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The sweet spot
The Gulf region has developed a bit of a sweet tooth, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by global confectionery brands. Kipp takes a closer look.
July 13, 2010 5:49 by Alex Malouf
Consumers in the Gulf are becoming more addicted to the sweet stuff, judging by the number of global confectionery brands entering the region.
According to TNS Media Intelligence, the Middle East is one of the top 10 markets for confectionery products in the world. It values the total Middle East confectionery market at $113 billion, with growth of more than 15 percent over the last three years. Saudi Arabia and Qatar experienced the largest increase, at around 24 per cent.
That growth hasn’t gone unnoticed by chocolate, confectionery and ice cream brands around the globe. Hotel Chocolat, the British chocolatier and cocoa grower, launched its first stores in the region this year. Switzerland’s Teuscher Chocolates, meanwhile, marked its entry into the Middle East with a new boutique in Doha.
Not to be outdone, the local confectionery industry has been looking to expand outside of the Middle East and into Europe. One Dubai-based brand aims to crack the US and even Japan with its unique selling point – camel’s milk.
Dubai’s Al Nassma, which claims to be world’s first brand of chocolate made with camel milk, aims to capture the imagination of chocolate lovers looking for something different.
“We aim to be the Godiva of the Middle East,” Al Nassma’s general manager Martin Van Almsick told the media last year. “It’s a luxury product, so we will never be in supermarkets. The plan is to be in one mall in each UAE city.”
Other confectionery sectors have also enjoyed strong interest and growth, most notably frozen snacks.
One American brand has opened up in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, offering a different take on frozen yoghurt. Freshberry’s products are made out of all natural ingredients and feature tastes such as All Natural FreshBerry Tart, All Natural Decadent Dark Chocolate, and No Sugar Added Vanilla.
Freshberry’s franchise owner in the region clearly believes that consumers will buy into enjoying a healthy snack. “It’s an exciting moment in the history of our business, where we have added a new dimension with the introduction of the Freshberry brand which will not only educate, but provide mass appeal for a wide range of health conscious consumers in the region,” notes Rajendra Shah, head of regional marketing & franchise for United Food Company.
While there’s no doubt that even economies in the Gulf took a hit last year, the regional consumers’ love for confectionery has not waned.
Globally, sales of chocolates were on the rise during 2009, and there’s little to suggest that 2010 will be any different.
“It’s clear that, despite economic trouble this year, the world’s chocolate lovers didn’t deviate from their favorite treat. Chocolate is a small, affordable indulgence for shoppers who are cutting back on spending elsewhere. Even in countries not known for chocolate consumption, sales are on the rise,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, global food and drink analyst at food consultancy firm Mintel.
TNS’ researchers put the growth in the Gulf region’s confectionery sales down to greater disposable income per capita, the influence of the region’s enormous population of young consumers, and the traditional role of sweets in Arab culture.