The UAE chocolate and confectionery market benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with many people indulging while cooped up at home. According to a recent survey, about 35% of residents indulged more in food, especially chocolate during the lockdown. Most of the key distribution channels remained open during the lockdown, having been deemed essential. The UAE chocolate market is estimated at GBP 110 million, growing annually by 8%.
Chocolates in the UAE are mostly imported, and multinational companies control the market. The big players in this space include Nestle, Kent, Cadbury’s, Kraft Foods, and Mars.
With increasing consumer preference for quality and healthy options, there is a shift in demand towards bespoke, luxury chocolates over cheaper mass-produced chocolate bars, and this is an area where the UK stands out.
The UK chocolate and confectionery export to the UAE has continued to grow steadily, recording a 2% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2019 to reach 5,071 tons (Dubai Municipality).
The segment is expected to be impacted by consumers’ changing health concerns as the government intensifies push for healthier eating. Since the 2016 WHO publication of the UAE obesity rate at 34.5%, the UAE government has taken proactive measures to educate citizens and residents on the importance of healthy eating. Another challenge in this space is the need for temperature-controlled facilities and storage, which has affected smaller players who do not have the required infrastructure.
Below are some of the key opportunities,
- Premium products and luxury chocolates
- Boutique retail outlets
- Market shift towards sugar-free products and healthier chocolates
- High cocoa content chocolates due to the medical benefits of dark chocolate
- Improvements in the taste and texture of artificial sweeteners
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