GCC eating more fat, sugar and processed food than ever, says Euromonitor

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

Daily calories from packaged food in the GCC have increased from 1093 calories per person in 2009 to 1272 calories last year
Daily calories from packaged food in the GCC have increased from 1093 calories per person in 2009 to 1272 calories last year

Related tags: Nutrition

GCC consumers are increasingly getting their calories from packaged food and soft drinks, with calorific intake from fats and sugar set to rise dramatically, according to new data from Euromonitor.

The research firm’s Passport: Nutrition report provides a detailed breakdown of calories, protein, carbohydrates, sugar, fat, fibre and salt from packaged food products around the world from 2009, along with predictions through to 2019. The data only covers packaged food sold through retail outlets, and not fresh food or food service.

Fats up, protein down

For the GCC, the data paint a picture of a growing dependence on processed foods, with an especially high growth in the consumption of fats and saturated fats. According to Nikola Kosutic, research manager at Euromonitor International, the trends show GCC consumers shunning protein in favour of carbs and fats, compared to the rest of the world.

The highest contributor to growth of the calories consumed in GCC countries are saturated fats, followed by sugar, while proteins are recording the lowest growth. This is particularly concerning given that consumption of proteins in GCC is already the lowest of all regions (10% in GCC while world’s average is 12%, Western Europe 15%, North America 12%)​,” said Kosutic.

Packaged foods and soft drinks have been growing faster than rest of the industries (fresh foods, hot drinks, etc.) which indicates that the share of packed food as a percentage of total calories consumed is increasing​,” he added. “The average consumer in the GCC is not aware of his calorie intake or the breakdown of his diet by nutrition​.”

Euromonitor data show GCC protein consumption from packaged foods grew just 2.6% between 2009 and 2014, compared to overall calorie growth from packaged food of 3.2%. In contrast, fat consumption rose 3.8% over the same period, with saturated fat up 3.9%.

Compared to other regions, the GCC’s protein deficiency seems to be made up by consuming carbohydrates, with 67% of calories coming from carbs, the same as North America, compared to a global average of 65%. GCC fat consumption was on par with the average at 23%, higher than North America at 21%, but well below Eastern Europe’s 28% share of calories from fat.

In terms of overall calories from packaged food, including soft drinks, in the GCC, Euromonitor suggests this has grown from 1093.25 Kcal per capita in 2009, to 1272 Kcal last year. This is forecast to rise to 1511 Kcal by 2019, a CAGR of 3.5%, with calories from sugar set to rise 4.4%, and calories from fat 3.5%, over the period.

Marketing drives consumption change

According to Kosutic, GCC consumers have turned to packaged foods partly because of perceived health benefits: “Sales of packaged food and drinks have been outperforming fresh food sales, and part of the reason is that there is a large offer packaged foods with various health claims catering to the all possible segments of health conscious consumers – those demanding naturally healthy food, organic food, better-for-you food or fortified-functional food.​”

But these perceived benefits may largely be the product of marketing, he suggests: “It is worth noting that demand for health and wellness products is in the largest part created by manufacturers who through the extensive promotion are trying to increase sales of these high value-added products.​”

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