Gulfood Manufacturing: Ingredion Targets Middle East with Plant-Based, ‘Natural’ Products
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Global food and drink ingredients giant Ingredion is partnering with its distributor Univar to showcase a range of plant-based, low-sugar, ‘natural’ products at the Gulfood Manufacturing conference this November.
According to Ingredion, 50% of consumers in the UAE are prioritising their food and drink’s nutritional content and naturalness. It adds to other global research done by the company, which has found that 78% of consumers would spend more money on products with ‘natural’ or ‘all-natural’ packaging claims.
To meet these needs, Ingredion will be showcasing a line of healthier and natural products – including plant-based and low-sugar formulations – at the Gulfood Manufacturing conference in Dubai next month (November 7-9).
Ingredion’s plant protein push
Prepared by its principal culinologist Kevin Alder, the company will host a tasting menu featuring a vegetarian lamb kofta, egg-free tahini mayo (containing NEST, a citrus fibre), sugar-free chilli ketchup, fresh cream cheese with protein crackers, a chocolate dessert with no added sugar, a Crème Brulée, and reduced-sugar non-alcoholic beverages.
“We are thrilled to participate in the Gulfoods Manufacturing event and share our cutting-edge innovations with the world,” said Quentin Labbe, Ingredion’s MENA sales and technical services manager. “Our commitment to plant-based proteins, cost-effective formulations and sugar reduction capabilities reflects our dedication to meeting the evolving needs of consumers while helping manufacturers thrive in a challenging economic climate. We invite everyone to visit our booth to experience the future of food.”
Ingredion has previously launched a pea and rice protein blend for use in extruded snacks and drinks, as well as a low-viscosity pea and rice isolate for ready-to-mix drinks and protein bars with a clearer texture. And earlier this year, it debuted a chickpea protein innovation alongside Israeli startup InnovoPro – which it bought a stake in last year – at Chicago’s IFT First trade show.
The company, which has invested over $200M in plant-based proteins since 2019, saw its sales for these proteins rise by 118% in 2022, reaching $36M. In 2021, it also opened a dedicated facility in Nebraska, becoming the first North American manufacturer to make locally produced plant protein isolate, concentrate, flour and starch products.
Vegan wins in the Gulf
The Gulfood Manufacturing event is taking place in Dubai, where Thryve opened what was the UAE’s first plant-based meat factory in March. The city’s government is now working with local and international businesses and organisations to clamp down on food loss and waste to boost food security and promote a more sustainable economy.
Months after Thryve’s facility was opened, Switch Foods unveiled its own manufacturing plant in Abu Dhabi to produce vegan kebabs, minced meat and burgers. And this week, the latter announced a partnership with Al Safadi, a Lebanese restaurant chain in Dubai run by a former butcher, which will see four dishes served with Switch Foods’ meat alternatives.
These developments come as the UAE prepared to host COP28 – described as the first food-focused UN climate summit – which will feature a predominantly plant-based menu. The decision to do so coincides with the country’s Year of Sustainability, which includes a push to promote plant-based eating in the country. This is in line with consumer sentiment in the nation – a YouGov poll this week found that more than half (55%) of its citizens identify as flexitarian (including pescetarians), vegetarian or vegan.
Ingredion’s plant-forward launch is the latest example of an international company making a foray into UAE’s vegan sector. In 2021, US giant Impossible Foods made its Middle East debut at Dubai World Expo, while Singapore-based TiNDLE launched in this region for the first time at 20 UAE restaurants. Meanwhile, last year, Aussie-American precision fermentation leader Change Foods signed an agreement to build a first-of-its-kind commercial manufacturing plant in the UAE.
Last month, it announced an agrifood strategy to bolster the sector’s value to $10B and create 20,000 jobs by 2025, with regulatory advancements being one of the key pillars. While fellow Gulf country Israel is home to a host of alt-protein startups, industry think tank the Good Food Institute says the UAE is partnering “with foreign alternative meat startups, primarily US-based companies, to build commercial-scale production facilities and potentially fast-track regulatory approval” for cultivated meat.
In 2021, DisruptAD – the VC arm of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund ADQ – led the $105M Series B fundraising round for Israeli cultured meat leader Aleph Farms. And a 2022 study by PSB Insights – commissioned by US cultured meat pioneer Good Meat – found that while only 34% of people in the Middle East had heard of cell-cultured meat, awareness of the alt-protein was highest in the UAE.
Meanwhile, neighbouring nation Saudi Arabia is also actively promoting more plant-based foods – officials from the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture have co-signed deals to develop alt-protein products with locally sourced plants.