The United Arab Emirates is home to more than 100 nationalities. The food products available in the country are therefore very varied so as to cater for different tastes and preferences.
Packaged cheese is more popular among consumers in the United Arab Emirates than unpackaged cheese. Packaged cheese is generally cheaper, especially in the growing hard cheese category.
Different cheeses are consumed on different occasions. Cream cheese in triangle format is usually seen as a snack for schoolchildren.
Almarai continued to lead cheese in 2018, largely thanks to its strength in spreadable processed cheese. The company benefits from having been present in the country for a long time and heavily investing in improving its product portfolio so as to meet the demands of local consumers.
In 2018, manufacturers sought to ensure the strong visibility of their products in retail outlets through the heavy use of promotions, bundle offers and optimal shelf positioning. Their brands were also supported by targeted marketing and advertising campaigns at specific consumer audiences.
In 2018, there remained a mix of players, both international, regional and local, in cheese in the United Arab Emirates, hence the category’s fragmented competitive landscape. However, in the fast growing unprocessed cheese category, particularly hard cheese, international brands remained prominent.
The growth of drinking milk products in the United Arab Emirates in 2018 continued to be limited by price controls. Due to being an essential product, prices are heavily regulated by the government.
There were no major shifts in demand in 2018. The majority of consumers continued to opt for traditional products, although some chose alternatives which have been present in the marketplace for some time.
Drinking milk products are readily available in the United Arab Emirates, with hypermarkets and supermarkets being the leading distribution channels. However, internet retailing, although still relatively limited in scale, is slowly gaining ground, especially when it comes to shelf stable milk which does not need to be delivered to consumers immediately.
Al Ain Dairy remained the leading player in drinking milk products in 2018 thanks to its strength in fresh milk, which accounts for the majority of the wider category’s value sales. Almarai and Al Rawabi Dairy maintained their rankings of second and third, respectively.
Ace Canning Corp remained the leading player in soy drinks in 2018. This company manufactures the brands Soyfresh, Drinho and Homesoy, which appeal to both lactose-intolerant consumers as well as those who simply consider such products to be healthier than cow’s milk.
Arla National Food Products launched its first branded organic milk in the Middle East in 2017, the company’s biggest strategic growth market outside Europe. Organic food currently remains a niche in the United Arab Emirates but growth in this space is being driven by new products and strong marketing campaigns from large manufacturers.
In 2018, the category continued to benefit from the fact that a number of product types have long been part of the daily diets of many consumers in the United Arab Emirates. For example, laban, a type of sour milk, is a traditional local beverage which is consumed after meals or as a snack.
The ongoing rise in health awareness among consumers in the United Arab Emirates continued to support the rise in popularity of products which are perceived as healthy, such as flavoured yoghurt. Local consumers are increasingly switching to flavoured yoghurt as an alternative to traditional sweet treats.
Yoghurt is considered a staple food by many of the nationalities living in the United Arab Emirates. Within local culture, as well as in the main Asian cultures present in the country, plain yoghurt is a side dish that is often served at mealtimes, hence its significant share of overall yoghurt value sales.
Almarai remained the leading player in yoghurt and sour milk products in 2018, largely thanks to its widespread distribution network and the strong visibility of its products in retail outlets. The company also benefits from a wide product portfolio under its Almarai brand, with its offering being well adapted to local tastes and consumption patterns.
Al Safi Danone ranked third in yoghurt and sour milk products in 2018 thanks to its leadership of drinking and flavoured yoghurt through the combined strength of its Activia Laban and Actimel brands. The former is based on laban, a traditionally popular sour milk drink in the Middle East, and is perceived as a healthier choice than the packaged laban products offered by other companies thanks to containing probiotics.
In 2018, Agthia Group launched the Yop and Petits Filous drinking yoghurt brands in a bid to compete in the area of healthier alternatives to carbonated soft drinks. Yop claims to be free from preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings and comes in strawberry, mango and peach flavours.
Consumers in the GCC region generally regard dairy products as healthy. The health and wellness trend, however, has led to more consumers being able to distinguish between the health attributes of different dairy products.
Cream in the United Arab Emirates comes in different formats, for example thick, cooking, whipped, whipping and half, as well as in flavours such as plain, strawberry and honey. It is an important ingredient in different dishes and drinks due to the various nationalities residing in the country.
In 2018, other dairy products continued to be typically purchased in hypermarkets and supermarkets but also traditional grocery retailers. Internet retailing, however, continued to gain share as a result of growing interest from different dairy companies.
Frieslandcampina Middle East remained the clear leader in other dairy in 2018, primarily thanks to its dominance in condensed milk. The company’s main brand, Rainbow, is used in the preparation of many traditional desserts.
Pinar Food & Beverage Group and Almarai ranked second and third, respectively, in other dairy in 2018. The position of Pinar Food & Beverage can be attributed to the strength of its labneh product, which is a type of fromage frais and quark.
The majority of value sales in other dairy are accounted for by economy brands, such as the above-mentioned Rainbow. Low prices are used to attract low-income and price-sensitive expatriate workers, while higher-income consumers tend to purchase fresh milk instead of condensed milk.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food market research database.