Six quirky products at Gulfood 2022: from frankincense ice cream to vegan tuna

This year, the annual food and beverage trade event is championing sustainability and zero-waste produce

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Gulfood, Dubai’s popular annual food and beverage trade show, is back. Taking place at Dubai World Trade Centre from February 13 to 17, the 27th season of the event features the latest innovations and produce from companies around the world.

This year, more than 4,000 companies from 120 countries are participating, making this a deliciously versatile look at what’s new and trending in the culinary space.

Moreover, Gulfood 2022 is championing the latest innovations in sustainable packaging and carbon-zero food products.

With many of these products pegged for launch in the Middle Eastern market soon (with some already out), consider this a glimpse of what's coming soon to a supermarket shelf near you.

Emirati spice-flavoured crisps

Limited-edition Bzar Emirati Spice Mix crisps by Hunter's Food. Pawan Singh / The National

Over the past few years, we’ve seen more international brands cater to local food tastes. When it comes to snacking, Hunter Foods went all-out last year with hand-cooked potato crisps in flavours such as shawarma, fattoush and shakshuka.

This year, they’re back with a limited-edition flavour to pay tribute to the UAE: Emirati Spice-flavoured crisps. It has been created in collaboration with Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and Dubai SME.

Vegan fish

If the past two years have been all about plant-based beef, followed by plant-based chicken, then it seems like now is the time for plant-based seafood to shine.

French company Kokiriki debuted Veg-Toona, a vegan alternative to tuna that “looks like real fish with the same taste, but has never seen the sea”.

The tuna substitute is made using soy protein, and is GMO-free, palm oil-free and cholesterol-free, and can be eaten hot or cold.

Date sugar

Date sugar by Al Barakah Dates caters to the region's love for the fruit. Pawan Singh / The National

It’s not new, but given the region’s fondness for – and accessibility to – dates, date sugar is certainly a game-changer.

It's made by grinding the natural fruit into a fine powder, thus creating a sugar substitute. Although it does not dissolve fully when added to water – meaning it’s not the best option for your coffee or tea – it’s pegged as a natural way to sweeten smoothies and baked goods.

Homegrown brand Al Barakah Dates says the product, which is already in stores, has been popular, with the biggest markets for it in the UAE, US and Bangladesh.

Locally made plant-based cheese spread

Freakin' Healthy is launching three flavours of plant-based cheese spread - Original, Chilli Spice and Smoked Paprika. Photo: Agthia

Plant-based cheese is certainly nothing new, but further innovation has been needed in the field as initial products gave us only a taste of what can be achieved.

Abu Dhabi food and beverage giant Agthia and local snacks brand Freakin’ Healthy have launched the first plant-based spreadable cheese produced in the UAE – and it comes with a variety of flavours to boot.

The product is made from cashews and uses high-pressure processing technology to extend the shelf life of the cheese while keeping its nutritional content. Some flavours you can expect to see on shelves soon are Original, Chilli Spice and Smoked Paprika.

Charcoal bread

Charcoal-infused bread on display at the Abel & Schafer stand at Gulfood. Pawan Singh / The National

If there’s anything social media has proved, it’s that we eat with our eyes first. With more brands looking to create dishes that look as good as they taste, there’s been an appetite for ingredients that offer a different look. Think matcha and beetroot – and activated charcoal.

German company Abel & Schafer and its partner Truebell showcased a variety of charcoal-infused bread at Gulfood, with hopes to introduce a flour derivative to market in future.

“More restaurants in the UAE are looking for these products,” says Michael Muhry, a chef with the brand. “If you go to any burger restaurant, they want a burger with black buns, for example. And if you go to cafes, there’s demand for a black and white croissant.”

Frankincense ice cream

Frankincense-flavoured ice cream was on show at Mazoon Dairy's stand at Gulfood. Photo: Mazoon Dairy

Frankincense may be known for its heady scent, and is popularly used in oils, perfumes and soaps, but the food and beverage industry may be finding a new use for it.

Oman’s Mazoon Dairy displayed a frankincense-flavoured premium ice cream at Gulfood, along with a Frankincense-flavoured milk.

The idea isn't fresh, but has been an experiment in food blogger circles. It's only now that it might actually become available in our local stores.

Updated: February 13, 2022, 2:22 PM