UAE consumers are also becoming more aware of food quality and traceability, and as a result, they are ready to pay a premium for quality-assured food and beverage goods.
According to a new Bord Bia survey, UAE consumers are leading the way globally in terms of valuing sustainability as a food and beverage mandate.
The Irish food board, Bord Bia, investigated purchasing habits in 13 nations to better understand how different markets are responding to these developments. The pandemic has unintentionally expedited a shift in global purchasing and eating habits, with more consumers affected by ethics and sustainability issues, and, surprisingly, the UAE consumers have led the way in prioritizing sustainability as a food and beverage mandate.
The UAE has a unique mix of consumers because the bulk of the country's 9.89 million residents are ex-pats, with less than a sixth being locals. According to the Bord Bia report, UAE consumers are becoming more interested in natural foods, owing to their belief that natural produce is the better option. Nearly 60% of participants stated that the naturalness of the product influenced their grocery decisions, the highest of any market.
"These survey results imply that the shift in consumer behaviors prompted by the consequences of the pandemic can no longer be regarded a fad, particularly in the Middle East," Kieran Fitzgerald, regional director - Middle East, for Bord Bia, said.
The food and beverage industry needs to pay attention to consumer demands today more than ever, and it is becoming clear that there is an extraordinary opportunity for food manufacturers wishing to expand internationally to incorporate sustainability into their business plan."
In relation to sustainability, UAE consumers are becoming more aware of food quality and traceability, and as a result, are ready to pay a premium for food and beverage products that are quality assured, high in nutritional content, and natural. Nearly one-third (29%) of UAE beef customers are willing to pay a premium for quality assured meat over all other factors. Furthermore, half of the UAE participants (47%) expressed an interest in natural dairy products.
"This increased interest in food quality suggests that the UAE market would make purchasing decisions based on nutritional attributes and the naturalness of the items." This supports the reality that in order to be a successful business, firms must work to educate their consumers about their sustainability agenda and larger food production practices," Kieran noted.
Furthermore, 84 percent of UAE consumers reported making an attempt to restrict their use of artificial additives in the previous 12 months, which is much higher than the global average of 75 percent.
Ireland's commitment to sustainable food production is paving the way for other suppliers and government agencies to ensure food is produced in a responsible manner.
Bord Bia's Origin Green sustainability initiative is the only one of its kind on a global scale, joining the government, the commercial sector, and food and drink producers to ensure that all foods are produced in a sustainable manner.
If present dietary trends continue, food production will need to nearly double by 2050, resulting in the depletion of natural resources such as water and biodiversity. As a result, it is even more critical that sustainable techniques be addressed before it is too late. The Bord Bia study assists businesses in determining customer needs for sustainable food and determining which components are most important across different demographics.
"While this survey only provides a glimpse of consumer views, it also emphasizes the importance of food supply chains aligning with consumer trends and shines a spotlight on a great opportunity here to kick start a larger dialogue on sustainability in food production, both regionally and globally," Kieran said.