Saudi Arabia’s F & B industry brims over amid robust tourism

Saudi flagJEDDAH — With Saudi Arabia importing approximately 60 percent of the Middle East’s total food and beverage (F&B) imports, the Kingdom is a key target market for regional and international food manufacturers and suppliers.

The upcoming Gulfood 2013, the world’s largest annual trade show for the food and hospitality industry, which will take place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Feb. 25-28, is expected to welcome a record number of F&B buyers and trade professionals from the Kingdom this year.

Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President of DWTC, organizer of Gulfood, said: “As one of the biggest food importers in the Middle East, Saudi Arabian representation at Gulfood is always strong. This year, more than ever, food buyers and key decision makers within the Saudi food & beverage industry will be making the trip to Dubai to meet with the largest number of suppliers and producers that Gulfood has ever hosted. There is no doubt that the show is critical for meeting the growing demand in the Kingdom and throughout the region.”

Saudi Arabia’s rising population, together with dynamic growth in its travel, tourism and hospitality sectors are key drivers in the Kingdom’s burgeoning food and beverage industry.

According to a report by Business Monitor International (BMI), tourist arrivals in the Kingdom are forecast to increase by 7 percent to 17.3 million in 2013 and by an average of 8.5 percent each year until 2017.

The Saudi hospitality market is growing in tandem with tourist arrivals. Valued at $13 billion in 2011 by Alpen Capital, the Saudi hospitality market is expected to reach $18.1 billion by 2016. Currently the fastest-growing in the GCC, the Saudi hospitality market is seeing an upward trend in luxury hotels having attracted investments from global players such as Marriott and IHG.

While rising food imports are already indicating strong market potential for F&B, such robust growth in the tourism and hospitality sectors is expected to fuel the need for international food products, services and technology even further.

Analysts have observed a growing preference for foods from Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Trade visitors from the Kingdom are increasingly sourcing European and American products and technology, and attend the show to access more than 4,000 international food producers from around the world.

Changing consumer trends and demographics also play a key role in expanding the Kingdom’s appetite for international flavors – a large youth population, high disposable incomes and increasing popularity of “eating out” being some of the associated factors. — SG