Gulfood 2018; Lessons learned from the Dubai Food Industry

March 15, 2018

If there is one place that does things bigger, better, faster, it's Dubai. From the world’s tallest building to its iconic man-made islands, innovation is everywhere in this city of superlatives.

It was something I saw first-hand during my visit to GulFood 2018, the world’s largest annual food trade show featuring over 5,000 exhibitors from 185 countries. The event, at Dubai World Trade Centre, was an exhibition of tens of thousands of finished food and beverages dedicated to the biggest commodity trading sectors including dairy, meat and poultry.

Why Dubai?

The growth of Dubai has been phenomenal. It’s incredible to think that it was only 50 years ago when oil – the catalyst of its growth – was discovered. Since then, development across this once-desert land has rocketed. The United Arab Emirates is now the 29th largest export economy with exports of $98.8bn and imports of $184bn in 2016.

Dubai, the most populated emirate, also has a booming food sector. Currently valued at AED 13bn (approx £2.5bn) it is expected to grow by 70% to AED 23bn (approx £4.5bn) by 2030. Statistics show that 85-90% of the food in Dubai is imported, whilst 10-15% is re-exported.

What next for Dubai’s food economy?

India, Iran and Switzerland are among the state’s main export destinations whilst China, India, the USA, Germany and the UK – which imported just over $9bn of goods in 2016 – are among its main import countries. And with Brexit looming, there is certainly potential for the UK’s trade with Dubai to increase.

Dubai has the world’s ninth busiest port and unsurprisingly, the largest man-made harbour.  Opened in 1979, Jebel Ali Port, is at the crossroads of a region providing market access to over two billion people.

But that’s not what is putting Dubai on the map when it comes to food. In 2017, leaders unveiled plans for a billion pound Dubai Food Park. The AED 5.5bn development at Dubai Wholesale City will provide all food-related services under one umbrella.

A one-stop shop

Dubai Food Park will be a one-stop shop to the global food industry including customs clearance, licensing, food safety and supervision, food processing, packaging and re-packaging, logistics, food export and re-export, as well as government services.

Located within Dubai Wholesale City – itself a hub for global wholesale trade – the food park is strategically placed 10 minutes from Al Maktoum International Airport and 15 minutes from Jebel Ali Port. The development is scheduled for completion in 2020, to coincide with Expo2020, a festival of Dubai’s innovation.

What can we learn from Dubai Food Park?

A successful business is a streamlined business. Dubai Food Park will consolidate all processes into one location and management structure. Automation will be installed wherever possible and block-chain innovation will be explored as the site gets under development. Able to process all major food markets from end to end with no need to move product along the supply chain, Dubai Food Park is already attracting global companies to the site including Unilever, IKEA, and Coca Cola.

This is the future of food processing.

So what can we learn from this in the UK? Although we do not (currently) have the landmass to compete with a 48 million square foot food park, the thinking behind the development is one we have been emulating at Rick Bestwick for many years.

Food manufacturers and retailers are increasingly looking for a service provider who can remove unnecessary links from the supply chain. At Rick Bestwick – part of the Magnavale group – we strive to be a partner who can provide support at every stage of processing from storage to tempering, packaging and onward logistics. It’s something we have pioneered in the UK and what helps to set us apart from the competition.

So although we may be on the other side of the world to the Dubai Food Park, our thinking may not be a world away.