NZMP is the ingredients arm of global dairy co-operative Fonterra.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia at the Gulfood 2019 show, Fonterra General Manager (Middle East and Africa) Simon Penfold said: “Affordability and health and wellness are the key focus trends that NZMP is responding to here in the MEA region, and our products here cater very closely to these.”
“The health and wellness trend is really taking off in the region, becoming more and more evident [as of late].”
He added that sales forecasts for health and wellness products over the next four years had shown very positive growth in the MEA region, predicted to be greater than 25%.
A major area that NZMP deals with is dairy proteins, and according to Penfold, this has played very well into the health and wellness trend too, as can be observed by the protein claims-on-pack that manufacturers are increasingly making.
“Over the last five years, claims-on-pack of higher/added protein into products have grown by over 140%. I believe that the top on-pack claim today is added protein,” he said.
“[One of the main reasons for this is that] consumers in the Middle East are some of the most digitally-aware consumers, [and are now progressively understanding] nutrition and what's good for them to eat, and the goodness of dairy and dairy proteins in particular.
“Through that education and understanding of health and wellness, they are now desiring more and more protein in their diets.
As for affordability, Penfold elaborated that this trend was very much related to population growth in the region.
“MEA represents [our] largest growth potential from a global population perspective, [as the] bulk of growth will happen here, especially in Africa,” he explained.
“[This means] more mouths to feed and more consumers that want good quality food but cannot always can afford it. As such, we have a range of solutions being launched that can provide solutions accessible to the emerging middle class, so as to make dairy accessible to all consumers.”
In response to this trend, NZMP has focused its efforts on affordable options, such as a cheese pizza topping with milk fat removed and replaced with vegetable fat, such that it has a similar composition to cheese, but is lower-cost; and a full-cream milk powder with 25% more protein per serve than average, to affordably increase dietary protein.
Putting dairy into water
One of NZMP’s top new products catering to health and wellness is a dairy protein solution that Penfold describes as being able to 'take milk and make it clear'.
“[We are taking the] benefits of milk dairy protein, [and putting it] into a clear, refreshing, low-calorie water drink. Whey protein isolate is used for this, which is commonly associated with sports and activity,” he added.
“[It’s very exciting because] here in this region, people guzzle water due to the climate. Playing to the health and wellness trend, [this is] bringing goodness of dairy into water via everyday nutrition.
“People drink water all the time, [so] it’s a powerful proposition to get some protein into that water.”
NZMP in the region
Penfold described the MEA region as a ‘very strong dairy region’, especially with more consumers moving into the middle class and gaining disposable income.
“It is a very important market to us, we have a very large presence on the ground here, the largest than any global dairy company,” he said.
“Dairy is a very important part of the local diet as it’s been around for some 11,000 years, [and] it’s evolving with more consumers asking for high protein and health and wellness options. […] It really represents some very interesting opportunities for us from a trends perspective.”
One of these is the sports bars/healthy snacking bars market, which Penfold said was growing rapidly in the region.
He added that Dubai is an important logistics and warehousing distribution hub for the company in MEA, and some of its other big markets included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria (the largest whole milk powder importer behind China, at over 200,000 tons annually).
“99% of everything we bring in here comes from New Zealand, and the consumers here trust New Zealand,” he added.