Hershey sweet on Dubai as Chocolate World opens

American chocolate maker opens first Middle East store

Chocoholics in the UAE will soon have a new place to satisfy their sweet tooths as Hershey, the US sweets maker, opens its first store in the Middle East in Dubai Mall. The Hershey's Chocolate World store, a 408-square-metre shop which had a soft opening on Saturday but officially opens on June 30, is the first of as many as 25 outlets to open across the region within five years.

"It's a completely affordable indulgence," said Sunaina Gill, the director of Retail is Detail, which has the regional franchise rights. "We feel that the candy business is completely recession-proof, and we've seen that over the last 12 months since we launched our other businesses in the UAE." The Dubai-based group last year opened a confectionery store called Candylicious in Dubai Mall. The 929-sq-metre sweet shop is billed as one of the largest in the world.

Retail is Detail is looking to open 10 to 15 more Candylicious stores in the region within five years, she added. Confectionery sales in the UAE were worth an estimated Dh1.1 billion (US$299.4 million) last year, with chocolate representing about Dh730m, data from the research firm Euromonitor show. The demand for sweets in the Emirates remains strong despite the economic slowdown, Euromonitor says. But sales of expensive premium chocolates are feeling the pinch.

Overall, confectionery sales are predicted to grow this year by 10 per cent compared with last year, Euromonitor says. Retail is Detail also has the franchise rights for Candylicious and Hershey's in South East Asia and has opened a Hershey's Chocolate World in Singapore. But Ms Gill said the potential was greater in the Middle East because it was still a growing and maturing market, where sweets were part of the culture.

"During Ramadan, so many gifts are given involving sweets. There are so many different seasons where gifting involves chocolates, and dates," Ms Gill said. "It's a good place to launch different candy and chocolate concepts." aligaya@thenational.ae