6th - 8th December 2021, Dubai World Trade Centre

The Superfoods Industry is Booming for Global and Local Suppliers!

 

Manu Mahdi, the founder of organicandreal.com, the largest online organic store in the UAE, shared his thoughts from a retailer’s perspective, “People are looking at buying products good for their health and healing. From a retailer’s perspective, more than 100 brands are coming in the Middle Eastern market regularly, because customers have become more health-conscious. Superfoods are high in antioxidants, nutrients and can heal the body in a better way. So we are in a positive era of growth as far as superfoods are concerned.”

During the first-ever Organic and Natural Digital Trade Week, we touched upon the importance of superfoods in the region for both buyers and suppliers. The Organic and Natural Digital Trade Week is an offshoot of the Organic and Natural Products Expo, the only such trade expo of its kind in the region running for more than 17 years under the patronage of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. The show will be held on the 15th-17th of December in the Dubai World Trade Centre. We had a webinar with some eminent personalities in the region including retailers and distributors, where we uncovered valuable insights into the past, present, and current scenario of the superfoods industry. We also reached out to experts in different sectors for their comments.

 

The current global market of superfoods is estimated at 140 billion dollars, with a projected growth of 5-6% a year

 

The superfood segment has witnessed tremendous growth both globally and in the Middle East over the years, more so after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Katarina Gjosheva Cheshlarov, founder of Midway Middle East, a major distributor of organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and superfoods in the region, commented,

“There has been a significant increase in global consumption of superfoods, to either treat a condition or prevent it. The current global market of superfoods is estimated at 140 billion dollars, with a projected growth of 5-6% a year. In more than 20 years of my career, I haven’t seen anything as fast-growing as plant-based nutrition.”

Manu Mahdi, the founder of organicandreal.com, the largest online organic store in the UAE, shared his thoughts from a retailer’s perspective, “People are looking at buying products good for their health and healing. From a retailer’s perspective, more than 100 brands are coming in the Middle Eastern market regularly, because customers have become more health-conscious. Superfoods are high in antioxidants, nutrients and can heal the body in a better way. So we are in a positive era of growth as far as superfoods are concerned.”

 

Purchasing Behavior of Consumers: Switching to healthy food for all age groups

 

The purchasing behavior of consumers has also changed over the years according to our experts, especially during the first half of 2020 where COVID-19 had the most impact on trends.

Turmeric Dominates, Moringa Innovates

“I think if I had to select products in the Middle East that are most in-demand by consumers, Turmeric dominates. You would see turmeric contained in grocery items, from snacks to soups. There has also been a 70% increase in the innovation of pet food with Turmeric content,” Cheshlarov said.

“Moringa is another very popular superfood ingredient used in product innovation. I would say Turmeric dominates and moringa innovates. The other top 5-6 popular superfoods include acai powder, spirulina, matcha, wheatgrass, and more barley grass.”

” When asked about the growth of superfoods over the years, she added, “The growth has been tremendous. Midway Middle East has strategic partners that we have worked with since 2015. When we started with superfoods, people barely knew what the category was. Now, after such a short period, if you go to the retailer we can see two full blocks dedicated to this category.”

 

 

HORECA witnesses a strong shift towards healthy ingredients.

The Hotel/Restaurant/Catering segment, also known as HORECA, has also witnessed a shift toward healthier ingredients and superfoods. We reached out to Manisha Advani, founder, and Chef of Soul Santé Cafe, one of the best macrobiotic plant-based cafés in Dubai, to speak more on this from a HORECA perspective. “People are looking out for superfoods more as the trends move forward. One superfood in demand is turmeric. It helps in fighting infections! And this is especially important during the COVID-19 era,” she shared.

“One specific innovation that has seriously caught wind since last year is turmeric lattes, which we serve as well. Other items always in demand on our menu are immunity shots, immunity boosters, and once again, almost 90% of these drinks use turmeric. Consumers now want products and food ingredients that have superfoods in them.”

Organicandreal.com has also been supplying to several cafes, restaurants, and hotels. “One factor I have seen increasing is how the HORECA segment took the superfoods category and made it a trend. Restaurants are coming up with menus of fusion drinks with natural color ingredients such as pink pitaya, which is a visual enhancer and superfood all at once,” Mahdi emphasized.

Another trend that has cropped up is the role of HORECA outlets for consumers to try superfoods before investing in them. “This trend of adding ingredients has been embraced by both restaurants and 5-star hotels, allowing consumers to try out ingredients before investing in them. In this way, the HORECA segment is providing a big boost,” he added.

