Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened Gulfood Manufacturing 2017, the fourth edition of the Middle East's largest ingredients, processing, packaging, and logistics exhibition, at DWTC on Tuesday. - Supplied photo
A growing population, increasing tourist numbers and rising incomes will all contribute to pushing UAE food consumption to 59.2 million tonnes annually by 2025, according to the latest UAE Food Industry Report 2017, the findings of which were revealed in a keynote 'Made in the UAE' address on the opening day of Gulfood Manufacturing 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Saleh Abdullah Lootah, chairman, Food and Beverage Manufacturers Group, revealed the findings during the opening address of the Gulfood Manufacturing Business Talks Conference, a series of presentations and interactive symposiums taking place on the sidelines of the Middle East's biggest food and beverage, ingredients, processing and packaging and supply chain solutions exhibition.
Lootah gave an in-depth insight into how the country's food industry is evolving and growing in response to social behavior and changing food habits, as well as the challenges the UAE faces. Outlining a three-pronged attack in the form of the UAE Food Industry Report, the UAE Food Platform and Zero Food Waste Policy, Lootah revealed the sector is on course to meet both consumer demands and UAE Government mandates for a more sustainable, zero-waste future.
"Food is the second biggest sector in the UAE. The total food sales figure in the UAE for 2016 was Dh121 billion ($329 billion) and will only continue to grow," said Lootah, who is also the Chairman, Food & Beverage Manufacturers Business Group-Dubai Chamber of Commerce and managing director, Al Islami Foods.
"Food consumption is forecast to rise from 48.1 tonnes last year to 59.2 million by 2021, due to a rising consumer base and growth in income."
With the UAE's population estimated to hit 10 million by 2025 and tourism numbers poised to reach 20 million by 2020, Lootah acknowledged that the UAE's key food manufacturing industry players face a range of challenges to meet demand while improving efficiency.
However, Lootah highlighted forward-thinking initiatives from the visionary UAE leadership, such as the recently appointed Minister for Artificial Intelligence, as a demonstration that the country is leading the way in innovation and improved efficiency.
"Usually private sectors are the driving force of technology and innovation in manufacturing and then the government adapts. However, we are very fortunate that in the UAE it is the government driving change," said Lootah.
"More people are health conscious, the recent Dubai Fitness Challenge is an example of that. More people are starting to ask where their food is coming from, how it was made and what's in it, before they consume. That is a good thing, but it also presents a challenge and all of us in the supply chain must come together. We as a food group are doing our best to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle."
Lootah outlined the challenges facing the UAE food industry, such as the impending implementation of VAT, and rising costs, a s the core factors encouraging companies to be more efficient.
Abdulla Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Food Park, addressed the conference and re-emphasised how the facility will enhance Dubai's position as a hub for exports and re-exports, with dedicated facilities and services helping food industry players reduce supply chain costs.
The informative Business Talks Conference will continue today with an immensely topical symposium Construction and Operation of Food Establishments. With Dubai home to more than 16,000 food outlets and restaurants, including 2,074 new restaurants that opened between the middle of 2015 and the end of 2016, according to the latest figures from Dubai Municipality, this session is sure to attract the attention of delegates.
Other attention-grabbing sessions on day two of the show include Food and Nutrition Trends - What is New, which will focus on new product innovations that support the growing consumer trend to improve diet and wellness. The interactive session will analyse practical examples covering everything from sugar reduction to GI bread, and will feature expert speakers including Jehaina Hasan Al Ali, Food Permits and Applied Nutrition Unit at Dubai Municipality.
Other sessions will include a look at the trends in the industry for 2017 and beyond, technological developments in food manufacturing and processing and Blending Human Expertise, Digital Platforms and Data Analytics: A Food Industry Perspective, which will give delegates an insight into how automation, digitisation and big data can transform their businesses. - email@example.com