Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The country's diversity creates opportunities for exporting a broad range of foods, and the UAE also re-exports food elsewhere within the region.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the second-largest economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the second-largest food market in the GCC after Saudi Arabia, with a compound annualized growth rate of 4.4% projected for the period 2017 to 2021. Factors such as high disposable income, rising tourism activities and an increase in the number of expatriates are driving the growth in the food sector. The UAE’s food imports are expected to reach $400 billion by 2025. Among GCC countries, the UAE leads the food re-export segment. Its strategic location has helped it to be a significant link in the region’s food chain. The country is the world’s third-largest re-exporter of food. The UAE food and beverage sector will quadruple in size over the next five years to meet the anticipated increase in demand from the hotel and retail projects currently under development in Dubai, in preparation for Expo 2020 and the resulting influx of population in the UAE. The UAE’s reliance on food imports amounts to 90% of its food needs, thus raising the prospect for growth of the food and beverage sector. Some industry highlights include:

  • The UAE is a multicultural society; hence, the taste palate and food preferences of both the local and expatriate population are diverse. Consumers have access to, and are open to trying, a variety of cuisines, ingredients, and food and beverage items. The demand for Western-style foods is increasing rapidly, and families are actively adopting Western food concepts and recipes.
  • A hectic lifestyle is common, and consumers prefer on-the-go food and snack options. Local and international suppliers have noticed this shift in preference and have started offering on-the-go packaging. In addition, consumers are increasingly becoming health and fitness enthusiasts. Hence, they prefer small, on-the-go packaging that allows for portion control.
  • There is an increase in demand for healthy food, as obesity and diabetes are major health issues in the region. The government has launched several initiatives to raise awareness, leading the population to become more health-conscious and seek to adopt healthy lifestyles. Low-fat, multigrain, gluten-free, non-GMO, free-range, sugar-free and all-natural are popular claims on processed and packaged food items.