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Middle East’s bakers get ready for free-from demand

By Ankush Chibber , 11-Mar-2014

Middle East’s bakers get ready for free-from demand

Gluten-free and dairy-free are the new buzzwords in the Middle East’s bakery market, as consumers look for ‘healthier’ bakery products, industry sources have said.

Matthijs Spiering, commercial manager for Zeelandia International b.v, told FoodNavigator that there is high demand for pastry mixes, cake mixes, pastry fillings and toppings, with a recent focus on free-from varieties.

“There is also a high demand for ingredients for bread products, which include a mix of local, Indian and European bread products. There are of course differences depending on income levels and purchasing power,” he said.

Zeelandia is a century-old Netherlands-based manufacturer of bakery ingredients, pastry ingredients and release agents that has been working with distributors in the Middle East for about two decades.

However, Spiering said bakers in the Middle East are reporting growing demand for low-carb, gluten-free, eggless and sugar-free bakery products, for which Zeelandia has started supplying mixes.

“We have also started supplying mixes for bakery products meant for diabetes,” said Spiering, adding that the Middle East consumer is now also a more aware customer—even if there is a health issue in the West, they hear about it, and want products according to that.

“Health issues will play an important role in bakery manufacturing going forward,” said Spiering, who was speaking on the sidelines of Gulfood 2014, the Middle East’s biggest food and beverage industry show.

Leslie Horne, international marketing manager for Genius, a UK-based gluten free and dairy-free bakery products makers, agreed.

Genius, which claims to be the market leader in the UK in gluten-free products, signed a retail contract with two major retailers in the Middle East in January this year to supply seven products including gluten-free loaves and pita bread.

Horne said that while there is a rising incidence of coeliac disease in the region, there is little, though growing, awareness about it. “We found that most people in the Middle East used to go online, get their information, and then order gluten-free products online,” she said, adding that the initial response has been tremendous.

The Middle Eastern population has had a history of lactose intolerance, which is also working in Genius’ favour. “Our products are dairy-free as well. We have seen that people with coeliac disease typically also have lactose intolerance and so our products make sense for them,” she said.

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