New influences on the staple bread diet

By Nagesh Gowda, regional sales manager, UAE, and Hesham Nassar, general manager, Egypt, Nutrition & Biosciences

Artisanal bread still rules in the Middle East and Africa, but industrial products are developing fast.

Consumers in the Middle East and Africa eat more bread than anywhere else in the world, says Pinar Hosafci from Euromonitor International. The bread they eat also stands out as the cheapest.

At the moment, most bread production in the region is traditional artisanal. Government subsidies of locally produced flour, high inflation and distribution challenges are some of the reasons why industrial bakers have struggled to gain a foothold.

“The price of industrial bread is comparatively high, and it is seen as more luxurious than artisanal bread, which is often high in salt and made with cheap flour,” Pinar Hosafci says.

Growth of packaged bread 
But times are changing. In Egypt – one of the biggest and most influential markets in the region – sales of packaged bread have grown from around 10% to more than twice that within the last few years.

Another example is the UAE, where as many as ten new bakery companies have appeared on the market since 2013, and the established players are increasing their production volumes.

The UAE’s large expat population is an important contributor to the Westernisation of tastes there. While locally produced, white toast bread is still the bestseller, there are signs that sales are stagnating. Demand for value-added bread with fiber and protein, on the other hand, is on the rise.

Willingness to pay more
Lifestyle trends are similarly driving the rise of Egypt’s industrial bread market, where around 25% of the population are willing to pay more for better bread products with longer-lasting freshness.  

Although government-subsidised bread is currently available to Egyptian consumers on low incomes, this could be dropped in the near future. One possible alternative under discussion is a cash benefit system – a move that would free bread prices of government control and make more room for industrial producers.

Restaurant drivers
Demands from the big restaurant chains in Egypt are already setting a new standard for industrial bread quality. Restaurants are further pushing local producers to supply them with frozen dough – marking the arrival of bake-off bread in the market.

All this has brought a growing number of enquiries about the functional ingredient solutions that we can offer at Nutrition & Biosciences. As a result, we have seen a rapid development in our own sales, which means we are now delivering our full range of bakery ingredients to bakers in the region.

We are always keen to share our expertise. To that end, we recently invited regional bakers to attend the first ever Nutrition & Biosciences bakery industry days in Egypt. Some 25 participants joined us for hands-on knowledge about high quality, industrial baking.

Thanks to Pinar Hosafci, senior food analyst at Euromonitor International for her contribution to the content of this article

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