Sweet and healthy is the snack trend

Bright, multicoloured lollipops hang from the walls and the air is thick with the smell of fresh chocolate.

Kevin C. Hoban from Adams & Brooks Confectionery from Los Angeles at the company's stall at the Sweets Middle East trade show in Dubai.
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DUBAI // It is like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Bright, multicoloured lollipops hang from the walls and the air is thick with the smell of fresh chocolate. Tables are stacked high with endless choices of hard candy. Somewhere, you can hear popcorn popping. Welcome to Sweets Middle East, the trade show in Dubai where confectioners and connoisseurs alike meet to swap ideas and show off and sample the latest snack concoctions.

This year, however, more exhibitors, aware that unhealthy snacks and sweets are becoming less appealing to many people, are displaying "alternative" products, including gourmet popcorn and all-natural lollipops. "What we're trying to do is take popcorn to another level," says Moses Faleafaga, the managing director of Popular Popcorn, a German company trying to break into the UAE market with gourmet products.

"We're offering an alternative and light snack to the potato chips and other fatty foods that are out there." The company's gourmet popcorn range has 30 flavours including white chocolate and coconut, caramel chocolate, banana, strawberry, and peppermint. On the savoury side, there is spicy chilli, cheddar, sour cream and onion, and curry. Mr Faleafaga says the UAE market is attractive because the population here is growing and dynamic. "There is a high number of youth here and they are very affluent and have disposable income," he says. "They love new things and want to try something different."

Dipu Nair, a sales manager for Dubai-based Hunter Foods, says his company, which generally makes snacks from corn or lentils instead of potatoes, is adapting to the new trend. "The market these days is generally health conscious. People are getting more aware that their snacking habits do not fit with their sedentary lifestyle, and therefore we are now creating products to suit that consumer group."

John Brooks Jr, the business development manager for Los Angeles-based Adams and Brooks, is here to introduce the company's "all-natural lollipops", which use vegetables such as beets and carrots for colouring, and fruits such as grapes, strawberries, oranges and pineapples for flavouring. Mr Brooks confirmed there was a growing group of consumers looking to buy products made from natural produce. "There is an increased consumer interest in natural products, and therefore these products complete the range we have."

The exposition ends today. nsamaha@thenational.ae