Bridging the gulf

A roundup of Gulfood 2024

This year’s Gulfood, the Dubai-based food industry extravaganza was pretty EXTRA. The event boasted over 5,500 exhibitors (a record) from nearly every country in the world, according to the website. And our very own Polina Oba, COO extraordinaire, was at the thick of things. 

Gulfoods 2024

COO extraordinaire Polina Oba

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Now, without further ado, back to Polina…

Gulfood is touted as the largest annual food and beverage sourcing event in the world. And it’s not hard to see why: five days, several massive halls of exhibitors, and just oceans and oceans of visitors. 

Oceans of visitors

Country pavilions like India, Morocco, and Thailand were ginormous! Compared to East Asian expos where Western pavilions tend to dominate, at Gulfood, there was a much higher African, South Asian, and Southeast Asian presence. Yes, I understand the geographical proximity and culture, but it was pretty impressive to see the difference!

The halls were split by categories (world food, meat, dairy, etc.) and there was a very good mix of country pavilions, independent stands by brands, and organizations like the Halal Trade and Marketing Center.

The massive Thai pavilion

Country pavilions

A large part of the country pavilions comprised stands by distributors, exporters, and consolidators. Many from Asia and Africa were showcasing staples like rice, spices, and tea. I’ve seen these at other expos, but here it was overwhelming. For example, American and European distributors were offering the same products like KitKat and Pringles. This is linked to local preferences – having a variety of the same products but manufactured in different countries is of great interest to consumers. In fact, oftentimes, the one manufactured in the West is preferred over the exact same locally manufactured product even though the former is more expensive!

World foods!

The dairy and meat sections were huge – and judging by their presence on supermarket shelves, these are a significant part of the regional diet. Value-added dairy products were also in plenty. For example, there were numerous ice cream and frozen dessert brands present. There weren’t as many better-for-you brands as one would expect, but there were a few. High-protein, fruit-based, and dairy-free frozen desserts had a significant presence, but low/no sugar was not all that prevalent.


Better-for-you desserts

Like what you’re seeing?

To wash all that sugary goodness down was also a lot of coffee. The Italian pavilion featured a number of coffee brands intent on giving the Middle East a taste of their coffee and the café experience.

The Italian cafe experience

These were just a few of the features at Gulfood this year. Until next year, then!

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