Dubai: Dubai has a very active sweets and confectionery market as the city is home to almost 20 manufacturing companies.
A variety of sweets, chocolates, biscuits and oriental confectionery is produced for the domestic and international market.
Related products like lollipops, toffees, wafers, cookies and date sweets are produced as well. It is a pioneering industry but it looks back at a long and rich tradition.
Besides the confectionery markets, the snack market is of growing importance. For example, Hunter Foods, based in the Jebel Ali Free Zone since 1985, has managed to earn international reputation for its snack brands.
"We are working towards achieving excellence at each stage of sourcing, production, sales, delivery and service", says Bharat Narayan, chairman and managing director of Hunter Foods.
A classic confectionery company is Fuala, which proudly displays "Produced in the UAE" on its sweets. Founded in 2002, the company, based in Abu Dhabi, aims to stand against imported foods and therefore started local manufacturing.
Another reputed company is ChoCo'a, based in Dubai. Founded in October 2004, the company's products claim 150 years of cocoa experience.
"ChoCo'a instantly established itself as a true chocolate connoisseur," says corporate account manager Cecilia Ashagerdian.
The company's products include a range of pure chocolate delights as well as cakes, tarts and pastries.
One significant part of the business is corporate service, as Choco'a is delivering custom-made chocolates to companies like Emaar, Tamweel, several real estate companies as well as many others, including the Dubai Government. In October 2007, Choco'a expanded to Kuwait.
The products of Dubai are highly reputable and are in large demand in the UAE and the GCC duty free shops, the Dubai Export Development Corporation states in its market report about the confectionery industry.
More than 50 per cent of the production is exported to GCC, Africa, India, Pakistan, the Middle East and worldwide.
The factories use state-of-the-art technology and employ sophisticated laboratories to develop new products
In 2008, Dubai exports of confectionery registered a value of Dh399 million, an the annual growth of exports between 2005 and 2008 was 25 per cent.
In 2008, the top exports by far were chocolate and preparations (containing cocoa) and sweet biscuits, valued at Dh75 million and Dh42 million respectively.
On the import side, important countries selling sweets and confectionery to the UAE and the Gulf region are France and Germany, which both were strongly represented at the Sweets Middle East exhibition.
"The presence and the increase of the French pavilion at Sweets Middle East show how willing the French sweets industry is to develop its sales and penetrate the lucrative Middle East markets," said Eric Santier, regional managing director for Sppexa Middle East, a marketing and communications organisation for the French food and beverage industry.
Other newcomers originate from Asia, for example the Kinh Do Corporation of Vietnam.
The company, based in Ho Chi Minh City and recognized by most domestic consumers as top food manufacturer in Vietnam, is eying the Middle East market as part of its rapid expansion, a Kinh Do spokesman said at the Sweets Middle East exhibition.