Hot topics were on the table for the F&B industry at the inaugural Gulfood Innovation Summit held in Dubai. These included talks on health, premiumisation, plant-based protein and how AI and blockchain are revolutionizing the food space.
What I found particularly interesting is how eating behaviours and preferences are changing. Youth are hungry for quick and convenient food options where they get more bang for the buck in nutrient-rich easy meals in the shape of shakes and snacks. ‘Dark’ kitchens may be the order of the future so instead of ‘free from’ foods we have ‘free from’ restaurants as we choose to eat in rather than out and order direct from a kitchen for dinner to be served at the door.
Bio-hacking is a buzz term reminding us to eat mindfully and live our best lives weighing against the scales of the digital age where at a click of a button on our technical devices we have access to a wide range of foods and products. People want to experience the world of taste and flavors and the digital space is broadening our experience and how we interact with ingredients. A good example of this was explained by Michael Barsties, Head of Food Waste Heroes Programme at Olio. This app enables us to connect with our neighbours and the wider community to share our surplus food and avoid wastage.
Another stand out moment was hearing Ben Ebrell co-founder and chef of Sortedfood speak about the success of this online food community. He says it is down to the power of friendship between the founders (they met at school) and a shared passion for food and the art of storytelling. Sorted enhances brands in the global marketplace by telling the story behind the food and this way adding value to a marketing strategy through the targeted lines of social media and the internet. He says It needs to be honest, fulfill a craving and offer the chance to interact and share. This may sound like the kind of afternoon tea I would enjoy as a child at my grandma’s house but I agree with him and maybe this is, in essence, what we are seeking to recreate. Businesses can open up to the consumer and bring hearts and minds together through the story behind the brand rather than simply being commercial and transactional. Consumers want to know the story, the traceability and not just feel they are being sold to. Creating the right synergy between the brand, the creative and the consumer is an exciting way forward in marketing your business online.∗
I really enjoyed hosting the event over three days, moderating panel discussions and listening to the keynote speakers. For those in the food business, the Gulfood’s Annual Report for 2019 is available to download for free on their website giving you further insights into industry growth, trends and customer preferences along with the speaker presentations. I look forward to seeing how the ideas develop and take shape and what topics will be on the table next year and up for discussion at Gulfood 2020.
Chef Manal Al Alem reaches women across the globe with her social network and Youtube channel sharing recipes and offering support to women who wish to start their own food-related business.
∗ On how to reach and connect with the consumer, I have written a variety of pieces for the business, Balqees Honey, for their website and newsletter. By sharing the stories behind the honey’s and traveling to the source and interviewing the beekeepers I bring the personal story behind the brand to the forefront aiming to inform, inspire and build a relationship of trust. Here are some examples: