11/27/2012 12:00 AM

SIAL Middle East 2012 opens in Abu Dhabi with private label experts debating the risks and rewards for GCC retailers looking to capitalise on growth potential for value and mid-level own range

His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), officially inaugurated the third edition of SIAL Middle East, which opened today at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), in the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research,

HE Rashid Mohamed Al Shariqi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), said on the occasion of the opening of SIAL Middle East: �SIAL Middle East has accomplished much in its first and second editions. This year, the number of participants increased to include more than 1000 food companies from 52 countries. This is in addition to the innovative products on display and the quantum of business deals expected to be struck during the event. All this is thanks to the support of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.�

Describing SIAL Middle East as a significant regional business event, Al Shariqi added: �The Emirate of Abu Dhabi aims through hosting this event at widening the scope of food businesses across the region. Abu Dhabi is offering through the event a wonderful opportunity for companies to access the dynamic markets across the Middle East and North Africa, besides South and South East Asia. The superior food safety infrastructure that ADFCA put in place as well as the standards and specifications in vogue are comparable to the best anywhere in the world. This has created a congenial atmosphere for investments in the food sector in the emirate.�

ADFCA Director General pointed out that SIAL Middle East had provided food suppliers an ideal opportunity to learn from the best international experiences. �Events such as SIAL and their success will go a long way in strengthening the country�s efforts towards improving the food security situation in the UAE and guaranteeing that all citizens and residents have access to sufficient and safe food,� he concluded.

Running alongside the exhibition, the SIAL Middle East conference opened with a keynote panel discussion on private label sector growth potential for the GCC region, which currently stands at just 3% compared to over 35% in Europe and 20% in the US.

�Brands are big business for the region, across all market sectors, and with consumers becoming increasingly selective, the growth of private labels in the food industry is a logical next step for local and international retailers - and SIAL Middle East is the ideal platform to translate ideas into action,� said Chris Fountain, Managing Director of Turret Media, organisers of SIAL Middle East

Moderated by Koen de Jong, Director, International Private Label Consult, panelists Maurice van Vliet, CEO of Netherlands-based consultancy, and Victoria Hassani, Managing Director, Global Market Access ME, painted a realistic picture of the challenges and opportunities for local and international Gulf retailers.

�Private label brands have been around since the early 1900s. It�s not just a question of producing a quality product; this needs to be supported by sophistication in terms of packaging, and investment in marketing and promotional strategies in order to drive consumer confidence,� said van Vliet.

�If you take Carrefour as an example, to support its private label activity in China, the company partnered with a high profile Chinese basketball player, who�d played in the US� NBA, to headline its marketing activity,� he added.

�The consolidation of retail in the region has seen local players such as Lulu and Panda rise to the top to take on international retailers like Spinneys and Carrefour, and it makes good business sense to move forward and develop private label ranges,� remarked Hassani.

�With no monolithic consumer base with shared culture and culinary tastes, a major challenge is to position private label as a brand and market it as such, not merely as an adjunct or afterthought. There is also a need for systems and procedures - such as category management and just-in-time controls - to be adopted, as growth to date has been organic rather than structured,� she added.

Visitors to the event are expected to hit the 15,000 mark across all four exhibitions, which - for the first time � include the relocated Rice & Grains showcase, Emirates International Date Festival, and the International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) event.

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