Activity Background

Gulfood Dubai, UAE is the world’s biggest international food and hospitality trade show that gathers leading food importers, trade agents and buyers. As a result of USAID REGs assistance and contacts and meetings established last year at GulFood Dubai, one company AgrarCo (MK) managed to sign a contract with UAE distributor from Dubai and exported 5 trucks of stuffed pepperoncini peppers worth over 100.000 USD. Another company Yumis from Serbia continued intensive communication and got a contract with a distributor in UAE, started selling its soups and cooking spices products. Many other companies submitted product offers and sent samples, negotiated potential sales…

Following last year results, this year, REG Project continued its assistance to leading Balkan food companies interested to differentiate target markets and explore new market prospects to participate in the trade mission and market visit to Dubai (UAE). The Project facilitated a trade mission and visit to GulFood Trade Fair from 26th Feb to 2nd March 2017 for analyzing the competition, understanding the trends and meeting potential buyers. (Annex 1 – Map of GulFood Trade fair 2017) REGs activity also encouraged USAID/SIDA Project from BiH and Bosnia and Herzegovina Chamber of Commerce to support a group of Bosnian AG companies as well as USAID Empower Project to assist 2 Kosovo companies to visit GulFood. 

In order to address better some of the recognized constrains and identify optimal strategy in approaching UAE markets, REG Project continued its cooperation with and contracted Mr. Feda Saimua, a senior expert in Dubai, working as Deputy General Manager of Transmed Company, one of the largest importers and distributor for many international brands in UAE. He worked on detecting potential interest from buyers, facilitated visit Gulfood Trade Fair and scheduled meetings with potential buyers in Dubai including larger AG/food importers and retailers. REG AG Team leader/consultant worked with regional stakeholders to identify leading AG companies interested in exploring opportunities to trade with Middle East. The Balkan group included 2 companies from MK, 4 from SRB, 7 from BiH, and 2 from KS, producers and exporters of fresh and processed/frozen fruit and vegetables, confectionary products, poultry, meat and dairy products. (Annex 2 – List of Balkan companies participating at GulFood 2017.

All companies were represented by their owners/CEOs and/or export/sales/brand managers.
Based on the profiles of participating companies, AG Team leader worked with the UAE expert on developing a detailed agenda (Annex 3 – Program for Trade mission at Middle East and visit Gulfood Trade Fair 26Feb-2Mar 2017) for B2B meetings and visits and shared some basic recommendations for the companies as prerequisites for the trade mission. The group was accommodated at the IBIS One Central hotel, near the Trade fair at the World Trade Center in Dubai.

Activity Specifics

On the first day, the group joined at a conference room of IBIS One Central Hotel for the introduction training and strategic meeting one-on-one sessions with the expert. Mr. Feda Saimua gave a presentation on the UAE market trends, introduced the opportunities and challenges for doing business in UAE. He presented key players, market channels and options for entry strategy in accordance with company size, product profile and sales opportunities…from opportunistic trading, through working with licensed trade agents, joint venture to exclusivity and long term partnership contract.

He shared best practices from across the region in branded vs. commodity products and recommended list of leading importers and traders in UAE for fruits and vegetables, confectionary and chocolate industry as well as poultry and dairy.  Mr. Saimua also presented his personal experience in developing a new branding concept for bakery products.

In the afternoon, Mr Saimua had an individual meeting sessions with the Balkan companies. Each company presented its product portfolio and export outlook and directly discussed individual interest in particular market segments. He shared his expertise and provided recommendations on the optimal way to enter the UAE market and based on the type of products, provided specific recommendations for importers/stands to be visited at the fair.

Later, guided by the REG Team Leader, the Balkan group visited the GulFood Trade Fair. The companies had a chance to get familiarize with the concept of the fair, understand the division of exhibitors and presence of National pavilions of major food exporting countries.

In coordination with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry it was arranged for the Balkan group to participate at the Gulfood Breakfast Briefing 2017 organized on 27th Feb by Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The briefing took place in the Auditorium -1st Floor from 8:30am – 10:30am. The presentations and briefing was very useful to understand the trends and opportunities on the UAE Food and beverage market, required standards and certifications and the role of bodies under Dubai Chamber of commerce. The links to the presentations as follows:

Presence of Excellences, the Ambassadors of the Republic of Macedonia in Abu Dhabi Mr. Sasho Tashevski, of the Republic of Serbia in Abu Dhabi Mr. Milos Perisic and of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Abu Dhabi Mr. Zoran Milicevic at the briefing was of great benefit. This was the excellent opportunity for companies to present their intentions to explore opportunities for selling products in UAE as well as to hear opinions and recommendations from Ambassadors on pros’ and cons’ they need to consider while looking for importers in Dubai.

