A unique opportunity to foster increased ‘access to global markets’ has resulted in a diverse roster of nine start-up food and beverage companies participating on the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development stand at this week’s Speciality Food Festival, which runs until Tuesday 11th November at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
Comprising nine specialist F&B companies manufacturing dates, sweets and cakes, mineral water, bakery goods, popcorn, frozen yoghurt, hydroponically-grown fruit and vegetables and healthy food dispensing vending machines, the Khalifa Fund financed start-ups have ensured the UAE capital’s dedicated entrepreneurial funding scheme occupies the largest stand at the Speciality Food Festival – a dedicated trade show for niche food products suppliers and buyers.
While the fledgling brands – which include Laroche, Liwa Dates, Neuchatel, Popular Popcorn, Swiss Bakery, Sirma, Yalla, Yogen Früz and Zaarie – are not yet all household names, that may be about to change.
“Our recent studies show that in the last six months we have seen a significant rise in revenues generated from exporting F&B products created or manufactured in the UAE to regional or global markets. Events such as the Speciality Food Festival provide a tailored platform to access global markets,” said Abdullah Saeed Al Darmaki, CEO, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.
Although the Speciality Food Festival provides industry-specific Khalifa Fund start-ups with unrivalled access to global buyers, Al Darmaki insisted most of his entrepreneurial start-ups are set more realistic objectives – namely engaging in valuable knowledge-sharing exercises and, where possible, targeting increased trade volumes to neighbouring GCC nations.
“It is very important for our companies to network with show visitors who are looking to acquire some of our products for their home markets,” Al Darmaki added. “Products produced domestically tend to do perform well regionally as GCC consumers have similar tastes to UAE consumers.
“Following the event we will then follow-up with the participants who activated to gather sales data or information on any partnerships they have signed but we don’t set targets when we come to these events. Instead, our objective is for our entrepreneurs to rub shoulders with other businesses - whether they are from Spain, Korea or anywhere in the world - and take part in the knowledge transfer process.”
Having invested more than AED800 million in start-up enterprises since the initiative’s inception in 2007, Al Darmaki revealed F&B companies represent almost a third of the total Khalifa Fund investment to date. For companies performing well, further investment opportunities are available.
“Since day one, about a third of the projects we have financed are companies in the F&B sector, so there is always huge interest from our entrepreneurs to participate in international trade shows such as the Speciality Food Festival,” said Al Darmaki. “Investment in a start-up usually ranges from half a million dirhams to three million dirhams but we are always mindful that certain elements in the investment need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. We have financial products where once a business is up-and-running and it reaches maturity, the entrepreneur can come back to us and apply for additional financial products geared towards accelerated growth. If they want to expand, we can accommodate them.”
With buyers and distributors from as far afield as Australia, Brazil and Belgium registering interest in the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development start-ups’ products during the Speciality Food Festival, Khalid Al Fahim, the event’s Show Director, believes the nine companies’ may not be returning to Al Darmaki any time in the near future.
“The Speciality Food Festival is a perfect platform for companies – much like those on the Khalifa Fund stand - to showcase niche product lines to a target audience of buyers, gourmet chefs, distributors, delicatessens and retail outlets from across the UAE, GCC and around the world,” said Al Fahim. “To have such a diverse spread of UAE-based F&B entrepreneurs participating at the show is a tremendous endorsement of the work being done across the public and private sectors to promote homegrown food manufacturers and producers.”
Offering even greater networking potential and selling opportunities, the Speciality Food Festival 2014 has attracted more than 160 specialist exhibitors from 29 countries and is 200 per cent larger than its 2010 debut.
The show is open from 10am-6pm on November 9-10 and 10am-5pm on November 11. The show will run adjacent to Sweets & Snacks Middle East, the region’s only dedicated sweets and confectionary goods exhibition, and SEAFEX, a dedicated seafood trade show for the F&B services and hospitality industries.
The three niche food shows are for trade and business professionals only. General public and persons under the age of 21 will not be permitted entry. Registration is available at the show upon proof of trade status.