Export Success in the Middle East

After an exciting and super busy few weeks out in the Gulf region, our Founder Victoria recounts this business trip and provides some Gulf market and company updates:

We began our latest trip in Dubai, UAE and flew in just in time to coincide with the first edition of the Free From Events in the region. Thanks to our expertise and passion in the area of health and wellness as well as our extensive knowledge of the Gulf markets, we were delighted to provide additional support to the Free From Dubai events organisers and some of their exhibitors participating in the show.

Key Highlights

Future Foods Forum

The 2-day show was co-located with the prestigious Future Food Forum and as such attracted a wealth of stakeholders from the wider food and drink industry. We were also asked to play a part in this event too and I was asked to participate in a high-level panel discussion on the evolution of the F&B retail experience within the region on the second day. It was a great opportunity to share the stage with several others and discuss numbers changing consumer trends and demands in the Gulf.

Free From Food Dubai

The Free From Dubai edition itself was a great opportunity for those exhibiting at the show to not only showcase their products but also to network with others, and engage in high level buyer meetings that were organised as part of the participation. At Bolst Global we also took a stand at the show and had the opportunity to expose our portfolio of clients and meet with both familiar and new faces in the health and wellness space. It meant a very busy and highly enjoyable couple of days for us and we continue to follow up on the conversations developed from the event.

Retail Safari

As the Free From Dubai event drew to a close, our support did not and we bounced into day three (thanks to plenty of caffeine!) with a very special Retailer Safari that we had organised for an inspiring delegation of Female Founded South African producers. Cue a very busy day buzzing around the city and meeting several key retailers in the grocery space from our network. The objective of this day was to help provide accelerated market and category knowledge to the participants as well as introduce them to some of the prominent players who are driving a strong health and wellness agenda in the UAE. The day went really well, and you can find out more about it here. Building on this success we have decided to offer out more retailer safaris next year, especially to coincide with Arab Health and Gulfood 2024, which are the major trade shows for the food, drink and supplement sectors.

Once we had taken some rest over the weekend, albeit the Saturday was still choc-a-bloc with client meetings and a fleeting visit to the Dubai Pro bodybuilding show, we moved into a second week in Dubai. This time it was a busy few days of product training on behalf of a client for one of our partners in market, and as many high value retailer and distributor meetings that we could squeeze into the week for our clients. One of the highlights throughout the trip was certainly the opportunity to spend quality time with our connections in market and to continue to strengthen our business relationships. The face-to-face aspect of doing business and our ongoing commitment to the region remains for us a key strength and one which anyone serious about international trade or business in any area for that matter must be committed to.

We left Dubai with several potential business opportunities for numerous clients, some great private label business brewing, a new airline listing and multiple retailer listings that have already come to fruition.

After Dubai, we headed for a few days to Kuwait. From then on in it was me flying solo for the rest of the trip. Some people may question the reason for choosing Kuwait. Certainly, it is a country that many businesses can often overlook when they are assessing markets in the Middle East, but which can for some segments create significant opportunities. There are growing e-commerce platforms to consider such as Talabat and the private sector with players such as Sultan Center and Trolley playing a role in grocery retail. However, the key to success when trying to enter the market in Kuwait is finding a strong local partner. As most of the grocery retail market share is dominated through the local Cooperatives then access through Kuwaiti based parties is a prerequisite. During our time in market, we made plenty of store visits with some our highly valued distributor partners as well as took time to meet with multiple retailers and distributors. Plus, I even managed to squeeze in a catch up with the lovely Gula and Naz at the British Embassy – always a pleasure to do so!

From Kuwait and with a PO secured in our hand for one of our long-standing clients, I travelled to Qatar for more of the same. Special shout out to Ahmed Elmasry from Holland and Barrett who went above and beyond to make me feel welcome in Doha and show me round the city!

With retailer and distributor meetings filling our days, again it made my stay in Qatar a truly positive experience and I continued to build on our existing relationships as well as create some new ones too.

Following on from my time in Doha I touched down in Riyadh for a week. And what a fantastic experience this was! The kindness and hospitality of those in Saudi Arabia and the wider region never fail to impress and ensure the time in market is as enjoyable as possible. Again I have to make a special mention to another but different Ahmad who was beyond helpful and hospitable during the days there. This time and with the impending changing Saudi Food and Drink Authority (SFDA) regulations I decided to put more focus on the growing opportunities in the supplement and pharmacy channels. It paid off already with securing a new pharmacy listing via a distributor for one of our clients that same week! We met several new pharmacy chains and distributors within this area as well as continuing to see our existing connections and take on private label briefs (where there are also good business opportunities for contract manufacturers too!) Since our last visit in May we had launched a new brand into the marketplace via a very promising local partner and the buzz of seeing a new product on the shelf for the first time in a new territory never fades!

Alongside this we also took the time to visit Saba and Lana who do a fabulous job at the British Embassy! They persuaded me to finally get Bolst Global involved in their overseas referral network which is now live as result. This is so that we may help more British companies looking for market entry support into Saudi Arabia via our services.

Saba was in full In Flavour trade show preparation when we met, and I am sure that this has been a great success for those companies participating through her hard efforts!

After a fabulous week in Riyadh, we moved on to our final stop by the red sea: Jeddah. With some sizeable existing business in this city already established, I wanted to make sure I ended the business trip visiting not only this customer but also securing some more deals and opportunities via others who have their HQ in this beautiful city. The highlight of that week certainly had to be another confirmation through an in person meeting of some even bigger business for a client finally coming through. I was also fortunate in Jeddah to catch up and spend more time again with a couple of contacts with whom I can see great business partnerships in the future. Being able to have the opportunity to build on the connection and understand each other better was certainly a bonus!

Having invested significant time, efforts, and financial resources into Saudi Arabia especially for some time now this part of the trip was the best way to end it and to get back on the plane exhausted but ecstatic and excited about the future for our clients and customers.

So now we are back to the office and the follow up from this trip with our current projects and client support continues in earnest. We are also working on our 2024 programmes of client support and will be opening our first tranche of consultative market development projects imminently.

I am super excited for next year and what will be coming down the line for our clients and for us as a business!

If you are a brand and/or manufacturer interested in working with us for your Middle Eastern market entry and/or development for 2024 via a retailer safari, a project or contracted support then please get in touch via the form below to set up an informal call.

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