April 21, 2024
Middle East Coconut Products

Middle East Coconut Products Industry Emerging Strongly amid GCC Economies

The coconut products industry in the Middle East region has witnessed significant growth over the past decade driven by growing demand and innovation. Coconut being native to South and Southeast Asian countries has found a strong consumer base in the Gulf countries where tropical fruits and juices have become quite popular. In this article, we look at the various coconut products available in the markets of Middle Eastern countries and analyze the growth prospects of this industry.

Rise of virgin coconut oil

One of the fastest growing coconut product segments in the Middle East has been virgin coconut oil (VCO). Traditionally used for cooking, the multi-purpose uses and health benefits of VCO have led to a surge in demand. Countries like UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman now annually import thousands of tons of VCO mainly from Philippines, Indonesia, and India. VCO manufacturers in these exporting countries have set up distribution networks across GCC to tap into the lucrative market. VCO is now commonly used for massages, skin/hair care and as a general health supplement due its medium chain fatty acids and antibacterial properties. The annual import value of VCO into the Middle East region is estimated to cross $100 million by 2025.

Coconut water – a thirst quencher for the Gulf

Coconut water from young coconuts has become one of the most popular packaged beverages across Middle Eastern supermarkets, restaurants and touristic places. Large coconut plantations in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia process young coconuts into aseptically packaged single serving coconut water pouches and cartons. Major brands like Vita Coco, COCO5 and H20nCo import millions of pouches each year to meet the burgeoning demand. Fast urbanization and hot weather conditions have made coconut water a preferred natural thirst quencher for the Gulf residents and visitors. Countries like UAE, Qatar are now pioneering innovative packaging solutions like aluminum canned coconut water to further boost consumption. The coconut water market in the region is estimated to grow at over 10% annually.

Expanding markets for desiccated coconut

Beside VCO and coconut water, desiccated coconut or copra remains a traditional favorite across Middle Eastern households. Copra, the dried kernel of coconut, finds diverse culinary applications in local cuisines like kabsa, kushari, mandi, and halwa. Countries like Philippines, Sri Lanka are major exporters of desiccated coconut to the Gulf countries where it has a ready market among South Asian and Filipino expatriate population. Local food manufacturers also use copra in snacks, confectionaries, bakery and dessert mixes. The demand is also fueled by the growing health and wellness trend as desiccated coconut is high in fiber and nutrients. Copra export to GCC countries crossed $50 million in 2021 and is projected to increase steadily.

Coconut flour gaining recognition

With increased sensitization around gluten-free diets, Middle East Coconut Products flour has emerged as a popular alternative in Gulf countries. Coconut flour derived from dried coconut meat is used as a low carb substitute for wheat flour. It contains high levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals while being naturally gluten-free. Major coconut flour exporters to the Middle East include Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines. Local grocery chains now stock various grades and packaging sizes of coconut flour to meet the rising demand especially among health-conscious urban consumers. Bakeries and restaurants have also experimented with coconut flour based breads and cookies. Food scientists are working on developing innovative coconut flour mixes, cereals and snacks catered for Gulf markets.

Innovation in value-added coconut products

To further boost coconut industry contributions, manufacturers have diversified to value-added products and formats. Some new offerings gaining popularity include shelf-stable coconut yogurt and kefir drinks, coconut aminos, coconut chips and meals, coconut jerky or meat analogs, coconut spreads and butters. Countries have also fostered innovation through research and pilot projects. For example, United Arab Emirates announced a $10 million fund focused on developing sustainable plant-based foods including new coconut product lines. Innovation hubs in South-East Asia collaborate with Gulf counterparts to develop products customized for local palates. Halal certification has enabled wider reach within conservative Muslim markets. E-commerce platforms are also playing a vital role in gaining awareness and product trial across the region.

Growth opportunities and investments

Access to affordable financing and joint ventures present lucrative opportunities for coconut stakeholders to expand GCC presence. In recent years, initiatives like EXPO 2020 Dubai and trade agreements have brought key Asian coconut exporters and Gulf F&B investors onto a common platform. Large supermarket chains in the region have continuously expanded shelf space for tropical fruits and exotic products to cater expat communities. Countries like Oman and Qatar are looking at coconut farming as a viable diversification from oil economy. This has attracted foreign investments towards backward integration of supply chains into the coconut producing nations. With sustained population growth, health consciousness and evolving retail landscapes, the future prospects for Middle East coconut products industry are brighter than ever. Strong multi-stakeholder collaborations will see this sector scale new heights in coming years.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it