Growth in the tourism industry has resulted in a growing number of new hotels and resorts in the UAE which in turn has created the growing demand of imported food. Additionally, it’s a country that is characterized by the fact that it’s in the dessert, therefore, it must import over 90% of its food. This fact alone makes it an interesting market for Italian food companies, which have the advantage of being able to offer products that the local market recognizes and appreciates as being high quality.
Luxurious neighborhoods in Dubai and Abu Dhabi all have at least one authentic Italian restaurant run and owned by an Italian with an Italian staff. As of now, there are about 200 Italian restaurants and that number is expected to quickly rise.
Large retail food chains: another opportunity
Retail chains in the UAE are advanced and well organized. Large distributors that sell directly to retail chains and about 65% of total retail sales are attributed to supermarkets and hypermarkets.
The retail distribution industry has seen a lot of growth in recent years along with large stores such Carrefour or Choitram; additionally, stores specializing in high quality (delicatessen) and bio products are also opening everywhere.
There are no restrictions on importing food products for the most part with the exception of some restrictions on pork and alcohol (which can be imported only by authorized distributors).
All imported food products must be provided with Arabic captions on the packaging and many of the import procedures are still dictated by the distributor. Most of the main distributors have different specialized divisions within them, specially dedicated to Horeca and retail chain distribution.
If you are interested in finding out more about Middle Easten and South-Easten areas, you can read up on them in the articles titled: Italian food and wine have found new frontiers in Singapore.