COVID-19 has spurred an extensive demand for healthy superfoods for children
Of course, health and children are synonymous and we looked at this segment in detail. Adam Regab, the General Manager at Bedaya Trading, focusing primarily on healthy snacks. They have a vast distribution network in schools.

“Post COVID-19 there is a very marked increase in a focus on health and immunity. Parents are more focussed than ever before on removing junk food from their children’s diet as it is a direct cause of reduced immunity at a time like this,” – Adam Regab, Bedaya Trading

“Our brands have indeed seen the bulk buying effect, and in some instances like with Slurrp Farm even run out of 3 months of inventory in the matter of a few weeks during the early days of the COVID-19 situation.”

Bulk-buying online is the new reality
“The COVID-19 outbreak has created a way of life where you don’t need to go to the retail stores anymore. People are now getting more comfortable in buying grocery products online. What was interesting to note is the amount of bulk-buying that occurred during the pre-quarantine period, despite the price of products,” Mahdi commented as per his experience as an online retailer.

 

Sourcing products: Depends on the country’s product specialty

While the COVID-19 era brought about a shift in logistics in certain companies, it did not impact other companies as much. Cheshlarov also stated that sourcing products for superfoods does not depend on the country, but on the product itself, “Sourcing from specific countries majorly depends on the products. For example, everyone knows that the majority of spirulina comes from China. Meanwhile, we have superfoods coming from Africa, Latin America, Brazil, West Europe and more, because every superfood is best to source from a specific country.”

Advani, on the other hand, says that the pandemic has called for a more reliable domestic supply chain, “According to me, the pandemic has spurred on a stronger domestic supply chain, as major dependency on a global supply chain is not always sustainable, so looking more into local produce during crucial times is vital.”

Mahdi has faced certain difficulties in logistics, but with unexpected benefits. “Yes, logistics has been quite the challenge during the pandemic period, especially in terms of stock. Interestingly, it has acted as a beneficial factor for brands that weren’t moving before, and a good period for newer brands to enter,” he said.

 

Tailor to Your Audience: Target millennials in the GCC region

 

We asked these experts on their suggestions for suppliers who want to enter the market and make a mark. “For suppliers to change the game, they need to innovate, stay close to the consumers, check the science for the buyers, maintain a reliable supply chain partnership, offer more education on why these products exist and monitor market opportunities with innovation. They will need to move into delivering more novel key formats,” Cheshlarov started. She also paid attention to the fact that the global population is aging, and to tailor superfood innovations according to the country’s population. “For example, by 2050 there will be 2.1 billion people that are going to be above 60 years of age. If you compare that with what we have today, we have two times less. So we need to check how the world will look like in the next 30 years. Do we have enough to satisfy the needs of all age groups? Conversely, in our region, 45% of GCC has a population of fewer than 20 years of age. Here we need to tackle the needs of the Millenials.”

Children are an important part of the population, and products need to be tailored to their needs as well. “When parents feed their child, that is when they think about ingredient quality the most. Education around the benefits of eating organic and natural usually starts at this life stage. We see several brands creating innovative products with organic, natural, and sustainable ingredients,” Regab stated. “Families start to think healthier overall and we have seen tremendous growth in our other organic brands.”

 

Pricing: 75% of households can switch to organic if they save AED 10 per day

 

Pricing has always been a pertinent issue in the organic and natural space, however, the pandemic is bringing about a change of mindset.

“Pricing is higher for organic products, but we need to make a tradeoff between health and the food we are buying,” Mahdi comments. “If families save up to AED 10 per day, the extra AED 300 per month can help 75% of households switch to organic.”

Meanwhile, Cheshlarov notes that higher prices are merely a perception in this day and age. “When this category appeared in the market at first, it was always perceived as more expensive. But if you compare what is happening today, you will find organic products have a very different price range,” she said. “Private label products have a lower price range. You also have medium-priced products in larger scale companies. The more pricey products come from smaller manufacturers due to their costs, however, the quality is always high.”

Predictions: 2021 to be the game-changer for the superfoods sector

“COVID-19 will improve the health and wellness market for the next 2-3 years. Consumers will demand organic, GMO plant-based food. Immune boosting consumables will be the biggest talk of the next few years. While the pharmaceutical industry will focus on finding a vaccination and potential prevention of future outbreaks, brands and suppliers will deliver immune-boosting solutions more quickly,” predicts Cheshlarov.

Mahdi also shared his views on the same, “2021 is going to be the game-changer in the way people look at what they eat. We will witness the mushrooming of many new brands to redefine health, innovation, and eating habits. My main advice to suppliers and retailers would be to interact with end consumers every step of the way.”

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