Dubai: The most striking thing about Gulfood 2019 is just how deceptively ordinary every product seems to look.

Water, yoghurt, coffee, pastries, and ice cream are mundane enough. But take a closer look at the labels, and you’ll see these are vitamin-enriched water, lactose-free yoghurt, nitro coffee, and gluten-free pastries.

The nuances of everyday products are just what consumers are now looking for, according to exhibitors and organisers. They want to have the affordable, gluten-free cake and eat it, too.

Mark Napier, show director of Gulfood 2019, said that exhibitors at the food and beverage trade show this year are looking at new opportunities to drive their business forward, and these include health, wellness, and ethical products.

“We’re seeing much of that in the packaged food industry. Many of the established markets for these products are in the developed regions — North America, Europe and parts of Asia — but some of the fastest growth is here in this region. We’re now starting to see suppliers replicate that here,” he said.

A report compiled by Euromonitor International said that the Middle East and North Africa region will record the highest growth globally in packaged health and wellness food. Napier said that consumers are now seeking more convenience yet wellness-giving products.

“You’ll see more of the suppliers here recasting their product line, reformulating their product line, and bringing new and emerging products into the exhibition, so, many of the packaged F&B players will be investing in innovation, and that’s certainly one of the themes we’re seeing play out here this year,” the exhibition director said.

The Euromonitor report pointed that for middle to premium consumers, there is a shift to local and specialist stores, a move that is driving sales of premium, natural, and organic food products.

Tariq Ahmad Al Wahdi, chief executive officer of Agthia Group, echoed a similar view, saying that the company is moving towards “pharma grade” products, including vitamin D-enriched water and sodium-free water.

“It’s very difficult to launch new products versus re-innovation. If you see what we’re doing, we’re moving the water that we are producing now into pharma industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ashraf Ali M.A, executive director of Lulu Group International, said consumers are not just becoming more health conscious, but more aware of ecology, sustainability, and the environment — all of which are factors that impact retailers and sales.