A range of UK food and drink producers promoted their goods to new customers at the event, with a view to increasing exports.
The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said that thousands of visitors were welcomed at both the meat and dairy stands during the five-day event, where they sampled Quality Standard Mark lamb and specialty cheeses from the UK.
Lamb and dairy
AHDB’s senior export manager for livestock Jonathan Eckley said: “Once again, Gulfood proved to be a valuable and hugely successful show, where we had the opportunity to showcase our high-quality lamb and dairy products to a much wider audience in the important Middle Eastern region.
“The event also provided many of our exporters with the chance to meet with potential importers and help boost our export opportunities to this all-important market.”
Seventeen Northern Ireland food and drink companies attended Gulfood, reporting strong business this year.
“We’ve been presenting our food and drink at Gulfood for many years and it has become among the most successful marketing events for our companies, especially smaller producers,” said Karl Devlin, Invest NI business development manager – Middle East and Hong Kong.
“This year, for example, Glastry Farm, a luxury ice-cream and sorbet business, secured its first sales in the Emirates – and its first sales outside the British Isles – with a substantial deal to supply ice-cream and low-fat sorbets to Pure UAE, a distributor in Abu Dhabi.
“All reported that they had made good contacts with key buyers from retail and foodservice groups, including Lulu, Spinneys, Carrefour, Truebell and Food Emporium. They are now actively following up the contacts and preparing to send samples.”
Northern Ireland-based Willowbrook Foods exhibited at Gulfood for the first time.
“Exhibiting at Gulfood was absolutely a beneficial exercise for Willowbrook Foods, as it gave us access to international connections and allowed us to meet potential customers face to face and learn about market requirements.
“The key themes emerging from discussions in UAE were centred around the importance of convenient, healthy, organic and vegan products to the marketplace. There was also a definite interest in heritage and provenance of food,” said John McCann, managing director of Willowbrook Foods.
“Willowbrook Foods will now work on tailoring our offering to custom-fit the market and will be liaising closely with the contacts we made at Gulfood with a view to securing international business.”
There were 20 Scottish companies at the expo and a showcase event at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, which saw more than 150 key Middle East and Indian buyers sample the food and drink from the country.
“All in all, Gulfood 2018 proved to be a fantastic show for Scottish companies exhibiting and attending,” said Ali Ali, Scottish Enterprise’s food and drink specialist, based in the Middle East.
He said that more than 100 introductions were made pre- and during Gulfood.
There were 14 companies from across the food and drink sector present under the Welsh Government’s Cymru/Wales banner. Participating companies included Dairy Partners, Fayrefields Foods, Daioni, Calon Wen, Hilltop Honey, Hybu Cig Cymru, Radnor Hills, The Cake Crew, Llaeth y Llan, Eat my Flowers and Coco Pzazz.
Lesley Griffiths, Welsh cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs, said: “Having a presence at events such as Gulfood contributes to our ongoing targets of growing the industry by 30% to £7bn by 2020 for the sector, which plays an increasingly important role in the Welsh economy.”
Welsh producers at the event were also celebrating as it was revealed that lamb exports were set to begin to Saudi Arabia in the next few months.
According to the Food and Drink Federation’s latest statistics, the UK currently exports £2.3bn-worth of food and drink (10% of total food and drink exports) to around 60 countries with which the EU has secured preferential trade agreements.