A surge in consumer demand for knowledge of food origin and source is now a key factor for successful sales and marketing in the global food industry, according to the latest research.
A survey by Opinion Matters found that a food’s origin is now second on a consumer’s list, behind only sell-by dates, when it comes to purchasing, and leading international supermarket chains are addressing the issue through transparent sourcing advertising.
The awareness of different foods from around the world has increased dramatically as a result of globalisation, with global tourism to reach 1.5 billion by 2020 and 65 percent of households worldwide connected online. This rise in awareness has resulted in a strong response from eager exhibitors for the World Food, one of eight specialist sectors in the newly evolved format of Gulfood 2017, which is taking place from 26 February to 2 March 2017 at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
One trend seen across the globe is product knowledge and value, as consumers become more price conscious and increasingly mistrust brands, especially those from the largest global food manufacturers.
There is also a shift towards more "authentic”, niche and natural products, with people seeking brands that they see as upholding key values. In addition, a growing number of consumers trust organic products to be healthier, more natural and greener but also favour smaller niche food manufacturers over large food multinationals.
The Asia-Pacific and Middle East and Africa regions are the main global growth drivers of packaged food globally.
Nations from East to West, North to South have signed up to showcase country-specific products, services and business opportunities at the 22nd edition of the world’s largest food and hospitality show, which will feature 120 national pavilions
“Transparency on sourcing is taking centre stage in the food-value chain and World Food recognises demand for nations to build brand-trust that is now paramount to consumers,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Exhibitions & Events Management, DWTC.
“The new sector format of the show will create better access for visitors to reach their target products and with World Food housed in its own dedicated sector, exhibitors will be able to offer greater insight into origin and source of their produce.”
South America is out in force at Gulfood 2017 with Minerva Foods, one of the continent’s biggest players in the production and sale of fresh beef and its bi-products. With the Middle East and Africa so important to the company, representing 35 per cent of the company’s international sales in the last twelve months ended in September 2016, the firm is now developing new, market-specific products, says Minerva Chief Commercial Operator, Iain Mars.
“We have a plan with SALIC (Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company) to address the food security issue in this region through a new distribution system focused on high-quality food supply,” Mars said.
“The Middle East region faces a lot of challenges, including the non-favourable climate and limited availability of water, as well as the political insecurity in some countries. Despite the influence of urbanisation, westernisation, population growth and better purchasing power contributing to an increase in regional meat consumption, the elevated cost of production has historically limited investments in meat production and created a higher dependency on imports.
“All these factors increase the potential for South America to become the main supplier for the Middle East, exporting high-quality products with efficiency and at competitive prices.
“The change in format can only help as the dedicated World Food sector will allow us to better showcase what we have to offer.”
Mars is tipping Halal and organic foods to be the Middle East’s premier growth sectors, adding: “Organic and grass-fed demand should increase following a shift in global behaviour towards lean and natural products.”
Brazilian interests at Gulfood will be boosted by the presence of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, with spokesperson Michel Alaby citing the Arab world as the second major importer of Brazilian foodstuff after China - regional sales hit $8.68 billion in 2015.
Alaby said: “Among the most important Brazilian foodstuff products exported to the Arab countries are meat, sugar, cereals, oil seeds, coffee, milk and fruits. Brazilian companies are developing their knowledge of the Arab countries and features such as the Halal certificates for, but not limited to, meat and its bi-products.”
Ireland, meanwhile, hopes a strong reputation in the provenance of its beef and poultry will boost regional sales, during Gulfood 2017. A highlight of the Bord Bia Ireland pavilion will be the showcasing of the Golden Irish eggs brand, with the Emerald Isle’s food board eager to leverage the country’s product pedigree.
Golden Irish spokesman Brian Eivers, said: “We‘re focused on offering customers a range of high-quality, 100 percent Republic of Ireland BRC Grade A eggs. With a strong customer based across both retail and foodservice industries, we’re well placed to service the needs of a growing market.
The brand, operating in the GCC since 2014, were the first to introduce Irish eggs to the market and are now moving into the supply of boiled and liquid egg to enhance their stronghold. The World Food sector at Gulfood 2017 will also see the launch of a new, bilingual Golden Irish Organic 10 Pack designed especially for the Middle East.
“We’ve seen significant growth in our organic offering and created this product to offer customers greater options,” said Eivers.
Ireland is eager to showcase its reputation for providing great quality food at the Bord Bia Ireland pavilion, this will be championed by dry-aged grass-fed beef producer John Stone Beef.
Allan Morris, its Managing Director, said Ireland’s standard, yet stand-out beef rearing processes gives it the edge with increasingly quality conscious consumers: “Our beef is sourced from suckler farmers, which means the calves stay with their mothers to suckle until they are independent and can forage for themselves,” Morris said. “This system is quite unique but is the normal standard in Ireland, ensuring sustainability and grassland management is achieved.
“All Middle East countries are growing in terms of their desire for safe, sustainable and natural foods for their consumers. We are keen to show in the World Food segment why Ireland is well positioned to help them achieve this within their marketplaces.”
At the show, John Stone will roll out a host of new products all falling in line with its strict Halal protocols. Morris added: “We are proud to say that we are the first meat company in Europe that has been granted the National Halal Mark. This mark is an assurance of quality and verification that the highest Halal standards have been achieved.”
The dairy sector, meanwhile, is a key focus for Belgium’s Flanders' Agricultural Marketing Board, which will have six dairies on show, under its White Gold from Europe banner.
Latvia, making its fourth Gulfood foray, is fielding its largest national delegation to date, with 20 companies under the banner of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, up from seven producers three years ago. And the Latvians have high hopes of new business.
“Our aim is to cover all countries in the Middle East region and to introduce our high-quality and healthy products,” explained ministry of agriculture spokesperson Daina Saktina. “A high share of all Latvian products can be evaluated as eco and healthy-life products. We know that clients and customers from the region have high demands for food quality and we can satisfy these. We don’t have many mass production companies with average products. We have smaller, diverse companies which prioritise quality, uniqueness and healthy life products.”
World Food is one of eight dedicated segments now housed within Gulfood to ensure buyers can more easily and effectively navigate the giant show. The other features are: beverages; dairy; fats & oils; health, wellness & free-from; pulses, grains & cereals; meat & poultry and Power Brands.
Gulfood 2017 is a trade event open strictly to business and trade visitors. The show is open 11am-7pm from February 26 to March 1 2017 and 11am-5pm on March 2 2017. Visitors can pre-register at www.gulfood.com to save AED150 on the on-site entry fee of AED350.