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AMI returns to Seattle this week after 4 days of exhibiting at the Gulfood 2010 trade show in Dubai, U.A.E.. Despite major economic obstacles currently faced by the majority of the world, the U.A.E.’s economy is strong and growing. Food and beverage products will continue to be one of the country’s largest imports. With a desert climate lending to unsuitable farming conditions and a booming hospitality and food service industry, the U.A.E. must rely on the importation of food and beverage products to sustain over 400 hotel kitchens, 11,000 high-end eating establishments, 450 franchise restaurants and an ever-growing fast food industry. Moreover, the country’s fast food and casual dining divisions are expected to enjoy growth of double digit proportions in 2010, resulting in higher demands for imported foodstuffs.
At the Gulfood show, AMI witnessed strong interest from Middle East food and beverage buyers looking to broaden their product lines and pioneer novel western food and beverage trends in the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, North Africa, and other promising markets. Buyers flocked to the Big Train booth to sample our blended iced coffees, fruit tea smoothies, and chai teas, as iced and blended products are ideal refreshments for these arid regions.
Another notable observation is that many of the Middle East’s young professionals seem to be looking to unleash their entrepreneurial skills and open coffee shops, restaurants, and other hot spots where locals and tourists can escape from the heat and enjoy a refreshing iced beverage and delicious, innovative food. With menus consisting of mostly traditional items, novel foodstuffs give added value and appeal.
Another AMI client, Taylor Brothers Farms (producer of dried prunes and prune products), was also very popular at the Gulfood show. With a local production of dates, raisins, and figs, consumers in this part of the world are very familiar with dried fruits because of their convenience factor and longer shelf-life compared to fresh fruits in hot conditions. Taylor Brothers Farms’ prunes represented a new addition to dried fruit and nut traders’ product lines. Several prominent traders from the Middle East, North Africa, and as far away as Thailand and Indonesia came to visit our stand and buy products. We also drew a lot of attention from bakeries and chefs from many of Dubai’s top hotels for use in cakes, pastries, and other creations.
Other noted U.A.E. food trends include frozen foods (appealing because of their “locked-in freshness”), foods and beverages with added health benefits (antioxidants, probiotics, etc.), convenience items (quick and easy foods with a long shelf life), and energy drinks.
The U.A.E. and surrounding Gulf markets promise to be prosperous markets for AMI’s food and beverage clients in 2010 and beyond.