The popularity of veganism relies heavily on the ever-changing population dynamics of the UAE. Over the course of the pandemic it has been reported that the UAE and Dubai, in particular witnessed the steepest decline in western population in the Gulf. Whilst Asian and Arab working population have replaced these, losing the western population is a threat to future demand. Meat consumption is on the rise in UAE and will also pose a threat to the progression of veganism. This popularity of meat is fuelled by the high numbers of highly affluent expats, the health conscience Emirati consumers with a focus on leaner meats and the increased availability of Halal–certified meat.
The UAE is a price sensitive consumer market. The difference in price between vegan and conventional products can serve as a challenge for vegan products, in both foodservice and retail. Another factor is inflation and rising food prices coupled with the threats of reduced incomes and spending power may leave expensive vegan option.
Competition in this space is rising. In foodservice, many restaurants are producing their own style vegan substitute products, eg: Nolu’s Downtown Quinoa burger, Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are appearing in more and more outlets. In retail, companies such as Quorn, VIV ERA, Meatless Farm Co, Moving Mountains, Lightlife and Land of Tofu among others, can be seen across virtually all retail outlets.
For Swiss companies looking at this competitive space, the greatest considerations must be around innovation and price. Plant-based products are still in demand and distributors are actively looking for new opportunities to add this listing to their portfolio. However, the innovative nature of the product and company, as well as the price it is offered at, are major considerations if the venture is to be considered and/or to succeed.