Latvian food industry in the Middle East market: high standards, quality and sustainable packaging

After the fairs and negotiations with potential cooperation partners, Latvian companies reveal that in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East market, Latvian products are particularly appreciated for their high-quality standards and sustainable packaging, as well as the eco-friendly products. From 7 to 9 November, the international fair ‘YUMMEX’ andThe Specialty Food Festival’ took place in Dubai, UAE, where eleven companies represented Latvia: ‘Pernes L’, ‘Pūre Chocolate’, ‘Snacks and More’, ‘Lat Eko Food’, ‘Mottra’, ‘King Coffee Service’, ‘Blue Circle’, ‘Fruitis Foods’, ‘Ricberry’, ‘Madonas Firecheese’ and ‘Smartfoody’. At the end of the fairs, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) launched a food trade mission, which included product presentations and B2B events at the Latvian EXPO pavilion, as well as meetings of Latvian companies with potential partners in the UAE market.

Cooperation agreements have been established and negotiations have begun


According to Anna Daudziņa, Senior Project Manager of the Export Promotion Division at LIAA, Latvian food exports in the UAE and the Middle East have great potential, which at the same time opens up opportunities in other markets: "Although decision-making and implementation of cooperation with potential partners in the UAE is not fast, we are really pleased that after the past fairs several companies have managed not only to start cooperation negotiations, but have already signed cooperation agreements. Several companies have also already applied to take part in the trade mission, which will take place during the international food fairs Gulfood and Expo 2020 Dubai from 17 to 24 February 2022, to continue the ongoing negotiations and reach out to new partners. We see that the products offered by our companies are interesting and very appealing for the UAE and the Middle East market in general."

"It takes both time and patience to conquer the UAE and Middle East markets. This is a very different market, it is important to get to know the local lifestyle, habits, make contacts and regularly meet potential partners. During ‘The Speciality Food Festival’, ‘Madonas Firecheese’, introduced hundreds of customers to our special grilled Raclette cheese. Visitors ranged from ordinary consumers to representatives of retail chains, hotels and restaurants. There was a lot of interest in our product. And we have already established an agreement with ‘Almaya’ that they will be the distributors of our cheese in the UAE. Of course, there are still some steps to be taken to start the real trading, but we are determined and are already doing everything we can to make it a success. Negotiations are also ongoing with the Egyptian representative. The process of starting cooperation is not quick, but it is moving forward. I think we had a very successful start at the fair. It has been a great opportunity for us to show ourselves to the world and gain even more confidence in our product," says Lāsma Adamoviča, the founder of ‘Madonas Firecheese’.


High quality standards, eco-products and sustainable packaging


According to the entrepreneurs, the UAE and Middle East markets, Latvian products are particularly appreciated for their high quality standards and sustainable packaging, as well as the eco-friendly products. "The ’YUMMEX’ fair was a great showcase of the rapid development of the UAE and the Middle East region in recent years. The number of outlets and suppliers has increased. The competition in the sweet industry is fierce, you cannot rest on your achievements, you have to constantly work on new products, innovate, keep up with the changes of consumer tastes and market demand. ‘Pūre Chocolate’ prides itself on the taste and quality of chocolate truffles. We use only natural ingredients, expensive Freeze Dry decor and natural berries to produce our truffles. We have started phasing out the use of plastic in truffle packaging. The first product line with 0% plastic packaging has already been recognised. What makes this packaging innovative is the wrapping paper, made from 100% Home Compostable material. This means that the packaging is compostable and decomposes without leaving microparticles in the soil. To compete with global brands on the international market, a product must meet the highest standards in all aspects, where ingredients and their origin, as well as packaging are equally important. That is why we brought to Dubai a unique product, innovative packaging and our expertise, which reflect our success stories in other markets. Our products were appreciated and many companies approached us during the fair, offering cooperation in several countries of the Middle East region," says Rihards Zvērs, Export Sales Manager at Pūre Chocolate.


Kaspars Kupris, a representative of ‘Mottra’, reveals that quality is in fact the only thing that can surprise and stand out in the Middle East region. "The majority of caviar producers around the world - around 90% - take the quickest and cheapest route and use the preservative boric acid, which amongst food products is only allowed in caviar and only in small quantities. But we spend much more time and resources on it and only produce a pure product with a little salt added. This makes the product more expensive but of high quality, which is particularly important at a time when people are paying more attention to the ingredients in their food. The Middle East market is very different from what we are used to: the level of prosperity is much higher. While in the rest of the world one has to try to sell your products cheaper, in the Middle East this is not an advantage. People are very concerned about status, they prefer to buy eggs at ten times the price, because it is important to show that they can afford it. Of course, the quality has to be appropriate. So we made a series for special order, with edible gold flakes added to the roe. It is not interesting to just buy caviar, but with gold it is a totally different deal," says Kaspars Kupris.

