Freakin' Healthy: UAE free-from brand lists four major obstacles challenging the healthy snacks industry
The firm is a subsidiary and partner of the Baklawa Made Better (BMB) Group, one of the biggest private label confectionery and chocolate manufacturers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia at the Gulfood 2019 show, Roy Koyess said: “We have four major obstacles [in the healthy snacks sector]. The first is that most brands that are healthy come with an elitist badge, so it’s only for special people who are in-the-know. Freakin’ Healthy wants to break through that, to make health more mainstream and more attractive.
“Secondly we also see the price points for many health products are too high, and we want to make sure our products are affordable and people can actually get value out of the brand.
“It is also often difficult to find health products unless you go to a specialty store or other go-to places. So for us, we want to be ubiquitous and available at a lot of touchpoints.
“Taste is the last point – healthy snacks often don’t taste very good. That’s why we spent a lot of time, over a year, on recipes and formulation [to make sure our products taste good.”
The ultimate free-from products
At present, the company is best known for its superfood, free-from nutrition bar range.
“Our products are free from refined sugar, gluten, GMO, chemical preservatives, dairy, soy and eggs,” said Koyess.
The bars are sweetened naturally using sweet fruits such as dates and cherries.
“Currently the bars are available in Matcha Lemon, Raw Cacao & Chia Seeds, Goji Berry & Almonds and Cherry & Cashew. The flavours range will be expanded within the next few months,” he added.
“We’re looking at multi-faceted innovations and NPD, so also at different types of snacks, benefits and formats, e.g. consumption formats.”
At the forefront of health and wellness
“The health and wellness category in the region is not very big, but expanding rapidly, and we want to be one of the leaders to expand that category,” said Koyess.
“We believe that in the future this will be mainstream, and we want to be at the forefront of that.”
He also touched on the high rates of obesity and diabetes in the Middle East, adding that this needs to be fought from more than one aspect: Not only food and nutrition, but also lifestyle.
“There are definitely challenges. For us, it has been mostly education, with consumers asking why should I eat this versus that, what’s so different and beneficial about natural ingredients, and having to correct misconceptions about healthy foods” he added.
“It is also a bit difficult to source the right ingredients here in the Middle East. We have to source globally, which brings its own set of challenges. For example, Freakin’ Healthy uses cherries from the US, chia seeds from Peru, and goji berries from China.”
That said, the company’s focus when it comes to pricing is on providing strong value for money.
“We’re not going to be the cheapest item around, but definitely want to provide strong value for money for customers. Prices are around AED 10 to AED 13 per bar, versus the regular AED 15 to AED 25 one would usually pay when it comes to ingredients such as what we’re using,” he added.
‘Definitely’ going beyond the region
Since its launch in mid-2018, Freakin’ Healthy has expanded rapidly via supermarket and hypermarket presence, especially in Carrefours in the UAE and Bahrain.
“We also have some presence in Kuwait, and will be entering Saudi later this year as well,” said Koyess.
After the Middle East, the company is also has its eyes on the United States, Europe and Asia, particularly in Japan, Singapore and China.
“We’re definitely looking at expanding further. These are markets which are interesting to us, but we also have to look at the right regulations, packaging and flavours [suitable for each market].”
“Freakin’ Healthy wants to be a global player and leader in healthy snacks, and really get people to join in the health category.”