FMCG Business Opportunities in Saudi Arabia

If you have a Middle Eastern export plan for your products then it has to involve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia right now

Situated at the heart of the Peninsula Gulf, the statistics when we look at the Saudi Arabian Food and beverage industry speak for themselves:

  • Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab world and home to a growing food manufacturing and processing sector. Total investments in the sector are projected to reach $70 billion in 2030, an increase of approximately 59 percent over total investments from 2016 (US Department for Agriculture 2022)

  • Revenue in the overall Saudi Arabian Food market amounts to US$58.73bn in 2023. The market is expected to grow annually by 4.27% (CAGR 2023-2028) (Statista)

  • Saudi food manufacturers imported a total of $2.8 billion worth of intermediate food products in 2021. (US Department for Agriculture 2022)

So why is there so much going on?

In a place hungry for change and progress by its largely millennial, local population there are a number of driving forces that make this country a great place to consider doing business.

Firstly, Vision 2030 is the backbone of what Saudi Arabia are striving for. This is built on three themes: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. Within each of these themes there are targets which have been placed to achieve the progress the nation is seeking. Some of these are related to diversification from the dependence on the oil and gas sector as well as encouraging greater citizen participation in various initiatives, including becoming more physically active.

Secondly, greater female mobility is really starting to show in the Kingdom. From the workforce to the social occasions in coffee houses where you can see Saudi women meeting post work for a drink and catch up amongst friends. As such women are starting to take greater control and have more financial independence, all of which is having a positive impact on consumer spending and the economy overall.

Being very welcoming to tourism and actively encouraging new people to visit Saudi Arabia is also changing the landscape. More Europeans and other non-Arab tourists can be seen in the capital, and there is a vibrant buzz in the dining spaces in downtown Olaya that most people coming to Saudi Arabia would never have envisaged previously. This is contributing to a much more open society and changing appetite in how business is conducted.

What are the benefits of working in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia
  • It is a place that is actively looking for newness and progress. Within that and amongst the educated Saudi nationals in managerial roles there is an urgency of progressing business opportunities and making things happen that is a refreshing change from what you may have experienced when doing business in the region before.
  • As many of the health and wellness categories are still in their infancy in the Kingdom, this opens up opportunities for brands and manufacturers to enter a market that is not currently saturated. Of course, with this there may be some more educational needs required for more specialised products- both for the consumers and to attract the distributors/retailers to take on the supply of these goods. However, being one of the first to bring your brand or product type to the market can reap rewards in the longer term and it can certainly be more beneficial than trying to compete in an overcrowded marketplace.

What are the challenges?

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.

Our last trip

On our latest trip we spent time in the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh, where over a third of the almost 37 million population and 6.7 million households reside.

We had considered timing the trip with the first Saudi Food Show, which has been the Saudi version of the UAE’s annual Gulfood exhibition that takes place each February. It can be a good move to maximise networking and business opportunities with a combined market and trade show trip.

However, on this occasion we decided to not go to this show, opting instead to go off the beaten track and exhibit at the inaugural Sports For All expo as well as do the usual market trip. This certainly paid dividends as we were able in less than 3 days to interact with thousands of Saudi consumers and gain invaluable feedback on products, packaging, proposed price points and much more for some of our current clients.

Undertaking category analysis as well as business development meetings for our clients as per usual means we have deep dived into several areas within the health food, drink and supplement space in Saudi Arabia over the past few weeks. As such, we have identified brand new market opportunities for some manufacturers to offer both branded and private label products in various channels of distribution – including pharmacy and grocery retail. Moreover, we have continued our ongoing progress with market entry and development for others plus continued to strengthen our relationships, links and expertise in working within the Kingdom.

We are now in the follow up phase from this trip and will shortly be preparing for the next one which will be in September/October 2023.


In conclusion, Saudi Arabia remains an interesting and exciting place to consider for international business. It has sizeable opportunities for the right brand owners or manufacturers who can navigate the landscape, be committed to the market, and seek to understand how their health and wellness offering could truly work there. We have several additional resources available on our website specific to the Saudi market and to internationalisation more generally that may be beneficial to you.

Should you wish to enlist the support of Bolst Global to navigate the Saudi Arabian market then please fill in your contact details below and one of the Team will be in touch to discuss your needs further.

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