Iveta Freiberga, Business Development and Sales Director at ‘Lat Eko Food’, says: "Although in Europe it is nothing new, but the Middle East region is now very focused on healthy and clean food. Both the organic origin of the products and factors such as sugar and flavour enhancer-free products are important. Our strengths are certainly our high quality standards and the certificates that verify them. In addition our products are also ‘HALAL’ and ‘KOSHER’ certified, which is particularly important for customers in the Middle East region. During both the trade fair and the food trade mission, we have met a number of potential cooperation partners with whom we are currently negotiating cooperation. We think that the first results will be at the earliest in six months, but in this market that is a normal timeframe for a deal to happen."


Good results for dairy companies and many hopeful contacts


At the end of ‘YUMMEX’ and ‘The Speciality Food Festival’, LIAA launched a food trade mission, which included product presentations and B2B events at the Latvian EXPO pavilion, as well as meetings between Latvian companies and potential partners in the UAE market. At the end of November, a trade mission was organised for the members of the Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers who went to Dubai as part of the visit of president of Latvia Egils Levits to the UAE.


"The Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers cooperates with LIAA in various ways - both on the domestic and export markets. Through an EU co-funded communication project, which allows us to carry out various market promotion activities in third countries, including the UAE, and combined with the opportunities provided by LIAA, our entrepreneurs really had a great opportunity to go on this trade mission. At this difficult time for the Latvian dairy industry, it is very important that all our actions can be carried out as economically as possible, while at the same time boosting exports and getting to know new markets. It is difficult to say yet how these meetings will affect export volumes, but the outlook is promising and the business community recognises that there have been unexpectedly good results and many promising contacts and opportunities for the future. So I think this has been a good start for further cooperation to increase our exports in the UAE and perhaps other countries in the Gulf region, as we will be heading to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia immediately after Gulfood in February as part of Expo 2020 Dubai. Nothing happens quickly in the Eastern market, but if it does, it happens properly, and it is a very solvent market, so I hope that these measures will have a positive impact on the industry's export volume", says Jānis Šolks, Chairman of the Board of the Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers.

"Yes, Latvia is not big, but our compact size is an advantage in the Middle East market - due to the fact that we are small, we can be very flexible and easily adapt to customer needs. We do not have to sell to all 100 million citizens, we can offer to one million or 500 000, but with a higher added value," says Jānis Bērtulsons, Member of the Board of ‘Jaunpils Pienotava’. "We know that we can produce a very high quality product in Latvia, we have a great tradition of dairy farming. And above all, being from Europe is a sign of quality in the UAE. Dairy companies also participated in the trade mission to prepare for the Gulfood fair in Dubai in February. Purposeful meetings with existing and prospective partners allowed us to better understand their interests, showcase several products that had been sent to the Latvian national stand and understand exactly how to prepare for the fair. This is a difficult time for dairy companies in Latvia due to the increase in raw material prices, so the UAE with its financial potential is a very valuable market for us. The current situation puts us under a lot of pressure to come together with other companies in the sector and think about how can we develop. The real outcome will be seen in February, but it is already gratifying that Latvian companies in the UAE are not competing with each other, but in fact are able to agree on a common concept, recognise the strengths of each production facility and offer the best that each can produce."


‘YUMMEX’ is the Middle East and North Africa region's largest sweets and snacks fair, it is organised in partnership with ‘Koelnmesse’, organiser of the popular ISM fair. The product groups represented in the fair include chocolate and chocolate products, sweets, biscuits, savoury snacks, natural sweets and snacks, breakfast cereals and breakfast snacks, frozen and fresh confectioneries, ice cream, etc. The 2019 fair attracted 252 companies and 9,000 visitors from 111 countries.

Meanwhile, ‘The Speciality Food Festival’ is the Middle East and North Africa region's leading gourmet food fair, attracting a wide range of visitors from different food segments. In the fair, premium products, beverages, ethnic food, free from and organic food, Halal products, rare ingredients and spices, etc. will be represented


The food trade mission is organised to provide Latvian companies with an opportunity to visit the world fair EXPO 2020, to hold product presentations and B2B events at the Latvian EXPO pavilion, and to facilitate meetings between Latvian companies and potential partners in the UAE market.