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Probiotics on course for profound growth in the UAE

By RJ Whitehead , 17-Oct-2012
Last updated on 25-Oct-2012 at 08:59 GMT2012-10-25T08:59:39Z

Traditional foods like labneh provide important markets for probiotics producers

Traditional foods like labneh provide important markets for probiotics producers

Research by Euromonitor has revealed that pre- and probiotics have been continually attracting new consumers in the United Arab Emirates, with growth becoming consistently strong across the segment.

According to Borja Hermoso, a research analyst at the global market intelligence firm, the pre- and probiotic yoghurt segment saw 13% growth last year, with the rise expected to continue at a rate of 7.8% over the next five years.

The research suggests that growth is being driven by several factors, including government campaigns to raise awareness about diabetes and to fight unhealthy eating habits, which are encouraging consumers to purchase products for healthier lifestyles. Furthermore, consumer confidence is recovering in the UAE, and high disposable incomes are leading to encouraging growth in probiotics.

Changing lifestyle a factor

Hermoso explained that as more yoghurt drinks are consumed in the Middle East, it has become easier for prebiotic and probiotic yoghurts to enter the market. 

This category has been further benefitted by the increasing health consciousness of people in the UAE,” he said. “Manufacturers such as Al Safi Danone have been successfully marketing pre- and probiotic yoghurt as being beneficial for the immune system and digestion. Consumers have been appreciating these benefits as increased stess and busy lifestyles have been shown to cause increased digestive problems.”

Furthermore, the country’s significant Western expat population is helping to fuel this growth as they are more familiar than Emiratis and other expats with such products from their home countries. 

This also affects brand loyalty,” added Hermoso. “And advertising campaigns on television, radio and billboards have also helped to increase growth in this category.”

Market still specialised

The market size for pre- and probiotics in the UAE was valued at AED96m for 2011 and is expected to grow by 13% in 2012. However, Hermoso warns that the market still remains fairly niche, with an annual average per-capita spend of just over US$1 compared to US$6 in the UK. 

Three of the most important players in the market, Al Ain, Almarai and Al Rabawi, are manufacturing pro- and prebiotic yoghurt in both spoonable and drinkable formats. But to increase growth rates, it is important for manufacturers also to provide probiotics in traditional products, such as labneh.

Overall, pro- and prebiotics is one of the most dynamic categories in its field with a strong, focused growth. It is certainly one to watch.

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