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Middle East: food and drink export opportunities

Market opportunity: Value-added or speciality food ingredients and packaging

Key details

Opportunity: Value-added or speciality food ingredients and packaging

Country: Middle East

Sector: Food and drink


The majority of the opportunities lie in the GCC, and its population is set to reach 65 million by 2030. Other counties in the wider ME region will also be looked at but on a reactive basis. United Arabs Emirates & Saudi Arabia are the markets where the most opportunities exist.

The UAE has an open, diversified economy that was worth US$354 billion in 2020, down from US$421.1 billion in 2019. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the UAE's gross domestic product (GDP) will rebound to US$401 billion in 2021. Politically and economically, the UAE is seen as one of the most stable and diversified economies in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has the largest food and beverage business in the Middle East region and generated 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018, reflecting its significance and effect on the economy as a whole. Saudi Arabia's food culture has evolved chiefly from neighbouring countries; therefore, tourists visiting the place will find an experience of both local and foreign cuisine to taste.

Saudi Arabia's food industry market accounted for $22.42 billion in 2020, and it is expected to grow at an 8.90 percent CAGR from 2021 to 2026.

Scale of opportunity

The GCC imported 80% of food and drink, with agriculture accounts for 1% of the GDP. Its food imports reached US$30 billion in value and 42 million tonnes in volume in recent years.

One of the opportunities is seafood for food service channel, trade insight the annual consumption of fish per person in the UAE is 33 kg, while the average international consumption is 18 kg. Salmon and trout are the leading imported species in the GCC.

This opportunity also includes all types of ambient products, including value-added ingredients and mixes, that go into the food service channel. For retail the premium category, the ones that are most sought after in the GCC are: snacking, confectionery, soups, non-alcoholic drinks, condiments, meat alternatives, cakes, cheeses, water, and ice cream.

The religious sensitives around selling and consuming alcohol in the ME presents some great opportunities to supply non-alcoholic spirits & water in the food service sectors. Existing Scottish brands in these categories have already witnessed growth in the ME last year, and new brands have recently formed partnerships with key ME food & drink contacts.
The Expo 2020 mega event is a gateway opportunity for Scottish companies to showcase such products at the UK Pavilion during Scotland’s VIP Reception and Showcase in February 2023.

Eligible companies

This opportunity is open to Scottish companies who can supply value-added and speciality food ingredients, and sustainable and eco-friendly packaging, to food processing and manufacturing industries and the food service sector.

Ideally, these companies will be able to provide an extensive range of value-add ingredients and thus become a one-stop solution for buyers.

Suppliers of functional food ingredients could also benefit from this opportunity, as demand is growing for ingredients which enhance food ingredients’ basic nutritional value.

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Register your interest

Register your interest

Get in touch with our in-market specialists to find out more about this export opportunity.