That's the view of Simon Penfold, general manager, Middle East and Africa at NZMP, the b2b ingredient arm of Fonterra.
He told us the business had a great opportunity to make gains across health and wellness categories for its dairy proteins.
"We are very strong in the Middle East from a commodity perspective," he said, "but I want to see us grow and accelerate in the protein health and wellness market. Consumers here are starting to take control of their health and can see the benefits of dairy."
Penfold, who is eight months into his role, was speaking to us at the recent Gulfood show in Dubai.
The firm was showcasing its 'affordable' nutrition ingredients, including NZMP Fat-Filled Milk Powder and NZMP Buttery Blend.
This was in addition to its 'advanced ingredients', including a new 'white label' ready-to-mix protein powder range, developed to suit the needs of the region's sports and active lifestyle nutrition consumers.
"There remains a clear need for basic dairy ingredients to fulfil the day-to-day nutritional needs for most consumers across the Middle East," he added.
"However, food and beverage manufacturers need to prepare for change. We can see demand for sports nutrition, infant nutrition and high protein beverage solutions is increasing, and we expect interest in these solutions to continue to grow.
"I would say the market for the really high-end, specialist sports nutrition market isn't really evident yet, but it will come," he added.
On every shelf
Launches of new products with high and added protein more than doubled between 2012 and 2017 in the Middle East and Africa, according to the Mintel Global New Product Database. Penfold anticipates this trend will continue and shape food and beverage development in the Middle East and Africa region.
"I want to see an NZMP product on a consumers' shelf every day, and it doesn't matter if it is an affordable or a premium ingredient," he added.
"What is important is that we continue to build trust and awareness, while playing to our strengths of New Zealand provenance and grass-fed herds."
While Saudi Arabia remains a key cornerstone for the firm's Middle East business, he also identified Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt and the UAE as offering considerable growth potential.
"After more than 40 years' operating in this market, we feel we understand the region and the diverse needs of its consumers," he added.
Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2018: Our next event will assess how the food and nutrition industry can meet the needs of APAC's rapidly-ageing populations of today and tomorrow. The event, to be held in Singapore on 12 and 13 June, will bring together policymakers, academics and industry experts from the likes of Nestlé, Blackmores, Swisse and Japanese 'engay' food pioneers Nutri co. Find out more here.