The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) are the regulatory body who must approve the importation of all food, drink and supplements into the country. Within the food and drink space and as more items being more functional and health oriented (with added vitamins, allergen free claims etc) then this can make how the SFDA classify the products for registration more problematic. This is especially true for supplements where the registration of any capsules and tablets are still interpreted as requiring pharmaceutical like documents and where high dosages of any micronutrients may also tip the requirements for registration and importation to be much trickier.
Another area is finding the right partner(s) within Saudi Arabia. Always a tricky aspect when internationalising for any company but more so here than in other parts of the world where the ability to use technology and the internet to seek out potential distribution or strategic partners through cold emailing is more limited and usually much less successful. The world of gaining introductions through established contacts and/or knowing how to make the appropriate approach is what still can make or break your ability to enter the Kingdom. So, you do have to be ready to commit and invest in relationships over a longer period. Plus be open to networking and coming into the market regularly to understand this and make those connections (or work with support companies such us who can provide this access and understanding)
Finally, whilst imported goods are still very much dominated in this sector, there have been shifts by the Saudi government to support local manufacturing and shine a light on the ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ notion. This can be seen with the significant investments going into this industry. It is something to be mindful of for the future, especially if this continues to be a key focus within Saudi to be developing its own manufacturing capabilities.