During a recent trip to the UK to meet food and drink manufacturers one question was repeatedly asked of me; “How do we get our products on UAE shelves?” Almost every person I spoke to knew that there is a demand in the UAE for their products, the fact that they were at an event that the BCB was present for would suggest that. What of the other companies, the ones that weren’t at the event? If the message that demand is there is getting through, why is the process to export not understood?
The UAE food market is expected to grow to £25.81 billion by 2018, it has grown on average 8.5% per year since 2003. This figure accounts for catering, supermarkets, restaurants, and so on (Source: Dubai Chamber of Commerce/UNCTAD). The steady increase in the figure is due to the population demographic of the UAE as well as the attractiveness of a country which does not impose taxation on personal income. Emirati’s make up approximately 12% of the 9.5 million population, Brits number more than 120,000.
As we’ve written about on this blog, UK food and drink firms do succeed here. Supermarket chain Waitrose is already a favourite with the UK community. Iceland and Tesco brand goods can be found readily in the UAE as well as many premium brands. The Dubai Statistics Centre states that UK goods imported into the UAE in 2014 (most recent available data) valued one-way trade at nearly £6.4 billion, out of which food exports were £417 million.. The UAE is the largest importer of UK goods in the GCC. The UK UAE market is flourishing. There is plenty of space for more food and drink of UK quality.
Using social networking sites as a place to start to measure visibility, we can see a lot of effort from manufacturers. We see teas, biscuits, ice-creams, cuts of meat, organic vegetables; almost everything in fact. But when we follow the same steps and search for consolidators and export companies, we don’t see anywhere near the same amount of interaction. We see content, but most is restricted to trade show attendance.
Similarly we don’t see as much activity from UK media in this regard. Yes, magazines promote products but they usually promote to their home audience, which is understandable. What we’re missing is the noise made by media to promote overseas trade of UK products. Is this where the problem lies; is there simply not enough coverage?
What do you think? Are you a consolidator or exporter struggling to meet potential manufacturers? Or are you a manufacturer wanting to export but don’t know how?