First day of Gulfood food and drink fair – Dubai

Food for thought from day one at Gulfood food and drink fair in Dubai, UAE.

So I am in Dubai for the fifth time in recent years but for the first time attending a trade fair as a visitor not as an exhibitor. With this comes distinct challenges as I seek to represent several brands simultaneously (including my own!) and look to make the most of what this huge trade fair with over 4000 global exhibitors has to offer.

As I am here as part of the UKTI Northern Powerhouse Delegation the first day began with a briefing from Joe Hepworth and the team at British Centre for Business regarding some top line information on the UAE market.

Some of the key takeaways from Gulfood included:

  • Every A380 that brought into service by Emirates brings in 400 new employees.
  • The Food and drink sector in UAE is worth almost £20bn GBP and is estimated to reach £26 bn by 2018.
  • UK exported £6.8bn of food and drink in 2014 to the UAE.
  • UK’s biggest export market is the UAE in MENA region and is the 12th biggest export market globally

Exciting opportunities in health food

Some of the biggest opportunities in the food sector are within the segments of halal food (UAE annual current consumption is valued at £1.4bn), organic food and specialist ‘free from’ or ‘diet products’ , particularly given that one UAE citizen in every five is diabetic.

These products are in steady growth but still at infancy stage and most of these goods are therefore imported at present and can demand retail prices which are 4-5 times higher than in the UK.

Confectionery grew 94.7%

The Confectionery market also offers a large potential for UK producers as the category grew by 94.7% between 2004 and 2010 with chocolate being very popular.

There are several routes to market for food and drink producers including:

  • a consolidator (especially if smaller quantities)
  • a local distributor (food service and/or retail sector)
  • direct to food and drink retailers
  • collaborating with an experienced export company
  • free zone set up or on-shore set up

Mixing hummus and business

Following this session we boarded the coach to the short ride to the trade fair. Upon entering I headed full of energy straight to the hall where the pavilions for Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Algeria were. This may seem a strange choice to some, however I had some fixed business meetings arranged on behalf of one of my clients.

A huge bonus was my first interaction in trying to locate the stand of my initial meeting resulted in an offering of some delicious hummus AND some potential business too. So I knew it was going to be a great day!

Finding little health food gems

I really enjoyed the hospitality and politeness on the whole of many of the companies in this hall, despite me trying to sell to them most of the time.

It’s fair to say that there are some little gems of innovative products hidden there amongst the more generic foodstuff, which could offer rich pickings and good business opportunities for British distributors or wholesalers who make the effort to visit these often forgotten countries to do business with.

After several hours speaking with many MENA producers, I took the opportunity to speak with some really interesting health food producers from Australia and Italy on neighbouring stands, who after some chance discussions, were keen to see if I could assist through my networks to help them enter the British market. Certainly an interesting prospect!

Now my feet are hurting!

By this time my feet were really starting to hurt (and anyone who knows me knows that I will have braved the halls in high heels!) so I took the opportunity to slowly walk around another hall and in doing so came across a good business opportunity for another client with a company that has a clear ‘brand match’ between them and my client. It’s great when that happens unexpectedly despite all the planning and fixed meetings I’ve made!

The day ended with an organised networking reception by UKTI, where we had the opportunity to network with a number of invited UAE guests. Again I met some interesting businesses and individuals, all of which is valuable and you just don’t know what may happen in the future with these new found connections.

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