Gulfood.Virtual, a pioneering all-new webinar series by global food and beverage power brand Gulfood, opened with an energetic panel discussion between industry leaders spanning the F&B ecosystem on the future of the region’s supply chain amid COVID-19 challenges.
In a lively session titled ‘Taming the Black Swan: Can our food supply chain cope’, the high-profile quartet of heavyweight regional executives discussed how the global pandemic has created opportunities for more effective integration between local producers and retailers, and how innovative, agile F&B operators will emerge stronger in the new environment.
Hani Weiss, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Retail, told the panel that the COVID-19 crisis had triggered a fundamental change in how retailers and suppliers are working, with consumers benefiting from more fresh, local produce and long-term access to essential foodstuffs.
“We need to have products on shelves so that customers can have a constant supply of their essentials today, tomorrow, and for the future. We have worked closely with our supply chain partners to ensure that we have enough stock. We have launched a programme that allows 600 small and medium farmers from across the UAE to fruits and vegetables, giving customers access to fresh food with lower carbon emissions.”
“There has been a drastic change in the way retailers and suppliers are working to adapt to this new environment. We have diversified our supply chain. Earlier we had two import sources for certain products, today we have 16, without compromising on our standards and quality,” he added.
Willem van Walt Meijer, CEO of Al Ain Farms, agreed that demand for fresh produce will increase, adding that innovation is key as the world pays greater attention to food security.
He said: “There will be an acceleration in demand for products that are fresh, natural, pure, with great taste; businesses will need clever new solutions to differentiate themselves. Consumers and retailers will also pay more attention to your food security measures. I am positive about the future, Al Ain Farms will work with retailers across the UAE to supply the nation’s daily fresh products.”
Bhushant Gandhi, COO, Truebell, UAE, a leading importer, wholesaler, distributor and exporter in the GCC, echoed the opinions of his peers on the need for innovation and integration with local producers, urging: “This has been the biggest stress test for the entire food and beverage industry. It is now truly survival of the fittest. If companies have adapted to the changing times, they will come out the other side.
“No one knows what the other side will look like. Businesses need to be agile, we have to be open to sourcing from different countries and local production facilities also need to be looked at closely, said Gandhi, who added: “This Gulfood webinar platform has allowed for minds to come together and find answers to the problems we are facing in this industry.”
Tolga Sezer, CEO, Al Safi Danone, KSA, cautioned that the ‘new normal’ for the industry is different from just a few months ago: “I would say it will require three to six months for imports and exports to stabilise. Supply is available but logistics are the challenge. The new normal will be different, consumers will expect more reassurance about the quality and safety of their products. There will be an increasing prominence towards healthy eating. Brands will need to communicate on different levels.”
The Gulfood.Virtual webinar series returned for a second time with an insightful session on 13 May, titled Taming the Black Swan: Finding the silver lining. Future webinars in the series will explore topics ranging from industry disruption, projections and scenarios for the future, to how plans of action supported by government authorities must lead to a secure food future.
To view the inaugural ‘Taming the Black Swan:Can our food supply chain cope’ webisode and for more information on the Gulfood.Virtual platform, visit www.gulfood.com
Gulfood’s associated events return at DWTC from 3-5 November 2020 when Gulfood Manufacturing, the largest food & beverage processing & packaging forum for the Middle East, Asia and Africa, will explore the inevitable transformation for the F&B supply chain in a post-COVID world.
Gulfood Manufacturing 2020 is co-located with the second edition of Private Label & Licensing Middle East Expo, the MENA region’s first dedicated private label and licensing exhibition; yummex Middle East, the leading sweets and snacks event for the Middle East and North Africa; GulfHost, the largest sourcing platform in the region for hospitality buyers and the ultimate meeting hub linking leading hospitality professionals with the suppliers; and The Speciality Food Festival, the only professional artisanal and gourmet exhibition in the MENA region.
About Gulfood: www.gulfood.com
Gulfood has established a position as the world’s largest annual food & beverages trade show. Split into eight specific food industry sectors, the trade-only show is professionally managed and hosted by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
About Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC): www.dwtc.com
DWTC brings more than 40 years’ experience delivering world-class events in the Middle East and provides local, regional and international exhibitors with unmatched expertise and in-depth market knowledge. Our team organises more than 20 of the largest and most successful international and regional shows in the Middle East, providing an ideal platform for business development in the region. Our commitment to on-going innovation within the exhibition industry has supported the rapid growth and development of a wide range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer shows and delivered consistent satisfaction to exhibitors and visitors. DWTC works with the leading trade bodies and industry associations to ensure that all exhibitions deliver full value and are built upon the real needs of their specific sector.