Bottles of milk being filled in a plant. According to a report, the UAE is now 80 per cent self-sufficient for milk Image Credit: Shutterstock


We look at how brands in the UAE are producing international foods with locally sourced dairy, and the state of the country’s dairy industry

Although the term may not be familiar to residents who drink it every day, the concept can certainly be understood. It also stands a chance to become more popular.

One company is playing its part in extolling the virtues of locally produced milk by labelling it differently. Operating out of Hamriyah Free Zone in Sharjah, Italian Dairy Products makes fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, burrata, scamorza and ricotta from traditional Italian recipes, but using locally sourced milk. Quaintly, but fittingly, the company refers to its main ingredient as Emirati milk.

The company says its strength and unique advantage lie in being able to produce “daily and locally”, referencing its milk supply. It is Emirati milk, which ensures the trifecta of availability, reliability and consistent quality for their cheeses, they say.

The Emirati signature could also be claimed by Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products on account of its unique contribution to the UAE’s dairy industry, and for keeping alive a tradition that has evolved from the Bedouin to the Emirati after more than 35 years of research. Better known by the brand name Camelicious, its vast product portfolio ranges from fresh and pasteurised to fruit infused and flavoured versions, and a milk-based endurance drink — all with local camel milk.

Growing market

Call it Emirati or otherwise, milk is certainly flowing through the land. Across the wider Middle East and Africa, the dairy market is not only expected to reach $21.7 billion (99.5 billion) by 2023 but will also witness healthy growth during the forecast period, writes Tanmay Halaye of Market Insights Reports. The May report, Middle East & Africa Dairy Market, adds that milk accounted for the largest category of sales in the region, which exceeded 7,171 million kg in 2017.

Although the UAE’s largest names are yet to enter the regional big leagues, mention is made of investments being made in the country by Yakult and Group Danone in milk-based and dairy-related products such as drinkable yogurts, health drinks and innovative probiotics.

Freshness factor

The report segments the dairy products sector in the UAE into white milk, UHT milk, dry milk, cheese, laban, yogurt and curd, and butter and clarified butter. When it comes to fresh milk, freshness is still top factor, with consumers spoilt for choice.

Euromonitor International’s August 2018 country report, Dairy in the UAE, says it is strength in fresh milk that saw Al Ain Dairy retaining its title as leading player in drinking milk products in 2018. Almarai and Al Rawabi Dairy meanwhile maintained their respective rankings of second and third.

Fresh drinking milk accounts for the majority of the wider category’s value sales, says Euromonitor. Looking ahead, the report predicts internet retailing, although still relatively limited in scale, will gain ground, and organic milk is another niche that will spur growth — both driven by new products and strong marketing campaigns. Koita and Arla serve as examples.

Top trends

Although its milk is sourced from Italian farms, Koita Milk delivers to homes here with the click of a button. Its vast online portfolio covers organic, lactose-free and non-diary versions of milk that are free of pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and preservatives, all delivered locally in eco-friendly packing. Meanwhile, Sharjah-based Arla National Food Products launched the first branded organic milk in the Middle East two years ago, and the company believes this is its biggest strategic growth market outside Europe.

Global health and wellness trends in certain demographics are also reflected in the UAE’s dairy sector, especially among females and younger populations who are driving new products such as health drinks, sour or fermented milk products, drinkable yogurts and probiotics, each of which has been recording healthy growth rates over the past five years. Gulfood’s Global Industry Outlook Report 2018 explains, “Growth in the Middle East and Africa is due to the expanding population, frequent new product launches (especially in flavoured milk), retail development and effective marketing initiatives by key players.”

Dubai Exports reports that the government’s strong focus on agriculture is paying off. “Per capita consumption of dairy products is high, at around 80 to 85kg annually. The UAE dairy industry now ranks among the world most competitive.”

According to the 2018 report, Food and Beverages Sector in UAE, the country is now more than 80 per cent self-sufficient for milk. Should we milk that moniker and start calling it Emirati?