Back to food roots: UAE conglomerate rejigs meat and spice brands for burgeoning cooking convenience market
GMG started in 1977 as a butchery with products and cuts targeted at the expatriate market before evolving a focus on apparel, growing to be the largest Nike franchise licensee not only in the Middle Eastern region but also in some APAC markets.
Over four decades on, the firm is making a return to its food production roots particularly in processed meat and seafood as well as spices, sparing no expense in its widespread marketing efforts across out-of-home advertising from metro stations to highways.
“Food is a major area of focus for the new generation of GMG’s leadership especially over the past two years, and this has led to the establishment of six state of the art factories in the region over the past 18 months,” GMG Brand Director Saiher Zaka told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The most recent has been a Himalayan pink salt factory here in the UAE – the world’s second-largest automated factory of its kind – which was established in September 2022 and produces salt for sale under the Sapora brand, and there are also other factories for processed chicken, seafood, spices and so on.
“Farm Fresh in particular has been the target of major rebranding in the past year, carrying some 250 SKUs including various processed chicken products as well as eggs and dairy items.”
The firm looks to capitalise on the rapidly-growing cooking convenience or ‘life in the kitchen’ trends that emerged since the pandemic with this return to a food focus.
“Life in the kitchen has definitely changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with many consumers navigating the kitchen in a much smarter way than before,” GMG VP Marketing Roy Nasrallah told us.
“This is coupled with the advancement of technology so many people are looking at various screens for directions whether it is on Youtube or TikTok or others so need products that are convenient to handle, yet they still want to be very hands-on – and that is what Farm Fresh looks to offer.”
The entire Farm Fresh line has also been designed for use with air fryers in an effort to keep up with the trend of healthier cooking as well.
“Convenience aside, it is also important to remember that since the pandemic consumers are also increasingly health conscious, so deep frying in oil may not be the top choice of cooking for these people,” Zaka said.
“Air frying has emerged as an alternative for those who want the crispness and texture of frying without the oil, and we are well aware of this preference and that most consumers now have air fryers in their kitchens, hence we made all of our products compatible.
“Another very important aspect of cooking is flavouring, and to this end is where Sapora comes in – spices are key to any kitchen, and we have opted to go down the premium route with the salt, herbs and spices under this brand as these will all be 100% organic.
“For the Himalayan pink salt in particular, we are offering this in three formats – fine grain, granular and as crystals. Crystals and granules are common for sprinkling and grinding respectively – but the fine grains are more unique, and we developed this format to cater for consumers to use in everyday cooking in hopes of converting more users.”
Sapora is also launching mono-spices such as ginger, turmeric and cumin; and blends such as Cajun seasoning and steak seasoning.
“The spice blends are meant to make cooking easier for consumers – too many herbs and spices strewn around can sometimes be mystifying to those who are untrained, and the blends can help to take away some of that mystery,” she added.
“There’s also a lot of space for innovation here depending on the cuisine – those making Middle Eastern dishes might go for more cumin and garlic blends, South Asian dishes for chilli-heavy blends, and Western dishes more subtle, herb-heavy blends.”
Time is of the essence
At the heart of it all, the firm maintains that the convenience factor in products is essential for today’s consumers to save time in the kitchen.
“It’s really a lifestyle thing, particularly for the Gen Z and millennial consumers – things are so fast-paced today and they have so many things to do to lead rich lives that no one wants to spend three hours in the kitchen when there are much better things to do with that time,” Zaka added.
“At the same time, they also place a lot of emphasis on the experience of cooking and eating, and won’t want to eat the same dishes every day as there’s no enjoyment in that – so the best option is to find a way to cook different dishes in short amounts of time, which is the trend we are focused on.”