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Fri 20 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Snack fever

MBS Foods CEO Simon Mathers explains the challenges of suppling premium quality snack foods to the growing Middle Eastern market.

MBS Foods CEO Simon Mathers explains the challenges of suppling premium quality snack foods to the growing Middle Eastern market.

The premium snack food sector is one of the fastest growing markets in the Middle East according MBS Foods CEO Simon Mathers.

With an emphasise on promoting healthy eating habits, MBS Foods - the FMCG division of regional conglomerate MBS Group - was set-up to serve the growing demand for snack foods in the Middle East.

Nowadays, consumers in the region spend more on higher-quality, healthier snacks and drinks Mathers claims, and this is where MBS comes in.

"What we do is quite straight-forward; we source premium products from Europe, South Africa and other parts of the world, and then ship them to the Middle East to distribute to high-end outlets in the region," explains Mathers.

The key be being a good catering supplier is finding the right people to work with explains Mathers.

"We have ensured that from the very beginning our relationship with our suppliers is one of direct, hands-on involvement.

"MBS provides feedback to make sure that the products we market are in line with regional tastes, trends and customer perceptions."

With so many products available on the market, understanding the consumer is paramount to providing the right snack food solution explains Mathers.

"The success of this approach is evident in our rapid penetration of the snack and beverage market.

"In less than a year we've successfully established ourselves as a supplier to top-tier catering and hospitality businesses."

Sourcing the right products is down to experience says Mathers, who believes that researching global trends is essential in creating a successful product portfolio.

"It's imperative that products have to be of highest standards and meet local customer preferences."

Recent government legislation changes that enforce Arabic labeling on all food products is a major challenge for the industry says Mathers.

"Convincing our suppliers, especially the smaller ones, to change their whole packaging is very difficult due to the high cost involved.

"However, we acknowledge that this regulation will be implemented and we are taking all necessary steps to assist our principals."

Buyers in the Middle East have also become more value-conscious as the rise in global food prices has "made cost an important factor in customers' decision making".

MBS Foods plans to cement its presence in Dubai before venturing into other regions says Mathers.

"Once we are firmly established here, we then plan on expanding to other countries in the Middle East."

Popular productsGlennans was the first company in the UK to market healthy root-vegetable crisps and is the industry benchmark for quality when it comes to crisps made from carrots, beetroots, parsnips and orange sweet potatoes claims Mathers.

Glennans caters to different needs with packages ranging from small 20g packs for individual consumers to large buckets for chefs and other volume users.

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