Consumers in the UAE are willing to pay a premium for high-quality food and beverage products that taste good, are healthy, and they can trust, according to a new report by Kantar, commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), the government agency charged with helping New Zealand businesses to grow internationally. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers in the UAE care more about where their food comes from and how it was made, with more than 50% of those surveyed agreeing this impacts their F&B purchasing decisions.
The survey[i], conducted in June 2021, revealed the top five criteria influencing grocery shoppers’ purchasing decisions are quality, nutrition, taste, provenance, and safety. Consumers also want to be more informed about their food and beverage choices, with half of the respondents stating they read the nutritional information on labels and consider the country of origin of F&B products to be very important.
As a leading agricultural nation, New Zealand sees an opportunity to capture even more of the UAE F&B market and raise its profile as a trusted, sustainable global food exporter. New Zealand is already Dubai’s second top food trade partner, accounting for 13% of all food imports to the emirate in 2020, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With the UAE aiming to become the most food-secure nation by 2051, and conscious consumerism on the rise regionally, New Zealand anticipates significant growth of its F&B exports to the UAE and wider Gulf region over the next years.
New Zealand’s trade with the UAE and Saudi Arabia grew throughout the year following the Covid-19 pandemic and represented some of its fastest-growing export markets. The growth was driven primarily by F&B exports including dairy, sheep meat, apples, kiwifruit, and honey. In the last 12 months alone, total two-way trade with the six GCC countries totalled $2.60 billion, of which $1.24bn was exports from New Zealand to the Gulf.
“The UAE is a premium F&B market used to choosing from the highest quality international ingredients imported from across the globe. New Zealand is well recognised by UAE consumers as a premium F&B producer, but what is interesting to note is the increasing importance UAE residents now place on knowing the origin of their food, where it was grown, and how it was made. This was further emphasised during Expo’s World Food Day Celebration when the UAE announced plans to promote healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
“New Zealand has a great opportunity to show how our Māori ethos of katitakitanga – care for people, place, and planet – combined with our innovation in agritech, produces food and beverage that tastes good, is healthy, and can be trusted. Expo 2020 Dubai will be an important platform for sharing this message with the UAE and beyond, and we’re excited to introduce our Made With Care campaign in support of it,” said Matthew Hawkins, New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
A key feature of New Zealand’s Expo 2020 pavilion is its Tiaki full-service licensed restaurant. The name means to care, safeguard, protect, and preserve in Māori and reflects the special connection New Zealanders have with the land and the sea. It is a relationship founded on care, respect, and an understanding that when nature thrives, we all thrive. A destination in itself, New Zealand will use its restaurant experience to help bolster F&B trade relationships in the region.
To maximise trade opportunities during Expo, NZTE has created the Expo Business Leverage Programme to help fast track New Zealand exporters’ understanding of and entry to the Middle East region, as well as to showcase New Zealand expertise to buyers and channel partners in Gulf countries. Its F&B programme will highlight the incredible range of premium New Zealand F&B to buyers from the Middle East region at several invite-only events in the New Zealand pavilion.
“F&B is our top export sector to the UAE, but there is a lot of scope to grow more in the Gulf region. New Zealand is a nation of 5 million people that feeds 40 million globally, so we have huge capability. We’re also well positioned to support the UAE’s food & beverage manufacturing and technology needs as well as its food security goals. New Zealand companies have expertise in everything from seed technology that maximise crop productivity, to advanced irrigation systems for reduced water consumption and traceability solutions that help ensure food safety. You can trace the majority of New Zealand food exports right back to the farm or the animal they came from,” explained Kevin McKenna, New Zealand’s Consul-General and Trade Commissioner to the UAE.
Over the next six months, New Zealand will roll out its Made with Care campaign to promote awareness and preference of New Zealand F&B among consumers in the UAE. The goal is to educate consumers on some of the benefits of buying New Zealand produce and show how the products are made with respect for both people and place.
As one of the world’s most progressive centres of agriculture and aquaculture knowledge, New Zealand is recognised globally for its leadership in sustainable farming, production and nutrition. New Zealand’s sustainable fisheries initiative and Quota Management System is among the best in the world. It covers almost 100 commercial species, with 95% of New Zealand’s commercial catch coming from sustainable stocks. New Zealand Plant & Food Research – a crown-owned research organisation – is working with Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) to help make the UAE fisheries more sustainable by 2030.
Beyond its major F&B export categories of dairy, red meat and fruit, New Zealand sees opportunity to grow exports of beverages, healthy snacks and fresh produce to cater to the UAE’s consumers. With the UAE’s fast-growing movement towards healthy eating, New Zealand also expects to increase exports of organic and natural beauty and personal care products to the market.
 Statistics NZ for year end June 2021.
[i] The ‘Made with Care’ survey report was commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and conducted by market research agency Kantar in June 2021 with 256 middle income respondents living in the UAE.