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Revisiting Healthy Food Trends in the Middle East?

from the publisher

With the focus on the Middle East, I wanted to revisit the area of healthy eating in the region. So I’ve decided to take a break from the constant focus on the various trade wars and discuss the importance of healthy foods and rising demand for such products. As I have mentioned in the past, countries that once couldn’t afford healthy food products (which we have enjoyed here in the United States for years) can afford it today. But as we know in America, just because you have healthy food products everywhere does not mean you’re not going to make the right choices. It still comes down to one’s discretion.

So that brings me to the Middle East and the trends we are seeing there. The growth in the consumption of fast food and packaged food is actually a demographic shift situation. Young Middle Eastern adults are getting married later and living with their parents well into their late twenties and even early thirties. And women a generation ago got married before twenty are today delaying having kids and choosing careers. That means the Middle Eastern Millennials have more disposable income to go to restaurants or consume convenient food for expediency sake. Sound familiar? The cultural phenomenon I’m referring to has been going on here in the United States for years. And you are seeing the acceleration of this demographic shift more and more in China and other Asian countries.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the United States has captured a 50 billion plus export market of prepared and processed food products in the region. Middle Easterners are prospering in regions like the United Arab Emirates and with that comes fast paced lives. So the demand for U.S. processed food products has a growing appeal and demand. However, as one finds out with fast foods and processed foods comes calories and carbohydrates! Obesity and diabetes are on the rise in the region. It wasn’t hard to find plenty of stories regarding Middle Eastern diets and the rise of these ailments due to the consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages.

Not to fear…we are seeing an increase of U.S. natural and organic food products being exported into the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and Turkey along with a handful of other Middle Eastern countries. Since my last 10 years of attending the Gulfood Expo in Dubai…the U.S. manufacturers of organic and natural foods that are exhibiting have tripled in number. Just as we have seen in Asia and Europe…if their consumers can afford it…they’ll buy it. And buying they are! Whereas consumption of organic and natural foods was less than a billion USD per year in 2009…it has now reached over 3 billion USD and those are conservative estimates. In November, the Middle East Natural and Organic Food Expo in Saudi Arabia is held annually. It’s a relatively new food show but its growing and I am looking into the viability of attending. What this indicates is that the health market is substantial enough to warrant a trade show. Asia and Europe are also seeing a proliferation of health food expos being held throughout the year.

The demand for processed and prepared foods isn’t declining anytime soon. The demographic shift situation is not exclusive to North America and Europe. It’s happening in the Middle East and Asia. What is fascinating to me is that the Middle East is facing the same food consumption problems that Asia and Europe are now experiencing. And like the United States…what soon follows in each region is the popularity of healthy foods. I like fast food as much as the next person. But I realized long ago that these foods should be enjoyed on a limited basis. Eating healthy takes dedication, discipline and proper choice. It’s a learning curve everyone experiences… no matter where you live. And with that, see you in Anaheim for the Natural Products show.


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