French pastry fans push UAE market value to US$683 million

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  • Sopexa round table findings show growing appreciation of French pastry across the Middle East, with an increase in demand for organic and all-natural baked goods.
  • Savoury sweets, healthier options and social media trends are shaping the way top Middle East chefs and patisseries develop menus
Baba Pastry

Recent research from Euromonitor has valued the UAE bakery market at US$683 million, with annual growth expected to top 4.2%, as demand for all-natural baked goods continues to rise. With the growth set to continue, research firm Global Industry Analysis Inc. projects the global market will exceed values of US$485 billion by 2020.

In line with the trends, the UAE has also experienced an increase in the number of French bakeries, with the opening of La Patisserie des Rêves, Aubaine, Pierre Hermé, Dalloyau and others.

Edwina Salvatori, Account Director, SOPEXA Middle East, said: “French pastry is more popular than ever, as proven by the number of new outlets opening across the country. In recent years, we have noticed a surge in the popularity of healthy, organic and all-natural baked goods, with a particular emphasis on French products, which are traditionally the finest, freshest and tastiest. With nearly 5,000 artisanal patisseries in France, and more than 80% of the French population ending their meal on a sweet note, pastry is part of our gastronomical heritage.

“We have seen an increased demand in the UAE for French pastry chefs possessing the traditional skills that have been central to French baking techniques for hundreds of years. Drawing on this inspiration, some well-known chefs have codified their art in innovative and creative baking methods and classic recipes,” she continued.

The findings were part of a roundtable forum held in Dubai by Sopexa on behalf on the French Ministry of Agriculture, and conducted in partnership with BNC Publishing. The event brought together top pastry chefs, dessert specialists and leading foodies from France, Japan and the Middle East to provide a glimpse into the biggest factors influencing the taste of pastry across the Arab world.

“Pastry trends evolve quickly – there are changes every six months,” said Chef Nicolas Bacheyre, Executive Pastry Chef, Un Dimanche à Paris. “For me, every new trend appears first in Paris before spreading all over France, then Europe, then the world.

As a global culinary hub that is home to a diverse range of nationalities, the Middle East has inspired chefs to put their creative skills to the test by making the most of local ingredients.

“French pastries are adapted here. Everyone uses classic recipes and then gives them their own twist,” says Elizabeth Stevenson, Chef Director, Lady Battenberg. “There’s so much going on in Paris that it undoubtedly influences people internationally. There are a number of successful projects that have taken elements of these influences and successfully applied them to another culture.”

Regional pastry trends discussed at the roundtable included:

The anatomy of a pastry. As demand for quality ingredients continues to grow, foodies are increasingly interested in the origins of ingredients and their organic credentials. “We are actually seeing the ingredients and the suppliers being mentioned in menus and on social media, as a key indicator for quality,” said Samantha Wood, food PR consultant and blogger. “For example, it isn’t uncommon for consumers to ask about the type of chocolate and where it has been sourced from”

Going back to basics. Amid a market full of sophisticated new creations, there is a rising wave of those seeking very simple yet perfect pastries made from scratch. “In Paris, all the shops that are opening will sell a chocolate éclair and a mille feuille, for instance, as that’s what people now want,” said Chef Nicolas.

Re-invented classics. We now see more chefs taking desserts from the past and re-creating them in fun new ways. “In the GCC, an increasing number of restaurants are starting to incorporate a local or ethnic touch into their original pastry products,” said Elizabeth.

Savoury influences. It’s time to say “goodbye” to sugar, as savoury pastry desserts such as hazelnut and mint pesto and lime and cottage cheese sorbet, continue to enjoy a rise in popularity, according to Chef Nicolas. “I like to play with savoury flavours such as spices, herbs, vinegar, salt flour, pepper and tea,” he said. “I always tell my team not to stick to what they know, but to walk into the kitchen, open the drawers and use what they find, just to try it.”

Craving some #instafood. “In the GCC people are crazy about social media, so they go to the restaurants where they can take photos that will amaze other people,” said Ayat Abdulla, Pastry Chef and Trainer. The group even discussed how social media could end up replacing traditional menus in restaurants, but how striving for style shouldn’t compromise on taste.

Healthier alternatives. The preference for gluten-free and vegan foods continues to grow and is a worldwide trend that even pastry can’t escape. “Brands and chefs are consistently trying to remove sugar and to replace the gelatin with other ingredients and techniques,” said Zeyneb Larabi, Area Manager IMEA, Valrhona. “You see less buttercream in desserts, replaced instead with white chocolate or different techniques such as the “à la minute” style of cooking. Pastry chefs and professional chefs can elevate the culinary industry by proposing healthier desserts that are less sweet and more technically oriented for a better taste and texture.”

“As French food experts, SOPEXA is well versed in the world of French pastry and how its influence is impacting dessert culture around the world,” Edwina added.

“The people of the UAE have diverse backgrounds and a number of different cultural influences. We have seen this contribute to a growing demand for well-known desserts to be adapted with an Arabic twist, and vice versa. Our roundtable event with BNC Publishing has placed a number of emerging Middle East trends under the spotlight, and demonstrated that chefs here are building on an already rich heritage of pastry inspired desserts such as baklava, Kanafah or Umm Ali.”

About SOPEXA GROUP:

SOPEXA, the special partner of food and beverage companies and industries, has helped boost agribusiness products – both in France and abroad – for nearly 50 years, through a wide variety of promotional and awareness campaigns. A specialist in international food, wine, and lifestyle marketing, heavily involved in promoting food culture, SOPEXA Group offers effective, creative marketing solutions that make food brands and products stand out from the crowd worldwide.