Middle East’s taxes and government policy fuel demand for fibre-enriched, sugar-reduction and dairy alternatives

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

On-the-go snacks are a popular format for fibre-enriched products ©Getty Images
On-the-go snacks are a popular format for fibre-enriched products ©Getty Images

Related tags: Middle east, Tax, Fibre, sugar reduction, Dairy alternatives

Legislations and government programmes to combat lifestyle diseases are driving demand for fibre-enriched products, reduced sugar and fat goods, and vegan dairy-alternatives across the Middle East.

A Tate & Lyle survey consisting of 800 respondents in each selected Middle Eastern country found that almost half of consumers in Saudi Arabia indicated there were looking to increase their consumption of fibres and proteins, while in Turkey it was 58%.

The survey also reported more product launches with high fibre claims last year, a 28% increase compared to 2018.

Tate & Lyle’s sales and technical director for Middle East and Africa, Dominique Floch told FoodNavigator-Asia: “There is no doubt that demand for products that are fibre-enriched is growing in the Middle East. This trend continues to grow in popularity, and we expect to see more growth in the next few years​.”

Taxes

According to Floch, the demand for these ‘healthier’ options was driven by a growing shift towards healthy eating in the Gulf region.

He said this was being reflected in legislation across the region such as the ‘sin’ taxes for sugar and trans-fat that have been implemented in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

He added that consumers were also becoming more aware of the importance of healthy eating with several programmes across the Middle East to educate people about the importance of moderating their intake of fats and sugars.

He cited Saudi Arabia’s Healthy Food Strategy which was introduced by the government in 2018. The program has seen public and private companies come together to promote healthy lifestyles in an effort to combat obesity and complications such as diabetes.

As a result, two-thirds of consumers in Saudi Arabia want to reduce their fat intake, while more than half are looking to cut sugar and salt from their diets, indicating increasing consumer demand for healthier options​,” Floch commented.

Fibre in snacks and drinks

Floch told us within the fibre trend, “64% of consumers are turning to snack bars to increase their fibre intake. At the moment, we’re seeing that one of the most popular categories for fibre-enriched products is on-the-go and snacking​.”

He added that juices were another popular format. “In juices, fibres are becoming more popular as the trend for sugar reduction continues to grow. Adding fibre to juices offers manufacturers a great way of reducing sugar without altering mouthfeel so that consumers can still enjoy the same great tastes and textures that they are used to as they look to embrace a healthier lifestyle​.”

Apart from juices, Floch said another growing format was enriched waters where consumers were seeking more beverages that can offer nutritional benefits.

Dairy and alternatives

Another trend observed in the Middle East was the rising trend of vegan dairy-alternatives which has swept the West. Floch addedd: “There’s no doubt that 2019 was a landmark year for veganism and the plant-based trend, globally. From plant-based ‘meat’ burgers to faux fish, vegan options have become commonplace in food across the globe.

“The rise of flexitarianism means it is no longer just those that identify as vegan seeking options that are free from animal products. We’re seeing more and more people trying to make environmentally conscious decisions without dramatically changing their diet​.

Dairy consumption is immensely popular in the region but we expect dairy alternatives will gradually gain popularity over the next few years​,

“So far, this trend is very much in its infancy compared to some other regions across the globe, but we don’t doubt that it is on the rise in the Middle East​.”

He said the ability to align plant-based dairy alternatives to the familiar taste and texture of dairy would be a winner.

The firm is currently working on meat-free burgers, sausages as well as plant-based dairy desserts for the Middle East region.

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