Gulfood, an opportunity for Australian pome in the UAE?

In February 2016, APAL’s Market Development Manager Olivia Tait went to Dubai to attend Gulfood, one of the worlds largest food, beverage and hospitality supplier trade shows, to showcase Australian apples and pears and to learn about the opportunity for our fruit in the United Arab Emirates.

By Olivia Tait

Consider the image below and multiply this scenario over 1,000 times – welcome to Gulfood, Dubai, 2016, the largest annual food and beverage trade show in the world.

Gulfood wide shot of crowd-web

Wide shot of a small section of the crowds and displays at Gulfood, Dubai, 2016.

I have visited many trade shows over the years but this one was something else, the size and scale of it was overwhelming, but then again, feeding the world is big business – estimated to be a $15 trillion business. The vital statistics – almost 5,000 exhibitors participating from over 120 countries attracting over 90,000 buyers representing 160 countries.

On one hand, whilst the representation of fresh fruit is relatively small at this show, which mainly focuses on packaged goods, the lack of competition in the fresh food category can be a good thing, although there are fewer dedicated fresh fruit buyers sourcing product. Having said this, there was a steady flow of traffic to the Victorian Government stand which hosted APAL and our display for Australian apples and pears.

For the show, APAL put together a dedicated export directory to hand out to interested parties as well as providing an overview of our industry, varieties available, harvest times etc.

The majority of interest came from buyers from India wanting to secure fruit, namely Gala apples. Many Indians living in Australia return to India and miss the high quality fruit they enjoyed whilst in Australia. Increasingly we are getting more and more inquiries from this market but the challenge lies in being able to sell fruit at a price point that satisfies the grower/exporter and the importer. Invariably, the price we can sell at is what the product will command as a retail price point at the premium end of the market. More work is needed to investigate the opportunities here.

There is no doubt that a significant demand for high quality Australian fruit exists but we need to fully understand the machinations of the supply chain and identify end markets that can afford Australian fruit to make the economics stack up. This market may require a re-think in regards to picking, packing and shipping in order to eliminate as many costs as possible from the orchard to the port.

Product innovation

The trade fair also allowed me to walk the floor and look out for any new and exciting product and packaging innovations that may be applicable for new product development work for the apple and pear sector. Whilst apples and pears feature heavily in the beverage category, there were many examples of the fruit appearing in vinegar, protein snack bars, ice creams, full and partially dehydrated snacks, and baby food/condiment purees. The evolution from just citing the use of apples or pears in a product is starting to move to referring to the specific variety of apple/pear used or incorporating the region the fruit was sourced from in the brand or product description. This is a great way to add value to the product.

Value adding, product development and innovation is a topic that will be covered during this year’s National Horticulture Convention, we will use this forum to showcase many examples of the product development work taking place domestically and internationally incorporating apples and pears.

Packaging examples of apples and pears in Dubai

Individually wrapped apples from Korea (lt) and packaging for ‘Premium Pears’ (rt) in a Dubai retail outlet.

Dubai retail

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. Situated in the south eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia, the UAE has developed rapidly and is now noted for its modern infrastructure, international events and status as a trade and transport hub.

According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the UAE is the Middle East’s second largest economy, after Saudi Arabia, and one of the wealthiest countries in the region on a per capita basis. The capital city of the UAE is Abu Dhabi, located in the largest and wealthiest of the seven emirates, just south of Dubai.

Dubai Emirate has diversified into the tourism, exhibitions, events, ICT, re-export and financial sectors. Dubai has developed luxury hotels, large port facilities (including Jebel Ali) and a range of free trade zones to attract both manufacturing and services industries

Taking advantage of its position near the head of the Gulf, Dubai has consolidated its historical reputation as a regional hub. DFAT estimates that approximately 50 per cent of imported products are re-exported. Food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, is re-exported to neighbouring Gulf countries and further throughout the Middle East, as well as to former Soviet states, the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Africa. Dubai is well serviced with air, ship and road transportation and has strong logistical strengths: it is the fifth largest air cargo port and the ninth largest shipping container port in the world.

Of all the seven emirates, Dubai has the most sophisticated and diverse retail landscape. If you’re into apples and pears as a consumer, this is good market for you. Of the stores I visited, significant floor space is dedicated to apples and to a lesser extent pears. There are anywhere up to 14 stock keeping units (skus) of apples sourced from a wide selection of countries spanning a vast price range. Approximately 450,000 tonnes of apples were imported into the Middle East in 2013.

Apples and pears in Dubai retail

Imported apples showing white wax (lt) and pears (rt) on display in a Dubai retail store.

The stores I visited – Spinneys, Choithrams, Geant, Carrefour and Milk and Honey (boutique food store) – largely service the expat and Arab population. Of these, Spinneys is considered to be the most up-market whilst Geant and Carrefour operate hypermarkets as part of their portfolio of stores.

I saw apples from Iran, China, Italy, France, Chile, Korea, USA, New Zealand and Canada ranging in price from $1.60kg to $7.20kg however the quality was mixed. Australian nectarines, peaches, plums and grapes were evident, but no apples and pears.

Many of the apples I saw were greasy, yellowing and soft or considerably marked indicating either some glitches in the cold chain or poor quality fruit delivered at the outset. What struck me was the volume of fruit merchandised on the shop floor at ambient temperatures. You need a pretty high stock turn over in order to ensure the quality of the fruit is maintained and it didn’t appear that was the case. There may well be an opportunity to supply a mixed variety of fruit into this market at regular intervals to help mitigate the problem of fruit deteriorating in quality over a period of time.

Created with flickr slideshow.



By |March 21st, 2016|Exporting|

About the Author:

Market Development Manager, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (2014-2017).
For information regarding Market Development contact APAL at or on 03 9329 3511.