The experience from the previous two years, companies’ feedback and discussions with importers reinforced the opinion that it would be very advantageous for companies to start participating at the trade fair as exhibitors. This would enable much greater visibility and credibility of Balkan companies to enter ME market. Although, officially there is a long waiting list for stand space (500-600) companies…so getting a stand can take up to three years, REG coordinated a meeting with the senior event management of GulFood trade fair. At the meeting participating REG companies expressed serious interest and commitment to exhibit at Gulfood trade fair next year at a joint Balkan stand. REG already shared the interest with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Foreign trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina and will follow up with GulFood event management on possibilities for securing stand space at GulFood 2018.

In the afternoon, Balkan companies met the representatives of Euro Balkan Trading LLC www.eurobalkantrading.com The Company is operating for 12 years and for the last 3 years entered into a joint venture with Al Ahli General Trading www.alahligeneraltrading.com and is present in all Emirates states with access to more than 250 accounts including largest retail chains. Euro Balkan Trading LLC import and distributes brands from the largest Balkan companies like Krash, Kolinska, Atlantis Group, Podravka etc. They provided detailed outlook how they operate and offered full service assistance to Balkan companies. Last year, the company opened another (second) own Balkan shop selling exclusively food and beverage products from the Balkan countries. www.eurobalkanshop.com. They had very productive discussions to expand portfolio and importing and selling different products from the Balkan (pepper based pickled products, confectionary and frozen fruits and veggies. 

During the trade mission to GulFood trade fair companies also visited several leading supermarket chains present on the market in Dubai and UAE. The Balkan group had an observation tour to the biggest of all five Carrefour stores in UAE with daily turnover of 1,5 -2 mil USD as well as Waitrose supermarkets. Companies analysed product categories and learned on main competitors in different product categories, packaging, sizes and formats, product mixes and positioning on the shelves.

On the third day Mr. Saimua pre-arranged a meeting with Mr. Sasha Marashlian, managing director for Middle East of Imagine Company (www.imagine-intl.com). Imagine operates as a consultancy agency under a specific fee model, providing the precise support and expertise for brands growth in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region but also as a Licensed Agent that operates under a commission base model. At the meeting he presented the role Imagine can play in opening the UAE market for Balkan products, network of distributors they work with as well as their relation with some of leading retailers. As a Food sector expert and an importer of a large portfolio of products he presented their experience in food trade development as well as explained all requirements for serving HoReCa market segment (hotels and restaurants). Each participant presented its company, product portfolio and their specific interest for partnership. It was agreed for Imagine to do an internal review of product offers and consultations with the network of distributors and based on the specific market opportunities to select companies from the Balkans they can cooperate with and introduce their products on UAE market.

Based on the their specific interest for processed vegetables, condiments and frozen fruits, on the last day, Mr. Saimua prearranged meeting for AgrarCo, Polimark and ITN with the management of Union Coop, second largest retailer in UAE. Union Coop already imports processed products from Podravka (Croatia) and imported several containers of frozen berries from Serbia. They were particularly interested for products that can be introduced under private label and it was agreed for them to provide detailed product specifications so REG companies can submit their offers. Participating companies observed displaying similar products throughout the Union Coop market.

REG coordinated two group meetings with Al Islami Company www.alislamifoods.com.  The company has 35 years’ experience in trading with frozen food in UAE. They’ve discussed with ITN (SRB) on introducing of frozen berries into their product pallet. ITN Company fulfills all advanced export standards and already has vast experience in supplying larger supermarket chains in EU. It was agreed for ITN to prepare and submit detailed product offer and send samples in different packaging that will be tested on the market. Poultry producers from BiH, Ovako and Madi (both are certified and are operating according HALAL standard) met with Al Islami sales director for UAE. Al Islami imports 8.000 tons per month of full chicken and chicken parts from the largest supplier from Brazil.  However, they expressed very strong demand for ORGANIC poultry and discussed opportunities to supply from the Balkans. It was agreed for BIH companies to check the procedures if they can get the certificate for ORGANIC poultry.  Having in mind the significant number of Bosnian people leaving in Dubai, another option discussed was for companies to offer whole chicken and/or any of the chicken parts under the most competitive price branded as “Bosnian” chicken, obviously as a differentiation strategy to get some premium price.  

While at the fair companies also had individually targeted and/or already pre-arranged meetings with importers, distributors exhibiting at the Trade Fair. List of major matching importers and distributors was provided to the group. Companies managed to visit stands and have multiple meetings with many potential buyers, presented their programs, export profile, certifications and corporate strategy and discussed opportunities for export sales. (Annex 4. List of recommended stands/companies to be visited at the GulFood)

Additionally, before the GulFood trade fair, Mr. Saimua provided market lead, product specification and quantities for sunflower oil from a big buyer in UAE. Bimal Company from BiH confirmed interest to supply the products and continued communication. Euro Balkan Trading Company submitted a request and provided detailed specification for a set of processed products (champignon mushrooms, baby carrots, sweet corn etc). REG secured a list of several potential suppliers from the Balkan countries. Euro Balkan selected Bonum and continued to negotiate products offer.

Posted
AuthorNicolas Segura