Health food sales spike in UAE during pandemic

Online food and beverage sales increased by 255 per cent in the UAE

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Janice Rodrigues. Lifestyle. Tareq Al Harogi, Yemeni honey in Global Village. Dubai. Sunday, January 17th, 2021. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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UAE retailers saw a significant rise in organic and fresh food consumption during 2020, as shoppers sought to eat healthily during the pandemic.

Overall sales of healthy food reached Dh1.8bn ($490 million) last year - a rise of 4.9 per cent - according to a report presented by Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the sidelines of the Gulfood trade exhibition.

Organic produce proved particularly popular, with sales of packaged food increasing by 8.7 per cent to Dh125m.

Dr Nizami Imamverdiyev, from the economic research department, said organic dairy products were up by 17 per cent, and organic meat and seafood sales increased by 10 per cent.

It's not about eating organic or not-organic, it's about a varied diet

Demand from those with food intolerances also increased, with consumers adding around 10 per cent more products free from dairy and gluten to their shopping baskets.

Purchases of naturally healthy food spiked by nearly 8 per cent, with fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, honey and olive oil showing notable growth.

Sales of fruit juice shot up by nearly a third compared to last year, in comparison carbonated soft drinks sales remained flat.

The Mediterranean diet, often lauded by nutritionists as immunity boosting, might be prompting olive oil sales while honey is hailed as a good source of antioxidants, and boasts antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Instead, the secret to a robust immune system is plenty of fruit and vegetables, that's according to Dubai's global nutrition advisor Hatty Barthorp.

“You need to have an adequate diversity of a whole load of different nutrients for any of your cells to function properly, and that includes your immune cells,” she said.

“It’s not about eating organic or not-organic, it’s about a varied diet and making sure you’re eating plenty of plant-based foods, because that increases the diversity of nutrients that reach the gut microbiome.

“Your gut microbiome provides antigens and also regulates the systemic immune cells.”

The Dubai Chamber report also noted the impact of movement restrictions on UAE consumers.

Online food and beverage sales increased by 255 per cent in the UAE to Dh1.5bn, according to analysis by Euromonitor.

Supermarkets, including Spinney’s, developed new delivery services in 2020, while online and app-based retailers like Kibsons and Instashop experienced exponential growth.

This development is expected to continue, with the value of online food and beverage sales in the UAE set to reach Dh2.3bn by 2025 and record a compound annual growth of 8.5 per cent from 2020 to 2025.