Healthy food consumption has increased from 10% of daily diets to 17% over the last five years in the GCC, with fruits, laban, green tea, juices, soups and salads gaining more prominence on the dining table.
In Saudi, meanwhile, a 56% drop in kitchen help over the last four years, blamed on tighter family budgets due to removed food subsidies, has prompted homemakers to rethink what they prepare for the Ramadan evening meal.
“The key concerns that families face in Ramadan focus on how to create a perfect meal without compromising on taste, quality and presentation,” said Edwin Coutinho, associate vice-president of Kantar AMRB, a market research firm.
“More women have to rely on themselves to prepare meals and this puts a lot of onus on them.”
Accordingly, food marketeers should look at ways to give Ramadan a more festive feel while also taking into account these new behavioural trends, he says.
A marked shift has been noticed from bulk-based food purchasing to buying based on a family’s needs, meaning that homemakers are more closely planning what they need, and spending more smartly.
Cooking bases, such as dough and fillings, for example, are now being prepared beforehand, while more women look out for readymeals take some of the strain out of preparing iftar, suhoor, dinner and snacks.
With the number of dishes now prepared at home having dropped to 53% from 66% in 2012, according to Kantar, another trend includes ordering in, though this is mostly limited to side dishes.
“In fact, out of the food consumed at Iftar, 58% is store-bought,” said Coutinho.
Though traditionally a time for feasts after a day of fasting, Ramadan has been seeing a growing focus on balanced meals that mitigate the negative effects of indigestion, bloating and weight gain.
Regional consumers have also been “reassessing choices” to minimise wastage in line with Ramadan’s spirit of austerity and simplicity.
And more women have been finding cookery ideas on social media such as Pinterest and Instagram, Coutinho said.
“Driven by peer pressure, particularly on virtual platforms, women are also finding it a constant challenge to reinvent their style.
“Innovative, yet economic menus, smarter cutlery, captivating presentation and a creative home décor add to the overall experience as well as feel of festive dining.
“This reflects a woman’s sense of sophistication and finesse regarding food display and their sense of personality and creativity to a larger audience virtually,” he added.
What F&B marketers should keep an eye out for during Ramadan:
- Coffee consumption increases by 22%, while tea consumption reduces by 19%, the Kantar AMRB survey finds. Arabic coffee remains the favourite.
- Sambousek is one of the key dishes consumed during Ramadan, with a 71% increase.
- Dessert consumption increases by 30%; sweets like kunafah that require more effort to prepare are mostly bought from shops or restaurants.
- Chocolate and shawarma are seeing an increase with chips and biscuits showing a decline.
- Consumers prefer more cold beverages; soda consumption decreases by 9% while that of laban increases 6% among all cold beverages.