The young, Twitter, and ‘health first’: Keys to Saudi Arabia’s packaged food market

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Saudi Arabia is the world's second fastest growing country on Twitter
Saudi Arabia is the world's second fastest growing country on Twitter

Related tags: Saudi arabia, United arab emirates, Food, Twitter

The gradual opening up of Saudi Arabia to the world in social and political terms may also be helping to open the country’s food and beverage market to keen processors.

Saudi Arabia, according to Alpen Capital’s 2013 GCC Food Industry Report, is already the biggest food consumer by volume in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. By 2017, it will account for 59% of the food consumption in the region at 29 million tonnes.

Saudi Arabia is also the second highest GCC food consumer per capita at 872 kg.

Packaged food makers might have the most to gain in this growth, according to another report from Research and Markets, which says that the country’s packaged food market will grow at a CAGR of 8.95% over the period 2012-2016.

According to the report, one of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the rising population of the country. And within that, it is the younger population, which will drive sales of packaged foods.

Different channels

“The population of educated and young people, including females, is increasing in Saudi Arabia,”​ said an analyst at Research and Markets. “Increasing disposable incomes among this younger population and a rise in living standards has resulted in increasing demand for packaged food in Saudi Arabia.”

“These young educated consumers have become more media savvy as being exposed to various media channels such as televisions, the internet, and social media websites​.”

According to the analyst, many of the packaged food companies are expanding their presence through various media channels especially social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach consumers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is currently the world’s second fastest growing country on Twitter, with a 42% quarterly increase in the number of account holders after Indonesia, according to GlobalWebIndex’s Q1 2013 report.

The largest age group of Twitter users in the Kingdom is the 25-34-year-olds, followed by 18-24-year-olds.

The report gave an example of how Kraft Foods launched a successful online campaign in GCC, giving people a chance to showcase their dessert-making talent and win prizes.

Healthy foods make an impact

Problematically for the country’s health authorities, Saudi Arabia is also expected to see its fast food market reach $4.5bn in gross sales by 2015, driven by growing demand from its population, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Health Sciences​.

According to the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH), 51% of Saudi women, 45% of Saudi men, 36% of teenage boys and 29% of girls are obese. The country’s overall diabetes rate currently sits at 30% and is growing rapidly, particularly among children, as are the rates for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The Research and Markets analyst is of the opinion however that food and beverage processors are and could further use the availability of different channels to tap the younger population using the ‘health first’ approach.

Exposure to correct information pertaining to products, packaged food companies, and benefits of packaged food has influenced the young generations to consume healthy packaged food,” ​the analyst said.

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