The Middle East is expected to have the greatest increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes by 2030, according to UK medical journal The Lancet. It is estimated that 10.5% of the population in the region have type 2 diabetes.
Lamine Lahouasnia, head of packaged food research at Euromonitor International, said bakery manufacturers could play an important role with healthier variants, particularly given the high rate of bread consumption.
Across the Middle East and Africa, bread represents 18% of the total diet – double consumption levels in Eastern Europe, just above levels in Western Europe (14%) and nearly five times the level of consumption in North America (4%), according to Euromonitor data.
“Given that most of the bread consumed [in the Middle East] is being subsidized, it is often very cheap, white flour bread containing high levels of sugar and salt which is not particularly good for people with diabetes,” Lahouasnia told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“Bread is now a product that they have to limit, or even exclude,” he said.
‘There needs to be a shift away from white bread’
Across the Middle East, 99% of bread is unpackaged and subsidized with only a sliver of the market left for private bakery manufacturers and packaged bread.
Despite this very small market opening, Lahouasnia said there is a huge level of opportunity to enter the market with packaged, healthier bread varieties.
“There needs to be a shift away from white bread. We’ve seen it in the UK, for example, where consumers eat a lot more whole grain and brown bread. There still needs to be a shift toward healthier bread in the Middle East, and it hasn’t occurred yet because of the subsidies."
He said it would be difficult for private companies to compete with the price of subsidized loaves but with more education on health, consumers would be willing to pay a bit more, particularly those with higher incomes. However, Lahouasnia did warn that the strongest future for bread in the Middle East remained in value.
Education to drive chances
Boosting education on the health properties of bread across the Middle East is key, the analyst said. Private bakery companies need to get involved in this education effort, alongside government and NGOs.
“If they are the only companies selling products that are healthier, they need to justify the pricing. They have to think about how to position a loaf that is five, six or even 10 times the price of another bread. There needs to be a good reason why consumers should pay that price. They can argue for higher quality or different types of breads, but ultimately people are willing to pay more for healthy items, so there definitely needs to be that healthy education from the private sector.”