The Middle East has a distinct sweet tooth. Men, women and children – everyone likes sweets, especially chocolates. That’s why the sweets and confectionery sector is one among the few that has defied recessionary conditions, registering growth even during the economic downturn.
The region is ranked among the top 10 global markets for sweets and confectionery products, with high per capita consumption. Euromonitor estimates that the UAE imported 36,844 tonnes of chocolate in 2010, a 21.53% increase over 2009, while sugar confectionery imports totalled 21,757 tonnes. It sees retail sales of chocolate confectionery in the MENA region growing 20% annually from 2010 to 2015, with AC Nielsen predicting the regional market for chocolate will be worth $5.8 billion by 2016.
Brands are putting in concerted efforts to gain higher market share, adding depth and breadth to their collections, ensuring product innovation and evolving packaging ideas to cater to rising consumer demand and maintain an edge over the competition. And in keeping with global food trends towards healthier eating, they are also offering low-calorie, fat-free, gluten-free and fibre-rich organic products. Here’s a look at some of the leading players.
Attracting consumers with wide offerings, from sweet to savoury
Candelite offers everything under one roof – from artisan lollipops, candy floss and popcorn to gelato, cookies and premium, sugar-free chocolates – its portfolio of over 2,000 products representing over 65 brands in eight segments – Kiddy Delights, Funky Treats, Classic Delights, No-Guilt Options, Snackin’ Around, The Gourmet Room, Gifts Galore and Chill-Out Zone.
“We travel from the US to Europe to Asia to get the best product mix, attending all the major trade fairs to understand prevailing market trends before zeroing in on brands to add to our portfolio. We taste anywhere between 800 to 900 products at these events before we end up picking around 40 to 50. That’s what makes our offerings so unique and diversified,” explains Jani Viswanath, the company’s business head.
Kiddy Delight targets children with hand-made lollipops that use natural colours while Chocotime offers character-shaped chocolates and Funky Treats targets teenagers with colour-, gluten- and gelatine-free jelly beans, flavoured mints and a range of sour treats. For adults, there is Classic Delights, which offers chocolate bars that include dark chocolates in unique flavours like chili and pepper, truffles, flavoured candy sticks and ice creams and pick ‘n’ mix chocolate coated nuts and fruits. For the health-conscious, there’s No-Guilt with its sugar-free, low calorie, organic and vegetarian chocolates and candies.
Snackin’ Around is for those who may not like sweets, its wide range of savoury options including brands like Nutorious Nuts and Captain Tip Toes, while Chill-Out Zone offers hand-made Italian gelato sticks and scoops, sugar-free options, freshly made cotton candy and Slush Puppie.
At the high end is the Gourmet Room, which offers premium chocolate brands such as Al Nassma, Rococo and Divan; the Churchill range of English toffees and biscuits that come in exotic boxes shaped like telephone booths, post boxes, buses etc; as well as t-shirts, soft toys, candles and accessories that serve as ideal gifts.
“We also have a Gifts Galore segment in which consumers can pick up English chocolates, French biscuits and so on to create their own gift boxes. Our packaging adds value to our products. To give an example, we offer chocolates packed in a shoe box to get a quirky yet appealing look,” Viswanath adds.
Candelite recently launched a candy buffet concept that offers a wide selection of sweets ranging from mint candy and dark chocolate to truffle and nuts. Its success has now emboldened the company to add ice-creams and gelatos to the buffet mix.