Saudi Arabia: Singapore taps into rising Saudi food sector market

Saudi Gazette JEDDAH – A Singapore business delegation from the food sector is currently in Saudi Arabia to explore business opportunities in the Kingdom’s burgeoning food and beverage sector.

The Singaporean food business mission – representing eight Singapore-based companies from the food manufacturing and logistics sectors – arrived in Jeddah Saturday, and is holding meetings with Saudi entrepreneurs in the sector until today (Oct. 24), then will travel to Riyadh for three-day consultations with Saudi businessmen in the central region up to Oct. 27.

Feroz Siddiqui, Center Director in Riyadh at International Enterprise Singapore and the First Secretary (Commercial) at Embassy of the Republic of Singapore, said the Kingdom’s food retail industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.4 percent to reach S$83.9 billion by 2014.

“Most Singapore F&B companies in the Middle East started off in the UAE, where the expatriate population is large and familiar with Asian food. Having gained market knowledge and a track record, it is timely to enter Saudi Arabia. We see a growing demand for quality Southeast Asian food products and concepts as the Saudis are increasingly more receptive to Southeast Asia’s ethnic and spicy flavors,” he said.
According to recent BMI statistics, Saudi Arabia accounts for up to 63 percent of the GCC’s $9 billion food and beverage market, easily establishing the country as a major business and investment destination for key players in the food production value chain. With the Kingdom’s rapidly increasing population, which is expected to double by 2023, per capita food consumption is projected to balloon 31.24 percent by 2014.
An example of a Singapore-based company that has made headway into Saudi Arabia is Tee Yih Jia Group that entered into a partnership with Binzagr Group. In September this year, the company successfully launched its Spring Home brand of products in the mainstream supermarket chains such as Green Shopping Center and Dhahia Supermarket.

“Building strong relationships with partners have been vital to our success in the Middle East as this has enabled us to better understand the needs of the market. Likewise, we feel that it is also an opportune time for Middle East companies to begin investing in Asia with Singapore as a springboard,” said Darren Sia, company’s Market Development manager.

“Singapore has a strong reputation for its rigorous food safety and halal certification standards. However, to enter new markets such as Saudi Arabia, our companies need to be knowledgeable of their consumer food culture, and preferences,” he added.
Ted Tan, deputy chief executive, SPRING Singapore (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board) – a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore which is the main agency for enterprise development and competitiveness – said the trip to Saudi Arabia will help Singaporean food companies and representatives from the Food Innovation Resource Center “gain valuable first-hand consumer insights into the intricate taste buds of the Middle Eastern consumer. It will assist them in innovating their food products for the Middle Eastern market.”
Bilateral trade between Singapore and Saudi Arabia from January to August 2011 totaled S$14 billion, an increase of 29.6 percent from S$10.8 billion registered in the same period last year, said Nordin Mohamed Yatim, Center Director in Jeddah at International Enterprise Singapore and Vice Consul (Commercial), Singapore Consulate General Jeddah. Total trade value hit S$12.8 billion in 2009.

Total trade between the two countries jumped 36.4 percent Y-o-Y in the first eight months of this year to reach S$14.7 billion, he added. Singapore’s top exports to the Kingdom in 2010 were refined petroleum products and machine parts.
Main imports from Saudi Arabia last year were crude oil and organic chemicals.