If you have to snack, choose healthy
If you are feeling peckish between meals at the office, then put aside the overly sugary drinks and snacks and instead reach for a handful of dates or nuts, experts said at the Gulfood 2020 exhibition.
Speaking to Khaleej Times at the event, Shahbaz Aslam, marketing director at Al Foah, a company which produces 220,000 tonnes of dates every year, observed that there has been a sharp increase in the number of consumers who are indulging in healthy snacking.
"We all feel the urge to eat something from time to time and dates are the perfect choice when it comes to snacking," he said. "It is a challenge to find snacks that are as delicious as they are nutritious, and this is where dates come in. Dates are classified as a natural superfood, and the growing awareness of their many health benefits is changing the traditional idea that consumers have of them being a food to only be consumed during Ramadan."
Al Foah, which recently launched its Nutra brand of dates, is looking to expand its offerings in various segments such as desserts and health bars.
"We have introduced chocolate covered dates, and we are working on launching date bars under the Nutra brand," said Aslam. "This is a new venture for us, and we hope that it will help us to capture a greater space in the global date industry. Looking at the market, we know that people want tasty and healthy snack options so date bars are a good option. Dates, by themselves, are naturally sweet so you don't need to add any extra sugar when making the bars, and the addition of various nuts makes them a healthy and tasty snack."
Similarly, Carlos Salas, trade commissioner of Chile in Dubai, highlighted the change in consumer consumption patterns as they become more aware about the benefits of indulging in healthy snacks. He said that the popularity of Chilean nuts has surged in the UAE, with the number of exported dry fruit products from the South American country increasing 75 per cent to $43.8 million between January 2019 and September 2019. Globally, Chilean dry fruit exports in 2019 reached $572 million, with walnuts accounting for the majority of these shipments followed by hazelnuts and almonds.
"Walnuts are definitely leading our dried fruits segment," said Salas. "Around a quarter of our dried fruits production is exported, and we feel that we still have room for this figure to grow based on demand. The demand for walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins, and prunes is increasing every year, in tandem with a growing culture of healthy eating. Before, we used to see the demand for such foods increase during the festive season, but now, we have seen the demand for them grow all year round. This is especially the case for walnuts. Over 10 years ago, people used to say that walnuts were something that were only eaten in Ramadan or in the cold winter months. But, now people are eating them in salads and desserts. They are learning about the health benefits of these kinds of food and they know that walnuts are very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids."
Data by Mintel shows that the number of snacking products in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region has doubled over the past five years since 2014. The growth in the snacking segment is driven by the increasing popularity of healthy snacking options across the MEA region, where the total retail value of the snacking sector is expected to reach $58.6 million by 2024. Euromonitor found that the value of health and wellness products is rising rapidly across the MEA region with a 12 per cent compound annual growth rate forecast between 2019 and 2024 as people look to live healthier and more active lifestyles.
"Whilst the number of snacking products launched in the MEA has doubled over the past five years, dairy snack offerings have quadrupled in the same time period," said Simon Penfold, Fonterra's sales director for the Middle East. "This shows stronger participation among dairy companies in the snacking category."
"We've seen the health and wellness trend build across the region over the past few years," he added. "With 61 per cent of global consumers enjoying snacking between meals, they are increasingly expecting a range of healthy options. Dairy-based snacks, which are naturally high in quality protein, are best placed to take the lead in the healthy snacking category. With that in mind, NZMP is committed to utilising their world-leading dairy expertise and partnering with food and beverage companies across the region to help develop targeted formulations that deliver products that consumers want."
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