Exploring opportunities for U.S. beef and lamb, USMEF shared information about U.S. products and connected exporters with potential customers during Gulfood 2017, the Middle East region’s largest food trade show. Funding for USMEF’s efforts at the show, which attracted nearly 100,000 visitors from 165 countries, was provided by the USDA Market Access Program, the Beef Checkoff Program and the Beef Promotion and Research Council of Texas.
Held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Gulfood 2017 included 120 national pavilions. Hundreds of international heads of state, ministers, government officials and representatives of food trade associations joined buyers and traders for updates on products, trends and sources in the world’s ever-expanding food market.
Now in its 22nd year, Gulfood has grown by leaps and bounds.
“Gulfood started out as more of a regional event, but it’s really evolved into a global food show,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing. “This year you had companies and buyers representing the Middle East, Europe, Russia, Africa, China, Japan, Korea and several Latin American countries.”
“The show continues to amaze us in terms of business opportunities for our Middle East beef business,” said Mark Spengler, export sales general manager for Greater Omaha Packing Company, which has attended Gulfood for several years. “We very much appreciate the efforts of USMEF in terms of planning the event and were especially pleased with the new display location within Meat Hall 4, helping us reach out to more customers as we continue to strive for increased market penetration in the Middle East.”
U.S. beef has long been considered a high-end, high-quality niche for most people in the Middle Eastern foodservice sector, but the market is changing, Halstrom noted.
“If you look at the family-style dining sector, we have become much more competitive and we are seeing the presence of U.S. beef expand – not only in the United Arab Emirates, where this show was held, but also in countries like Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain,” explained Halstrom. “So we went into this year’s Gulfood looking at that segment as being a good opportunity for U.S. beef to gain additional share of the market.”
An additional bright spot at this year’s Gulfood was the chance to enhance promotion of U.S. beef to companies from Saudi Arabia, which at one time was a $31 million market. After four years of sitting on the sidelines, the U.S. regained eligibility to ship beef to Saudi Arabia in 2016.
“A lot of discussion was had about Saudi Arabia and there is a lot of optimism,” said Halstrom. “With a population of about 29 million people, there is definitely demand for high-quality grain-fed U.S. beef. However, it has been a slow process to get beef slaughter plants approved for export to Saudi Arabia. The conditions for compliance are more restrictive, but hopefully we can work through that and see significant volumes start to move in 2017.”
USMEF also took note of opportunities for U.S. lamb during Gulfood 2017.
“Lamb is a high-end niche in the market, but it’s something we are focused on for the Middle East region’s hotel and restaurant sector,” said Halstrom. “Similar to the beef side, U.S. lamb faces intense competition. But we feel the U.S. product has many advantages and we will continue to work with the trade in this region to further introduce U.S. lamb.”