Middle East & Africa beat 'lacklustre' Europe for fresh food sales in 2015: Euromonitor

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

 Innovations in packaging could boost fresh food sales in developed markets, says Euromonitor © iStock
Innovations in packaging could boost fresh food sales in developed markets, says Euromonitor © iStock

Related tags Developed country Eastern europe Europe

The Middle East and Africa were the most dynamic markets for fresh food sales in 2015 as the Russian embargo hit Eastern European markets and Western consumers opted for convenience. But packaging innovations and the health and wellness trends could provide a welcome boost for sluggish developed markets, according to Euromonitor.

The United Arab Emirates registered 7% growth while Egypt saw 5% and Morocco and South Africa 3% each. For Western Europe and North America this was stuck at under 1%.

And this trend is set to continue: although the market research company predicts that global fresh food sales are set to rise by 13% by 2020 – equating to 280.5 million tonnes in absolute volume terms – most of this will occur in emerging markets, as sales of fresh food in developed markets are being outperformed by added-value convenience and packaged foods.

But there are windows of opportunity that could be leveraged to offset this “lacklustre​” performance forecast for Western Europe, according to Euromonitor analyst Anastasia Alievia, such as tapping into the trends for home cooking and a growing demand for healthier and more nutritious foods. “Retailers and manufacturers can succeed by tailoring products to certain consumer groups, such as singletons, working consumers and families, and by delivering a better variety of fresh produce at competitive prices,”​ she says in an online blog.

Powerful pulses

Meanwhile the top performing ingredients in 2015 were pulses which saw a 4% increase in volume terms.

As an affordable source of protein, they are particularly important across developing and emerging markets, but they are also riding on the health and wellness trend in developed countries, and are set to see a rise in popularity as a result. “Pulses contain significant quantities of vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre, and are ideal for those desiring a shift towards a diet high in vegetarian protein and low in refined carbohydrates. In addition, pulses are gluten-free, ticking another important box in modern diet trends,” ​says Alieva.

Sales of red meat took a hit in Western Europe, with beef and veal falling by 0.3% and 1% which Euromonitor attributes to health concerns linking meat consumption to cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. The increasing popularity of flexitarian diets and tendencies to switch red meats for leaner meats or plant-based alternatives meant the average Western European ate around 1 kg less beef between 2010 and 2015. 

Fish and seafood saw dynamic growth rates in the Middle East and Africa, compared to marginal rates in Western Europe, and even a decline in North America.

But as fish and seafood also benefit from a healthy reputation as a good source of protein, the Euromonitor analyst suggests this sluggishness in sales could be down to a reluctance to handle and cook raw fish from scratch rather than an unwillingness to eat it.

Innovations in packaging could therefore boost sales in developed markets. “Manufacturers and retailers are constantly improving packaging to the point of offering cook-in-bag solutions and provide detailed instructions to help consumers prepare their seafood meal.”

Eastern promise fading

Meanwhile the ongoing import embargo in Russia has impacted sales figures for the Eastern European region, where it accounts for over 40% of consumption. The Russian fresh food market contracted by 4% in volume - 2% in retail value terms -  despite the country’s efforts to boost self-sufficiency through greater domestic production.  “The situation was further compounded by the devaluation of the rouble, the country’s deepening economic recession and Russian consumers’ dwindling disposable incomes​,” says Alieva.

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