Buying Fresh, Better Quality Food, With Personal Wellbeing in Mind is Driving Changes to UAE Shoppers since the Global Pandemic

  • 4 in 10 adults are buying better quality foods in general as a result of the pandemic. 
  • Half of adults see the nutritional content and the naturalness of their food & drink as being more important now as a result of the pandemic.
  • Half of adults are choosing foods that help boost immunity more often while almost half (46%) are taking supplements to fend off Covid-19 more often.
  • 1 in 3 adults are ‘scratch’ cooking and learning to cook using recipes more often as a result of the pandemic.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Results from a survey of UAE shoppers reveal that consumers have shifted to placing a higher value on buying fresh, higher quality food, and increased importance on food provenance, as a result of the global pandemic.

Commissioned by the Irish Food Board – Bord Bia – the UAE survey of shoppers was conducted to better understand the impact of the global pandemic on their shopping behaviours.  In very revealing results, they indicate significant changes made by shoppers across the UAE who have become more conscious of the health benefits of the food they are consuming, its quality, and country of origin. 

Increased Focus on Healthier Food Choices

Consumers are increasingly making healthier food choices in their weekly shopping trips to the supermarket by making choices for food products based on nutritional values in their diets with a greater value placed on their health and wellbeing because of the pandemic. Consumers are clearly looking at food options that may help boost their immune systems.  In fact, this is already happening:

  • Half of adults (50%) see nutritional content and the naturalness of their food & drink as being more important now as a result of the pandemic;
  • Half of adults (50%) are choosing foods that help boost immunity more often while almost half (46%) are taking supplements to fend off Covid-19 more often;
  • Just under half of adults (47%) are having fresh fruit and vegetables more often;
  • Just over a third of adult shoppers (33%) are having sweet treats less often.

Higher Quality Food in Demand

Consumers are looking more towards higher quality food products when deciding their purchases, meaning quality over value is winning in the race for informed choices to fill the shopping baskets. Combined with this, is the increase in home cooking from scratch and exploring new recipes to serve up. This may be a consequence of more people now working from home rather than being in the office.   

  • 4 in 10 adults are buying better quality foods in general as a result of the pandemic;
  • Just under half of people (48%) say that it is more important now to buy natural;
  • 1 in 3 adults are scratch cooking and learning to cook using recipes more often.

Country of Origin is Increasingly Important

The origins and provenance of food choices is increasingly more important to shoppers in the UAE with a sharper focus on food safety standards.  This greater interest in the food provenance indicates that some shoppers may make their selections based on the country of origin of the product by placing higher values linked to animal welfare and environmental aspects. 

  • 52% of adults in the UAE feel the traceability of their food and drink is more important;
  • 56% of adults in the UAE feel the food safety standards are more important now.

Reacting to the survey findings, Bord Bia Middle East Director Claudia Saumell said, “These revealing findings show the pandemic impact on shoppers is directly leading to decisions about what goes into the weekly shopping basket. Based on these results, we can see why UAE shoppers are increasingly picking Irish food and drink products to include in their weekly shop or choosing Irish based ingredients off the menu which come with the strong reputation for exceptional taste, of highest quality and produced to world leading standards.”

“Irish food producers are increasingly winning in the global export race for food and drink products. Here in the UAE and wider Middle East region, Irish food exports increased by 12 percent last year, 

with dairy products alone having increased by 15 percent to a staggering 1.5 billion Dirhams, making the region a key strategic market choice for Irish food producers.”

Buying Irish in the Middle East, Comes with the Stamp of World Leading Food Quality  

By buying Irish, consumers in the region can savour the exceptional taste of Ireland with its world renowned reputation for serving up the highest quality ingredients which adheres to world leading standards but also have the added peace of mind knowing it has been produced sustainably. 

These standards take the form of the Bord Bia Quality Mark, awarded to the Irish food producer, indicating that they have passed strict standards around food safety, animal health and welfare and care for the environment. All the Bord Bia standards are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with changes in regulations and best practice.

Ireland’s commitment to sustainable food production is more important than ever. Irish food producers can showcase their commitment to producing food in a sustainable manner through Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme. This additional kitemark is the only sustainability programme of its kind in the world that operates on a national scale in uniting the Government of Ireland, the private sector, and food and drink producers. 

Irish beef is now widely available across the region in retail outlets in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and food service in several of the major hotels and restaurants in the UAE.

Food producers like John Stone Ltd, a long-term exporter of premium beef to the UAE and wider region, are enjoying sustained success in demand of their premium products. They were also the first to receive the National Halal Mark in the UAE, making the UAE a key market for the company. Attending Gulfood 2021 in Dubai this week, John Stone Ltd will be present on the Bord Bia stand and will be seeking to build further upon their exports to the region. 

“For the Middle East, Gulfood has always been a “home” trade show we have participated for 7 years in a row. Dubai as a country which we have worked in for 8 years, it has always led the way in restaurant and concept openings, so Dubai is a natural home for us as we innovate in the Beef category,” said Allan Morris, Managing Director of John Stone Fine Foods Ltd. 

“As one of the original pioneers of Dry Aged Beef since 1974 it’s great to see Aged beef is finally getting the attention it deserves, and we are looking forward to showcasing this at Gulfood this week. At John Stone with our experience in this delicate process we are positioned to offer experience and safety in such a new field for this market. Having over 40 plus years’ experience allows us to further innovate in this area and we do so again this year at Gulfood with our Dry Aged Beef patties and further aged traditional concepts; he added.

Commenting on Gulfood 2021, Bord Bia Middle East Director Claudia Saumell said, “The global demand for Irish food and drink products remains extremely positive this year. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Irish exporters are reporting solid order volumes for the year ahead. Gulfood is always the key meeting place for Irish food producers to build further on their already strong trading relationships established in the UAE and wider region.”

Irish beef will be the centrepiece ingredient for former Zuma Chef, Colin Clague, now the Group Executive Chef at Ruya Restaurants in the UAE, when he hosts a masterclass on new Dubai fusion cuisine on Monday 22nd February in Hall 8. Irish beef will also be back in the spotlight on the 23rd February, when John Stone Fine Foods Ltd will be holding their masterclass. 

About Bord Bia:

Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) is the Irish government agency that manages the promotion, trade development and marketing of the Irish food, drink and horticulture industry. Headquartered in Dublin, Bord Bia supports the national and international ambitions of Irish food, drink and horticulture businesses through its highly focused organisational structure and its network of offices in EMEA, Asia and the USA. 

Bord Bia launched Origin Green in 2012, making it the worlds’ first and only national food and drink sustainability programme. Origin Green essentially commits Irish producers and processors to reducing their carbon footprint and to using less energy and resources in food production. It does so by placing environmental targets on each individual business, resulting in over 90% of Ireland’s food and drink exports now being Origin Green certified.

About the UAE Findings:

The Bord Bia Indicators Barometer results are based on approximately 1,000 responses provided by shoppers from across the UAE who were surveyed in October 2020.

Bord Bia at Gulfood 2021:

Bord Bia will be present throughout Gulfood hosting Stand: S-J33 in the Trade Centre Arena. 

Available for Interviews 

  • Claudia Saumell, Bord Bia’s Middle East Director 
  • Allan Morris, Managing Director of John Stone Fine Foods Ltd.