Future Food Forum 2023 the Middle East’s largest annual gathering of food industry leaders, puts India and UAE in the Spotlight, Focusing on Food Security, Sustainability and Innovation in the Middle East.
The two-day event was hosted by the UAE Food & Beverage Business Group (F&B Group) and managed by the UAE Ministry of Economy and Dubai Chamber, with support from the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism and Food Tech Valley.
The event discussed the importance of food security, technological advancements in agri-tech and vertical farming, and the government’s support for in-country value projects in the food sector.
The opening session featured speakers including Ebtesam AlKaabi, Head of Sales, Jafza; Yerlan A. Baidaulet, Director General of the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS); Youssef Mohamed, Alibaba.com MEA Managing Partner of JSC Middle East & Africa; Andrey Dvoychenkov, Managing Director – Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan, Nielsen; and Dr Ashraf Mahate, Chief Economist – Trade and Export Market Development – Dubai Industries and Exports.
The first day featured focused sessions on India and KSA, shedding light on topics such as the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which is positioned to strengthen food security and sustainability through cross-border collaboration.
Other sessions gave insightful information on investment trends in food tech firms, sustainable food initiatives, government-backed funding prospects, and the future growth of Saudi Arabia’s F&B business in line with Vision 2030.
Abdulla Al Saleh, the Under Secretary of Foreign Trade and Industry at the UAE Ministry of Economy, inaugurated the event and highlighted the importance of self-reliant food supplies and agri-tech for food security in the Middle East.
Mohammad Ali Al Kamali, COO of Manufacturing and Exports Development, Dubai Industries and Exports, stressed the significance of the food and beverage manufacturing sector in the economy, emphasizing its role in economic growth, job creation, food safety, and meeting nutritional requirements.
The UAE Food & Beverage Business Group (F&B Group) launched the UAE Food Platform during the event, a platform that integrates UAE food data for strategic decision-making. Additionally, the ‘Ishraq Program’ was introduced as part of the Emiratization initiative, aiming to develop local talent in the UAE’s F&B sector.
Welcoming the gathering, Saleh Lootah, Chairman of the UAE Food & Beverage Business Group, said, “It is a pivotal moment for the F&B sector in the region, one where the sector is taking a new strategic direction to ensure UAE’s position as the regional food hub of excellence. This transformation is underpinned by visionary government directives, a testament to our commitment to promoting UAE-made food products, not just for local consumption but also for global market access.
The second day of the Forum focused on sustainability and circular Economy with a special panel session that featured Amal Hassan Al Ahmadi, Head of the Research and Development Section, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment UAE and Khuloud Al Nuwais, Chief Sustainability Officer, Emirates Foundation, discussing on minimising food waste and promoting food recovery initiatives and highlighted UAE’s initiatives in turning strategy to action. The discussions highlighted changing consumer behaviour and its impact on the F&B sector at various sessions focusing on the evolution of the food retail experience and using big data analytics to increase efficiency.
A special session on localisation policies and regulations in the GCC featured Fahad Aldrees, Chief Human Resources Officer, Almarai; Suaad Al Shammari, Head of Nationalisation GCC, Nestle; and Salama Alhaj Alawadhi, Director of National Value Added Department, Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology to evaluate Retention, Progression, and Development Measures for citizens.
The ‘Free From Food’ exhibition, co-located under the forum, highlighted the Healthy, Organic, Vegan, Plant-Based, Functional, and Free-From food sectors in the Middle East. Sessions explored strategies for promoting locally-grown produce, addressing climate change’s impact on food security, and fostering a circular economy in the food sector. Additionally, various sessions delved into strategies for promoting locally grown produce, addressing critical issues related to climate change’s impact on food security, and exploring opportunities to foster a circular economy in the food sector.