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People still gotta eat…Part I

People still gotta eat…Part I

The region’s food sector appears to be having a more palatable year than many other businesses, Part I.

October 27, 2009 3:49 by

If there’s a sector able to defy an economic downturn in the Middle East, it has to be food. Despite, or perhaps because of, the credit crunch, food brands have taken a greater share of the region’s marketing spend. For food owners, 2009 has been a year of growth and expansion.

“We at Al Islami haven’t felt a drop in business, especially as we have been expanding internationally,” says Saleh Lootah, CEO, Al Islami Foods.

“There was a slight drop in January and February but then things started picking up, which fits into our target of achieving sales of $1 billion by 2011. It’s fair to say that the past nine months have been our busiest yet.”

Announcements of acquisitions and mergers by both local and international food manufacturers have become commonplace; the joint venture between Almarai and Pepsi, and Savola’s recent purchase of Géant food stores in Saudi Arabia, are stand-outs in a year of feverish expansion.

Local brands have been especially aggressive in terms of branding and product launches – one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest dairy companies, Sadafco, has launched a number of new products to reinvigorate its Saudia brand.

“We’ve recently launched a number of new products – tomato paste, cheese triangles and instant milk powder,” notes Sadafco CEO Wout Matthijs.

“We’re looking at both product expansion and geographic expansion. The food market is very much alive, as consumers insist on improved quality. We need to be increasingly innovative to ensure that our products gain both mind and market share.”

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