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The Saudi Arabian food-processing sector has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with a number of local companies reporting strong growth in the recent years. The Saudi government supports the food and drink industry by providing attractive financing and subsidies on selected equipment, and through the imposition of high tariffs on imports that compete with locally-produced equivalents. Important sub-segments in Saudi Arabia’s food processing industry, including meat-processing, dairy, juice and confectionery manufacturing, have developed to such an extent in recent years that they are now meeting the majority of domestic demand.
As per the data, UAE tops in per capita consumption of packed water, while Oman leads in hot tea and Bahrain leads in carbonated soft drinks. Liquid milk, laban and juice products are expected to grow indicating that people prefer to go for naturals more.
‘ Other beverages’ mentioned in the table include dilute drinks, malt beverages, iced tea, energy drinks and sports drinks. Dilute drinks, which contain 3-15% fruit content are the most common but have seen general decline over the years.
Energy drinks is small segment but has achieved avg annual growth rate of 52% over 5 years across GCC. Consumption in Kuwait has grown by 84% over the past 5 years. Major players like Red Bull, Power Horse and Bison face competition from new entries.
Significant growth in the soft drinks market as a whole.
The soft drinks market registered 6% total volume and value growth in 2007. Soft drinks’ popularity in the kingdom can be attributed to the diversity of products, together with their wide availability throughout the kingdom. Carbonates and bottled water remain the most popular in volume terms, while fruit/vegetable juice ranks second in value terms after carbonates. Functional drinks on the other hand registered the most dynamic growth in 2007, as these products are substitutes for alcohol in the country. Other smaller sectors, including RTD tea and concentrates are gaining further popularity despite seasonal demand, especially in concentrates, where demand almost triples during Ramadan.
Health concerns boost sales of bottled water, fruit/vegetable juice and low calorie options
Consumers in the kingdom are becoming increasingly health-conscious. This trend is pushed by a couple of elements, firstly the effect of the media and the high number of television programs addressing health problems, and secondly, the impact of foreign expatriates who are more aware of health issues than local consumers. The trend is pushing demand for healthier products, including bottled water and fruit/vegetable juice, in addition to low calorie carbonates. Bottled water and low calorie cola carbonates registered an impressive 8% growth in total volume terms in 2007, while fruit/vegetable juice registered 6% growth.
The competition between local and international players in the Saudi market is escalating. While international brands (Pepsi & Coke) dominate carbonates, the most popular drink in volume and value terms, local brands dominate fruit/vegetable juice and bottled water. Popularity and demand in the market is measured by many factors; mainly quality, health assurance and innovation, followed by price. Pepsi from Al Jomaih Bottling Plant remained by far the leader in the soft drinks market, with an 18% share of off-trade volume sales, followed by Coca-Cola and 7-Up with approximately 9% each.
Sales of off-trade soft drinks in the kingdom are higher, registering four times the volume sales in the on-trade channel. Off-trade sales are directly linked with the expansion of supermarkets/hypermarkets in the kingdom. Not only are existing supermarkets/hypermarkets expanding rapidly on an annual basis, but new supermarket/hypermarket chains are also opening outlets throughout the country. Furthermore, sales in off-trade channels are not limited to a certain age group or gender, whilst this is the case in the on-trade channel due to the country’s culture. Besides, the price of soft drinks in the on-trade channel is almost double that of the off-trade channels.
There are more than a dozen of key beverage players in the market, of which only few like Almarai, Al Rabie, NADEC, NADA, Aujan and Abuljadayel act as trend setters. A list of the companies who not only operate in Saudi but also export to neighboring countries is as below.
Majority of the companies located in Saudi Arabia have diversified themselves in terms of product range doing it from juices, nectars, floats, drinks, milk, laban, flavoured milk, fruit+milk, puddings, tomato paste etc thereby minimizing the operating costs.
In spite of price raise in commodities in the international trade in the previous year, these companies have survived well and some companies showed good growth in the fiscal ending 2008.
In the current year of 2009, the companies have set to take advantage of the price fall in the commodities, minimizing the inventory and thereby trying to become much more competitive. Even though only few companies have dared for new product launch this year, it need to be seen how far they do well in the market and how far do the Saudi customers accept them.