industry is still in its early stages. The local community and local retailers have to support small distributors like us to enable us grow and bring more products to the UAE. It is very easy to import a product into the UAE, however it is not an easy sell because not everyone understands it. We need more retailers like Ripe, Bio Organic and Organic Foods and Cafe to support small distributors. Also the pricing right now is very high for all organic and natural products. Everyone wants to cash in on the hype and the trend. For UAE to match international standards, the prices of organic products need to be more competitive to convince customers to pay only a little more to get a better quality product.
The government authorities are very supportive of these ventures and the forward thinking decision makers at government level are enabling UAE to be a leader in the organic and natural food product movement.
Interviewed by Menaka Ramakrishnan, Buyer Manager