UAE and GCC residents are making a conscious decision and opting for a healthier lifestyle by making mindful choices in their dietary habits. This growing inclination towards well-balanced meals and rising demand for organic food can be attributed to the increase in chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, including diabetes and hypertension, which have emerged as significant health concerns in the region.

This has driven restaurants to expand their offerings and provide more healthy food to food lovers.

“The regional governments have started advocating health benefits of non-processed foods and adopted several strategies to promote healthy lifestyle. This has not only boosted the demand for organic food but has also encouraged restaurants and food services players to concentrate on producing healthy food items across the region,” according to the GCC Food Report released by the UAE-based investment banking advisory firm Alpen Capital.

The study noted that the food consumption in the GCC is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8 per cent to 56.2 million metric tons by 2027 from an estimated 49 million MT in 2022.

Food consumption in the UAE is projected to grow 3.3 per cent from an estimated 8.8 million metric tons (MT) in 2022 to 10.4 million MT in 2027, driven by growth in population and the number of tourists.

“The vegetable food category is projected to secure the highest annualised growth rate while consumption of meat in the GCC is likely to record marginal gains as consumers turn health conscious amid the rising incidence of noncommunicable diseases and growing demand for fresh produce and pesticide-free food with high nutritional value.”

According to the International Diabetes Federation figures, the number of people affected by diabetes is expected to reach 1.32 million in 2045 in the UAE from 0.99 million in 2021. While 30 per cent population of the country suffers from high blood pressure or hypertension. Both diseases can be prevented and controlled by avoiding junk food, eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise.

Rohit Walia, executive chairman and CEO of Alpen Capital, said the GCC region continues to witness a rising demand for nutritious and organic food due to growing awareness of healthy eating habits, especially post the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, he said, several food manufacturers and service providers are investing to expand their healthy and organic food segment.

Kenneth D’Costa, managing director, Barakat Group of Companies, said the shift in consumer preferences towards fresh, healthy, local, organic, environmentally-responsible products and brands is here to stay. “As a local business born in the UAE, we are leveraging this shift by innovating consistently to nourish our consumers to help them be a healthier version of themselves through the best of fresh,” said D’Costa.

Anantharaman Ramanathan, group director of finance at Iffco Group, said there is a rising awareness of health and sustainability among consumers, which is reshaping their preferences and driving the industry towards healthier and more sustainable options.

“There is a growing interest in plant-based and alternative protein products to cater to health-conscious consumers. Sustainable packaging solutions are gaining traction, and there is a stronger emphasis on locally sourced and organic produce,” said Ramanathan.

Echoing his industry peers, Fethi Khiari, CEO, United Foods Company, said the Covid-19 pandemic brought UAE and Gulf residents closer to healthier and locally sourced products.

“Wellbeing took centre stage, leading to increased demand for organic and fresh items,” he said, adding that plant-based foods are on the rise due to concerns about health and the environment.

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