Although Dubai is the most populous and urban city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), local authorities believe more work still needs to be done before it can call itself the region’s food hub, much like Singapore is to Asia.
In a bid to achieve this status, the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) has established a specialised Business Transformation Office to attract international and regional businesses into the city, with a strong focus on food and beverage firms.
“Dubai has a lot to offer both investors and existing food firms here – from a business perspective, the environment is definitely a friendly one on all levels from government to federal to local and the BTO has been established specifically to facilitate this,” DET Director-General Helal Saeed Al Marri told the floor at the recent Gulfood 2023 event.
“This of course translates into much higher ease of doing business at every level, and combined with other benefits such as the world-class infrastructure that has been made available here, the commercial viability is strong for just about all food and beverage businesses.
“In addition, amidst all of the conflict going on and the impacts that the pandemic has had on the global supply chain, the political and economic conditions here remain stable and progress has been continuous, which is a very important factor for any business looking to grow steadily to consider.”
BTO Senior Advisor AbdelRahman ElHousseiny added that this is evidenced by both existing regulations as well as the government’s active work to revise and amend regulations to make these as industry-friendly as possible, particularly when the food sector is involved.
“One instance is the existing commercial law where in free zones foreign company owners are able to own their own businesses 100% i.e. there is no quota imposed on having partial local ownership,” he said.
“Logistics and digitalisation have come a long way in Dubai over the past 10 years, and when it comes to the food sector this has had significant impact and benefits for the supply chains.”
Business growth still number one
All this aside, no food brand would venture into a new market regardless of how easy it is to set up or run a business unless the consumer demographic is able to cater for business growth and profitability – which is more than possible in Dubai, according to Nutridor CEO Sankha Biswas.
“Putting the business aspects aside, the economy and demographics are crucial for any company, and Dubai clearly meets this criteria as well as evidenced by both its rapid population growth and rising GDP,” he said.
“These are clear indicators of a population that can support business growth, particularly for a food and beverage business like Nutridor as there are going to be more consumers as well as higher demand for better quality products as well.”
Nutridor is a Thailand-based dairy firm that produces UHT milk, yoghurt, cheese and other processed dairy products under the Abevia brand. It is the dairy arm of international conglomerate TGI Group.
The firm recently announced the establishment of a new evaporated and condensed milk factory in Dubai, to begin operations in April 2023 – a significant achievement given the brand was only formally launched in the region just four years back.
“It took no more than 24 months to have all the business preparations in order and get green ticks across the board to start operations when we first looked into entering this market,” Biswas said.
“This efficiency was a key factor behind our decision to invest in Dubai – and this new facility is a step for us to integrate further into the community and reach even beyond the GCC from here, looking towards the goal of becoming one of the largest dairy manufacturers in the Middle Eastern region.”