From vegan ice creams to superfood camel milk to salt with less sodium, UAE residents are ready to spend on healthier food choices. That is according to industry experts who are at Gulfood 2024.

“People want to enjoy treats but they are much more mindful of what they are eating,” said Lara Baaklini, marketing manager of homegrown ice cream brand House of Pops. “When we started our brand that is 100 per cent natural, vegan, free of artificial colours or flavourings and plastic-free, we found a dedicated customer base.”

The brand which began as a pop-up stall at Ripe Market by just the founders has now grown into a business of 17 outlets across three countries, a factory that is seven times the size of its first production house and 100 employees. Last week, House of Pops launched their range of gelatos and snack bites range and they are testing it out at Gulfood. According to Lara, the success of the brand lies in their ability to offer healthy and delicious snacks.

“People keep coming back because there is a misconception that vegan or healthy is not yummy,” she said. “But we are consistent, we taste good and we offer people snacks that are good for you and tastes good. We also check all the boxes for a healthy snack.”


Another local brand that has done extremely well is Camelicious. According to the CEO of the brand Mtashr A. Latef Albadry, people’s attitudes towards food is shifting dramatically.

"People come to camel milk because it is a superfood,” he said. “Once they start using our products, they are able to see the difference in their health immediately. They are shifting from junk food to more organic and healthy food. Camel milk has some unique health benefits that boost immunity, provides insulin, is lower in fat and keeps the body healthy. So they keep coming back to try different products.”

The brand, which began in 2003 after the Central Veterinary Laboratory presented a study detailing the nutritional benefits of camel milk, started with 200 camels. Today, Camelicious has more than 8,000 camels and 60 products. According to Mtashr, the popularity of the brand is not limited to the region.

“We have a huge market in China as well, where there is a demand for camel milk powder,” he said. “The Chinese are always looking for healthy food and they have researched a lot about the benefits of camel milk. We also have demand from US and UK in addition to other GCC countries.”

Global trend

The hunger for healthy food is evident on a global scale, according to Seth Merrick Wien, the President and CEO of American Trading International that has been selling American products in the UAE for close to three decades now. “There has been an explosion in the 'Better for You' products in the US,” he said. “It is not just limited to food but even to lifestyle choices. We are seeing this trend spreading to a lot of other parts of the world including the UAE.”

He explained how the demand for conventional vinegar has fallen in favour of healthier alternatives in the country. “We have seen a huge demand in the organic apple cider vinegar because of the health benefits,” he said. “We have an entire portfolio of nutritional yeast, liquid aminos and other such products.”

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