For UAE foodies looking for something new to try, Gulfood is a treasure trove.
The food and drink trade show returned to Dubai World Trade Centre on Monday, with thousands of local, regional and international brands showcasing their latest products, as well as demonstrating the latest trends and innovations in the industry.
The rise of the health-conscious consumer is particularly evident this year, with many products aimed at well-being.
The five-day event also welcomes many global brands that aren't yet selling their products regionally.
From the quirky to the technologically advanced, The National looks at product highlights at Gulfood 2023, which runs until Friday.
Manufactured by Barakat, the green drink is made from extracting ghaf leaves and comes in two options, a smoothie with camel milk or a shot with green apple juice.
Emirati student Salma Alzaabi came up with the idea and presented a method to harvest the essence of ghaf leaves without damaging the trees under the Innovation Lab programme, which is supported by the Khalifa Fund.
While announcing the product last year, Alzaabi said the ghaf had many therapeutic benefits "and is used to promote gut health".
“For me, the ghaf tree brings about great childhood memories where every winter my family and I would go to a camping site next to a ghaf tree in search of shade as the cool breezes permeated its leaves," she added.
The ghaf tree is considered a national symbol in the UAE. It is drought-tolerant and can survive the harsh desert climate.
The Keto Cola by Laperva is advertised as a healthier alternative to Coca-Cola's sugar-free drinks. Its packaging even mimics the famous soda brand with its slight use of red and black.
Its name alludes to the keto diet, which has grown in popularity over the years. The diet involves keeping a low carbohydrate count for the body to be in ketosis, a metabolic state that burns fat, rather than glucose, for energy.
Although Coca-Cola's zero-sugar options are also calorie-free, they contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Laperva's drink, which is made in Sweden, uses Stevia as a natural sweetener. The brand claims the drink's ingredients include amino acids for muscle recovery and pain, as well as minerals such as sodium, magnesium and potassium.
Canned sea urchin
Sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy in Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea, and is typically used for soup and noodle dishes (or sometimes eaten alone). It's not new, but it's also not readily available in the UAE. Seatree, the South Korean company that brought the product to Gulfood, hopes to change this and is looking for local distributors to introduce its sea urchin line to UAE supermarkets.
Its taste is described as sweet and creamy with a briny flavour. Studies have shown that sea urchins are a good source of Omega-3 acids, similar to other fatty fish such as salmon. Omega-3 is known to reduce the risk of heart disease or strokes.
Foie gras crisps
The popularity of luxury crisps shows no sign of waning, with one of the latest variations using the controversial foie gras.
Duck or goose liver is often served as an accompaniment to main dishes, such as steak or scallops, and is typically prepared as a mousse or paté. Many describe it as rich, buttery and smooth in texture — however, a dozen countries, including the UK, ban the production of it with activists outlining how many animals are often force fed during the farming process.
The new flavour has been introduced by Hunter Foods, a Dubai brand that has released innovative potato crisps in the past, including truffle, shawarma, fattoush and shakshuka flavours.
Freeze-dried baby food
While freeze-dried food is often associated with astronauts, Nordic company BabyCool has used the technology to create baby food, served powdered and cubed for preservation and convenience.
The product is available in several flavours, including parsnip and carrot, which are made from natural ingredients, according to the brand.
Freeze-drying is a low-temperature dehydration process that allows products to retain their original qualities.
Scroll through the gallery below for images from Gulfood 2023