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Export opportunity – Middle East value added or speciality food ingredients

Key details

Opportunity: Value-added or speciality food ingredients

Country: Middle East

Sector: Food and drink

Middle East – value-added or speciality food ingredients opportunity summary 

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a trade bloc comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many of these markets import a large proportion of the food and drink products they consume. In 2022, UK food and drink exports to GCC countries were worth around £870 million.   

As companies expand into the GCC region, the suggested route is to gain a foothold in the UAE first, and then build on that success in the surrounding markets. 

Scale of export opportunity

  • UAE - currently imports around 85% of the food it consumes. UK exports to the UAE equated to around $365m in 2020 due to various factors including strong tourism.
  • Saudi Arabia - imported approximately $2.8bn of food products in 2021. UK exports to Saudi are considered to be growing consistently, with food exports at around $152m in 2020.
  • Qatar - imports approximately 90% of the food it consumes and UK exports were valued at $62m in 2020.
  • Kuwait - imported around $126m of food and drink related products from the UK in 2020. It is the most health-conscious country in the Middle East which is driving demand for sports nutrition products and healthy organic foods.
  • Oman – a key driver of demand for international food and drink products is tourism and Oman significantly increased its tourism figures in 2022 to 2.9m from 652,000 in 2021.
  • Bahrain - imports approximately 14% of the food it consumes and UK food exports were valued at around $39m in 2019. 

Company suitability

Scottish companies best positioned to win this type of business will fit with some of the following: 

  • Providers of value-added and speciality food ingredients to food processing, manufacturing industries and the food service sector
  • Companies which have an extensive range of value-added ingredients and can become a one-stop solution for buyers
  • Suppliers of products within the following categories:
    • seafood 
    • confectionery 
    • premium grocery 
    • dairy 
    • alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks  
  • Suppliers of functional food ingredients which enhance food ingredients’ basic nutritional values
  • Companies that already trade internationally 

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