Gulfood showcases 100,000 new products and innovations from over 125 countries Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

As land, energy and water become increasingly scarce, there’s a compelling need to prioritise sustainable agricultural production, distribution and global food security. Gulfood, the region’s biggest food and beverages show, is a great opportunity for the sector to demonstrate its commitment to the environment while engaging in a dialogue for a prosperous future.

“The theme of sustainability runs through multiple elements of the event, including the Gulfood Inspire Conference, first-time green Michelin star global chefs at Top Table and Gulfood Green, our new initiative to create an omnipresent sustainable food and beverage platform,” says Mark Napier, VP — Exhibitions, Dubai World Trade Centre. “The event underscores the UAE’s position at the forefront of industry transformation and leads the way in tackling critical issues in the sector.”

Gulfood has a long-standing legacy as a globally trusted event, and is a key contributor to the economic growth of Dubai. The 2022 edition of Gulfood saw over $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) in trade deals made on the show floor, reaffirming Dubai’s reputation as a global F&B hub.

“With the UAE preparing to host COP28 later this year, Gulfood is without a doubt going to serve as a critical opportunity to convene the global F&B industry in the first quarter of the year, and continue the shift towards more sustainable food production and consumption,” says Napier, adding, “The UAE is a pioneer of this shift, having witnessed, for example an increase in the availability of locally grown and plant-based options, and the implementation of zero waste strategies by the nation’s restaurants, helping to pave the way to a more diverse and resilient food system.”

Gulfood Green is a unique sustainability initiative launched to drive a shift towards more resilient and sustainable food production and consumption.

Mark Napier, VP — Exhibitions, Dubai World Trade Centre

“As part of Gulfood Green, we have also launched our own Gulfood Forest, an international tree-planting initiative to conserve, restore and grow trees across the globe to help curb climate change. The food industry is known to be a major carbon emitter and the Gulfood Forest will enable stakeholders of the event from exhibitors and visitors to the wider public, to get involved and plant trees to help restore global forests,” says Napier. The Gulfood Green Awards will also take place this year, which celebrates excellence in sustainability and encourages green best practice across the F&B industry.

A critical platform for the sector

Drawing companies from across the world – including first time participants Nepal, Armenia, Cambodia and Iraq – the region’s biggest trade-only F&B event provides manufacturers, distributors, retailers and buyers in the sector an ideal platform to explore opportunities, clinch deals, network and share know-how about the trends and best practices in the industry.

“Pavilions from South Africa and Australia will return after a break as more nations and organisations recognise the need to manage global hunger and food security, implementing innovative solutions to provide better access to healthier, more nutritious foods while managing the impact on the environment,” says Napier.

Megat Iskandar, Trade Commissioner of Malaysia to the UAE

Among other countries Malaysia has a strong presence at Gulfood with 71 companies showcasing a variety of food and beverages under the aegis of Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency, Matrade.

“The promising F&B potential in the region and the platform provided by Gulfood have always attracted strong participation from Malaysian manufacturers and exporters,” says Megat Iskandar, Trade Commissioner of Malaysia to the UAE. “Export of processed food to the GCC has been growing steadily thanks to active promotional efforts by Matrade as well as the Malaysian companies for the past several years. Last year, it accounted for 6.2 per cent of Malaysia’s exports to the region valued at $388.6 million. This year, visitors to Malaysian pavilion will see an array of innovative and sustainable F&B products,” says Iskandar.

One of the UAE’s top grocery retailers, Choithrams has been participating at Gulfood since 2009 and is looking forward to connecting with suppliers and distributors.

“Gulfood is the largest food exhibition of its kind in the region, where we have the opportunity to explore plenty of new products. It is also a good place to network, find out about new trends and products, and meet new suppliers,” says Rajiv Warrier, CEO, Choithrams, adding, “While we usually focus more on the UAE at Gulfood, this year our plan is to explore opportunities in the GCC region given our presence in Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. We will also be awarding our top suppliers in GCC at the event.”

Rajiv Warrier, CEO, Choithrams

For global exhibitors, Gulfood opens the door to the growing and prosperous market in the Middle East, and for local players, it offers endless opportunities for growth.

Dr Dhananjay Datar, Chairman, Al Adil Group of Supermarkets & Flour Mills

“Gulfood is the right platform for the industry to understand the developments that are taking place. The event provides industry professionals a space to interact with suppliers and associates from across the world as well as identify the areas of new opportunities,” says Dr Dhananjay Datar, Chairman, Al Adil Group of Supermarkets & Flour Mills.

Bringing the industry together

Under the Qualiko brand, European poultry producer MHP Group is participating at Gulfood to drive business and meet potential buyers and distributors.

“Our decision to participate in Gulfood stems from our first successful participation in the exhibition in 2016, and the number of new leads and enquiries gained over years. Gulfood has always proven to be excellent for us, offering an unrivalled opportunity to meet our key partners and customers, build awareness of the brand and generate an outstanding level of interest in our products,” says Eugene Levterov, Head, MHP MENA.

Eugene Levterov, Head, MHP MENA

MHP will showcase its entire range of food products especially within the convenience segment. “Our new range comprises multiple value-added products within the ready-to-cook, breaded and marinated lines that are geared towards the MENA region. We will also be featuring our ready-to-grill marinated shawarma cones available in both Arabic and Indian spice mix flavours,” he says. The UAE’s popular supermarket chain with over 50 retail outlets, Al Maya Group is all set for another successful edition this year.

Kamal Vachani, Group Director and Partner at Al Maya Group

“We have been participating in Gulfood for over 15 years. Al Maya Group is a leading distributor of FMCG products in GCC including the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. We have invited all our existing as well as potential business partners from across the world to discuss and grow business for mutual benefits. We will also be showcasing all the new brands that we have introduced recently at Al Maya stores,” says Kamal Vachani, Group Director and Partner at Al Maya Group. ■

UAE F&B sector sees continued growth

Rising per capita GDP, habit persistence, and the revival of tourism are the key drivers of growth in the UAE’s food sector, valued at $6.1 billion in 2022.

“The increase in consumption was driven by the resumption of socio-economic activities after the pandemic as well as major events like Expo 2020 that continued taking place during the first quarter of 2022. It is expected that the market will continue to grow over the next five years at a rate of 4 per cent between 2023 and 2027,” says Ibrahim Rezk, Research Analyst, Euromonitor International.

Ibrahim Rezk, Research Analyst, Euromonitor International

While commenting on the key trends shaping the sector, Rezk says that the impact of Covid-19 has further amplified the need for a healthier lifestyle, a trend that is gaining traction in the UAE. “There is an increase in demand for plant-based food, along with dairy, meat, and seafood alternatives.”

He highlights that the demand for digital platforms in the food industry has increased, encouraging retailers and digital start-ups to rapidly invest in this space. “Consumers now have many more options to order food in the UAE. Digital marketplaces, traditional retailers and delivery start-ups have all begun to tackle the opportunity in fresh food delivery from different angles,” Rezk adds.

— C.S.