9 Top Trends Driving the Food & Beverage Sector

March 26, 2024 | Food and Beverages

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and the full-on Middle East and African regions are some of the most important food and beverage industries in the world. For food and beverage exporters, this area has some of the largest industries in the region, with an estimated value of US $45 bln in 2023.

What makes this area so impactful is its ongoing demand for imported, global cuisine. The area’s imports account for nearly 90% of the region’s food source. Global trends, then, directly impact the local market, creating a lasting impression on every component of the food and beverage industry here. When it comes to food and beverage consulting, tapping into this area could be a necessary strategy to capitalize on the region’s demand.

Consider what global trends have impacted the UAE and the surrounding region.

The Rise of Superfoods and Gut Health

Much of this region has a heavy expat population, and that generation is highly focused on superfoods, healthy foods, and overall gut health. The demand for healthy and organic foods and beverages has never been higher here.

The pandemic continues to play a role in this, having encouraged people to take a closer look at their life and health and move towards higher organic-based diets. With the UAE's high obesity rates and high heart disease rates, as well as better access to superfoods from global destinations, consumers here demand access to products that improve health and extend life spans.

Wellness trends include gut health, the latest superfoods, and overall healthy choices such as natural, simple foods and probiotics.

Sports Nutrition Gains Momentum

Another impactful global trend is a heightened focus on sports nutrition, including focused, carefully selected foods to support premium performance and overall fitness achievement.

This trend is easy to spot thanks to the increase in the number of health food stores in the UAE and surrounding areas. It’s also easier than ever to purchase sports-focused and energy-focused energy supplements, ready-to-drink products, protein powders, and other dietary aids. Sports nutrition has grown in the area thanks to better access to products but also as a response to the pandemic and the new goals consumers have of improving health.

Snacking: A Robust Growth Area

Though it was not always the trend in much of this Middle East region, today, snacking is a main part of life. However, doing so has become more streamlined thanks to access to on-the-go products and ready-made items. As residents of the UAE take on more tasks and become busier than ever, the demand for these types of on-the-go products has risen.

With that comes a pairing with nutrition. Consumers don’t want just easy-to-access foods but rather those that are health-focused, protein-packed, and in the most convenient form, such as snack bars. Snacks also include better access to whole grains, nuts, and fruit, which have become some of the most within-reach products available.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Products

Consumers throughout the UAE region are not only considering their own health and well-being but that of the planet as well. There is a substantial shift in choosing foods that are more sustainable, incorporate better human rights efforts, and are less damaging to the environment as well.

What’s made this even more important is the need for these higher quality foods to be easily accessible and ready to go. Consumers here want to do their part, but need it to be easy to try out new products as they continue to develop new habits focused on health and wellness.

A Flourishing High-End Restaurant Scene

UAE is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, along with Saudi Arabia, and with that comes a taste for higher-end cuisine, more refined foods, and easy access to it.

There is a luxury dining market booming, thanks in part to increased tourism and expat presence. That’s a blend of both Emirati and global flavours, too, offering something for everyone.

Local Agriculture and Self-Sufficiency

As a component of boosting sustainability, many consumers have moved to purchase more closer-to-home grown foods. This has led to a boost in domestic food production that has helped to reduce the impact on prices in the area.

One of the reasons for this is the presence of the National Food Strategy 2051, which aims to helping to improve one of the most important areas of concern in the region: food security.

The Non-Alcoholic Beverage Market Expands

Any food and beverage consultant will note the more readily available non-alcoholic beverages throughout this region. Consumers are still interested in their old favourites, but as a predominantly Muslim region, alcohol sales are very limited.

Nevertheless, more products are entering the market to meet the non-alcohol demand, including "virgin" versions of alcoholic drinks, beverages that are free from allergens, notedly less sugar-focused beverages, and eco-friendly products.

Embracing the Digital Frontier in F&B

It’s impossible to overlook the importance of the digital links in this region. From online distribution and digital platforms that provide locals with information, resources, and direct access to products, to the influence of global marketing efforts.

Technology itself is helping to shift attitudes towards products while also working to educate consumers on healthy products and new health insights.

The Halal Sector’s Continuous Growth

While there is no doubt that much of this region is focused on new and upcoming trends, the Halal industry continues to remain a prominent component of the food industry here. It is, by all accounts, one of the most important opportunities for businesses that are within the Halal food market and wanting to expand to reach a captivated audience.

From increased consumer awareness of health trends and healthy living to a shift towards foods that are more nutritiously based, the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets are some of the most promising within the global F&B industry. With so much demand from wealthy pockets, this is a prime opportunity readily available to anyone within the food and beverage consulting industry.

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