Last year, oil prices deteriorated and as a result so did the Saudi Arabian economic growth and its consumer expenditure.
But does that mean fewer opportunities in the Saudi Arabia market?
No, most definitely not… at least when it comes to the food and drink sector. In fact the change in the way consumers spend money, the altered preferences in the food and drink sector as well as the governmental plans and reforms have created many untapped opportunities in this market, which is often seen as complex and difficult to navigate.
While there has been declining sales growth in the food sector in the recent years as per the graph below, Euromonitor forecasts that the sales growth of packaged food will increase mainly due to unique product development by companies.
Young consumers are driving the healthy lifestyle trend
The widespread nature of social media and the exposure to international trends through different influencers have led more and more young Saudi consumers to find healthier lifestyles appealing. The young, modern generation in the country (70% of the Saudi population are under 30 years of age) are inclined toward a westernized approach of eating and healthier nutrition. A Nielsen global surveyhas shown that 66% people from Saudi Arabia are saying they actively make dietary choices that address low-fat plus low-sugar and to a lesser degree organic food that is progressing in popularity. Moreover, health awareness is not limited only to diet but also extends to overall lifestyle with a growing number of Saudi nationals gaining increased interest in fitness and physical activities. According to a survey by the general sport authority in Saudi Arabia, the number of Saudis who exercise has increased by 10% of the total population over the last 3 year
Governmental reforms guarantee the existing opportunity
The government is also one of the key driving forces helping to make this shift in their nation’s attitude towards improved health and well-being. The governmental reforms took two approaches. First, manufacturers of unhealthy food and drinks are pressured by taxes. A 50% tax on all carbonated soft drinks and 100 percent tax on energy drinks have been fairly recently implemented into this and other Gulf markets in an attempt to discourage highand in an attempt to reduce obesity that has reached 35% in Saudi Arabia according to WHO. Second, the government is also promoting for healthier lifestyle through the large vision 2030 plan. As part of this the government aims to put in place at least one gym in every district and neighbourhood, plus to also open up gyms to women for the first time which has already started.
Females are the new key player
Euromonitor considers women as a key incentive that will encourage manufacturers to invest in more health-orientated products. Saudi females nowadays enjoy a more liberal lifestyle with many governmental reforms having a direct impact on this. Saudi women can now drive and are more actively encouraged to enter the work place. As mentioned before women-only gyms have been opened recently and this is important as females are the ones in Saudi Arabia with the highest level of obesity.
As a direct result Saudi females are taking a greater than ever interest in their nutrition, the physical health and their overall well-being. Consequently this makes Saudi Arabia a very promising proposition for food and drink products looking to enter this market, which is still in its infancy when it comes to healthier nutritional alternatives on offer from what they have been traditionally consuming.
The changes in lifestyle and consumer attitudes along with government level reforms makes the Saudi market one which western brands willing to expand internationally must consider, especially when you take into account the size of the opportunity due to the large economy and high consumer expenditure.
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