Market analyst Euromonitor pitches the confectionery market in the United Arab Emirates at €65m, far inferior to the expected €2.76bn that market tracker Mintel estimates the British chocolate market alone will pull in by the end of the year.
But despite this, decent double-digit growth for the UAE confectionery market - around 10 per cent year-on-year according to Euromonitor - will tempt confectioners to explore new revenue streams as yet unlocked in the region.
Delivered by German exhibition firm Koelnmesse (which organises the Anuga food trade fairs), and Dubai World Trade Centre, Sweets Middle East will open up shop from November 3 to 5, 2008 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Setting up stalls in Dubai will be 180 exhibitors at the event that seeks to mirror Cologne's major sweets event, the ISM.
"High incomes, growth in population and increasing availability of international products are leading ingredients in the growth of the sweets and confectionery sector," said Joanne Cook, industry group manager within the exhibitions and events management at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Last year's inaugural Sweets Middle East show saw 3585 visitors perusing the wares of 140 exhibitors. This year, the organisers claim they have witnessed a drive from the local confectionery supply chain, with increased participation from local manufacturers and suppliers.
"With several major GCC markets dependent on imports, international suppliers are increasingly tailoring sweets, confectionery and bakery products to include local flavours and ingredients," said the organisers.
Biscuits, cocoa, chocolate and chocolate products, and sweet confectionery dominated the exhibition last year, representing over 20 per cent of the exhibitors' main activities.
In terms of reasons for exhibiting, feedback from the show organisers states that nearly 30 per cent of exhibitors were there to recruit agents and/or distributors. In other words, to dig deeper into the market.
Logically, generating sales was also a key reason cited, as was using the show to launch a new product and to promote a firm's corporate image.
Young population, an open door?
In addition to growing personal wallets that seek to purchase increasingly westernised products, there is the suggestion that the sheer number of young people in the region has created a ripe market for the confectionery industry.
"The young and fast growing population - 70 per cent of the Saudi Arabians are under 30, and 50 per cent of UAE nationals are under 16 years of age - opens up many opportunities to reach new customers," said the show organisers.
Compounding opportunities from healthy demographics is the state of play regarding imports and exports that should unlock new business for the confectionery sector: The region is heavily reliant on imports, with a considerable 90 per cent of the food requirements imported.