Food and beverage suppliers are rushing to cater to growing consumer appetites for natural, organic and health-promoting options – a market worth Dh3.9 billion in the UAE.
Health has been top of mind all through the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s no surprise that market intelligence firm Mintel believes food and drink formulations that cater to our general wellbeing will be front and centre in 2021. Consumers can expect to see the launch of innovative food and drink formulations that offer solutions for mental and emotional wellbeing over the next 18 months.
This newfound focus on health goes beyond traditional new years’ resolutions as people commit more seriously to reduce the risks associated with unhealthy eating. As the focus on avoiding COVID-19 fades, we’re likely to become more interested in mindful and intuitive eating, and seek proof and incentives through the use of technology, Mintel says in its new Global Food and Drink Trends forecast for 2021, which is being presented at Gulfood in Dubai this week. The event is the first live, in-person global food and beverage sourcing platform to take place for nearly 12 months.
“Consumers are taking the concept of wellbeing further and will look to food and drink concepts that go beyond physical health. This will become increasingly important as the full effects of lockdowns, quarantines and prolonged periods of isolation on consumers’ mental and emotional wellbeing become clearer,” Dr James Wilson, Mintel’s Middle East Business Development Manager, said ahead of the event. “We predict that innovative food and drink formulations will help people learn how diet can impact mental and emotional health, which will lead to new interest in psychology-based approaches to healthy eating to help them maintain a healthy mind as well as body.”
Certainly, a broad range of new health-focused food products are being launched across the UAE, and many of them will be seizing their moment at Gulfood. Dubai-based House of Pops will present its new keto ice-cream as part of its suite of all-natural desserts at the show in order to find franchise partners and expand into the hotels and restaurant sectors, co-founder Marcela Sancho told GN Focus.
House of Pops describes itself as a disruptive dessert company because of its natural-focused range of ice-pop fruit sticks and plant-milk-based ice creams. The brand is an example of the trend for clean-label items, a term referring to food products with fewer, simpler ingredients largely derived from natural sources and without processed ingredients.
Since launch, the keto ice cream now accounts for 12 per cent of our total sales. In the first two weeks alone, we saw a 10 per cent increase in sales.
In October, House of Pops launched keto ice creams line made from organic coconut milk, fruit and natural sweeteners. It is aimed at followers of the popular low-carb diet, which is thought to improve metabolic syndrome and help with weight loss in diabetics. “Since launch, the keto ice cream now accounts for 12 per cent of our total sales. In the first two weeks alone, we saw a 10 per cent increase in sales,” Sancho said. “We see a lot of potential for our brand with the new ice cream. Consumers are becoming more discerning and more demanding. People, rightly, want to know what goes into their food. The pandemic has increased awareness of healthier foods.”
The market for health and wellness packaged foods was worth an estimated Dh3.9 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow to Dh4.6 billion by 2025, a constant compounded growth rate of 3 per cent, according to data from strategic market researcher Euromonitor.
“As the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions continue, consumers show a growing interest in the emerging field of functional products positioned to boost immunity, help relax, aid sleep and improve the mood to cope with ongoing uncertainty, stress and anxiety,” Monique Naval, Senior Analyst, Food and Nutrition at Euromonitor, told GN Focus. “The health crisis has moved consumers’ focus back to basics. ‘Natural’ products are in high in demand by consumers, a trend likely to be accelerated by companies’ shift to clean label. With mindful consumption on the rise, organic food products will also flourish on the back of consumer demand for sustainably sourced products.”
Vegan and plant-based fare is likely to benefit from a similar halo effect, Euromonitor expects. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of eating a plant-forward diet, which focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables while reducing meat consumption, an approach similar to the widely recommended Mediterranean diet. In 2016, Oxford University scientists said such a shift could avoid several million deaths a year, cut greenhouse emissions and save billions of dollars in annual healthcare costs. Earlier this month, University of Edinburgh researchers showed that a Mediterranean-style diet leads to higher levels of mental alertness in later life. A study tracking 500 people showed that eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat led to higher scores on a range of memory and thinking tests among adults in their late 70s.
Nick Alvis, of the homegrown restaurant brand Folly, will be talking up vegetarian and vegan options at Gulfood. “We always aim for around 30 to 40 per cent of the menu to be vegetable based and also have a separate vegan menu. We put a lot of effort into creating interesting and new vegetarian and vegan dishes to try and give our guests something interesting,” he said. He says appetites in the UAE have changed to encompass healthy eating, partly because government awareness campaigns to promote exercise and whole foods have had an impact on consumer offerings and demand for healthier options. Relentless media focus on the Gulf’s obesity crisis appears to have also played its part.
UAE residents can order from over 50 reputedly toxin-free items in biodegradable packaging that are free of pesticide-intensive industrial farming methods.
For shoppers that want to buy healthier, Dubai-based Big Farm Brothers launched deliveries of organic produce sourced directly from Himalayan farmers. UAE residents can order from over 50 reputedly toxin-free items in biodegradable packaging that are free of pesticide-intensive industrial farming methods, said co-founder Vishal Mahajan.
Elsewhere, Upfield, a global leader in plant-based foods, has brought its plant-based non-dairy creams in the GCC following the launch of its line of plant butters last year. Its products retail under the brand names Flora and Violife. “The growth curve has been impressive both in food service and retail,” said Reinier Weerman, Upfield General Manager, North Africa and Middle East.
We anticipate the shift to plant-based alternatives will reach a tipping point soon. Consumers and hotel, restaurant and catering guests preferring plant-based foods have grown significantly in recent times.
“We anticipate the shift to plant-based alternatives will reach a tipping point soon. Consumers and hotel, restaurant and catering guests preferring plant-based foods have grown significantly in recent times. The taste and performance of plant-based foods are also now outperforming dairy products in many cases, and combined with the health benefits and environmental impact, it is a logical development that awareness and appreciation of plant-based food is accelerating,” Weerman said. “We expect a further acceleration of plant-based food consumption by consumers, and use by chefs, and in the next few years it will have revolutionized the way we eat.”