The biggest food opportunities for British exporters in the UAE

The UAE as a market is becoming more and more popular for high quality British exporters and would be exporters to target.

With a growing population estimated to be £10.2 million by 2018, a rich diversity of cultures and nationalities that make up the demographics (approximately 30% of whom are from India and Pakistan) and not to mention over 16 million tourists who visited the country last year, it is clear that the UAE has a lot to offer many British companies seeking to sell into this market.

When it comes to bilateral trade over £12bn was exchanged between the UK and the UAE in 2013. For the food and drink sector, estimated to be worth almost £26bn by 2018, the appetite for high quality British produce is also strong, with over £417 million exported from the UK to the UAE in 2014.

Fruit and nuts

Naturally healthy nuts are the fastest growing product area in this category, largely consumed by the Arab and Asian expatriates and worth a whooping £157m GBP in 2015.  From field market research undertaken you can see that it is also a competitive segment with many brands vying for a share on the supermarket shelves.  Local business Best Foods has the highest share with 17% of the market.

With the continuation of promoting the health benefits of nuts then producers are predicted to still heavily promote and widen the category with new product innovation and diversification.

For British exporters then pricing will be a major factor as it is not generally considered a premium product by most consumers in the UAE. However it is still feasible to target the mid range market and especially if quality, country of origin and/or product innovation can be clearly marketed.

At present fruit, in comparison to nuts, makes up less than 20% of the overall sweet and savoury snack category. Fruit bars also are still a very new concept in the UAE. However as the high demand for health food continues to rise there are clear opportunities for British brands to successfully enter into this space and with far less competition at present.


It may be surprising to know but the UK’S largest export foodstuff is actually chocolate!

And despite the fact that one in five people in the UAE are diabetic and obesity levels are one of the highest in the world, the UAE confectionery market grew by a staggering 94.7 percent between 2004 and 2010 (compared to just 18.6 percent in the UK)

The fact is the population in the UAE have a real sweet tooth and as such the UAE chocolate market is set to reach £205 million in 2017 with the greatest demand is for premium luxury brands and this is where the small British niche high end brands could see a sizeable opportunity particularly when targeting the local Emiratis and Western expatriates.


The dairy sector in the UAE is at an all-time high, with the majority of the sales coming from milk, labneh (an Arabic savoury fromage frais), yoghurt and cheese. It is therefore a category which can’t be ignored by British dairy brands. Whilst the local production of milk and labneh means that these items are generally speaking extremely hard to enter, there are nevertheless opportunities for British dairy producers especially for those with speciality yoghurts and cheeses where a point of difference and a niche offer which would whet the appetite for the UAE consumer and allow sales via retail outlets and potentially food service to be possible.

If you would like to know how Bolst Global could help you export your food products to this market then please contact us using the form below. For details on our range of services, please click here.

Statistics used for this report originate from various Euromonitor reports and the BCB Market briefing February 2016.


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