The United Arab Emirates with Dubai at its centre may be known to have the most advanced food and beverage market in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest economy overall with some US$1.11tn in GDP as of 2022, ranked 17 worldwide according to economy analytics firm World Data.
Industry players say recent Saudi initiatives have benefitted the food and beverage sector.
“Saudi Arabia is moving quickly to address any challenges that lie in the way of creating a sustainable working environment for women, and this has been particularly so in the food and beverage industry,” PepsiCo Senior Plant Manager Noof Hasan Nooh told the floor at a recent panel discussing the Saudi Arabian food and beverage sector.
“This has included areas such as addressing the importance of daycare and transportation to support mothers so that we do not need to worry about the logistics in leading balanced and efficient lives between motherhood and career.
“There are also more women being appointed to senior positions, within the private sector initially, but it is happening.”
Noof holds the distinction of being the first female plant manager in the country, and it is significant that this appointment has been made within the food manufacturing sector which the government is currently investing heavily in modernising.
“Saudi Arabia aims to localise 85% of our food industry, particularly food manufacturing, y 2025,”, Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON) Investment Development Director Abdulrahman Alromaizan stated at the same panel.
“There have been very significant initiatives and investments put into this, such as the building of 36 industrial cities all over the country that bring together manufacturing, logistics, laboratories and more to put together a food value chain.
“The main concern focus now is to increase efficiency by clustering these functions close together, and provide that ideal infrastructure and community.”
According to data from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA), the cost of food imports for the country stands at around SR70bn (US$18.7bn) every year.
MEWA Entrepreneurship Department Supervisor General Dr. Ali Al-Sabhan previously also issued statements on the government’s targets for a 500% increase in fish production and for total export value to hit SR3bn (US$799.8mn), with date exports making up a large portion of this.
“The ministry is adopting a strategy to develop innovation and entrepreneurship which will eventually contribute to enhancing the competitiveness and sustainability [of] the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said.
Saudi as a strategic investment
Another Saudi private sector female leader, consulting firm Mukatafa’s Chief Advocacy Officer Razan Farhan Alaqil, said the sector was also benefitting from overseas investment.
“Food processing and manufacturing is a key pillar of our National Industrial Strategy as well, so there is also the national level support systems from public and private sectors that go along with it,” she said.
“There is unprecedented inclusion of the private sector by the public sector when it comes to food manufacturing, showcasing the real determination to transform and grow, and if continued on this track investors will feel more and more confident in the country as a strategic investment option.”