Changing tastes: Consumer preferences in Saudi Arabia

Changing tastes: Consumer preferences in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a country that’s rich in tradition – and it’s also going through economic and societal transformations that are creating new opportunities for local and international F&B businesses. 

One of those transformations is in consumer preferences. Far from being static, local demand is changing; and Saudi Arabia’s citizens and visitors are eager to explore new taste experiences. 

Let’s look at some of the shifts happening in F&B from a consumer perspective. 

There’s a growing demand for healthy food products 

Local consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious – and so they’re interested in food and beverage options that are better for them.

A 2022 study found that 34.7% of participants prefer healthy food. Only 18.8% said they’d choose unhealthy food over healthy food; and 46.5% stated an equal preference for healthy and unhealthy food. 

The trend towards healthier food choices is linked to government policy. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), in collaboration with other government bodies, has developed a healthy food strategy (HFS) with the aim of improving healthy lifestyles and reducing the intake of sugar, salt, saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids. 

And global influences are changing food in Saudi Arabia

As Saudi Arabia increasingly collaborates with international businesses across industries, and hosts a growing number of tourists (with the goal of welcoming 100 million visitors a year by 2030), global influences are finding their way into local food. 

This includes new flavours, ingredients, and cuisines that weren’t previously available here. As Saudi Arabia citizens enjoy a more diverse food palette, there’s opportunity for international or innovative F&B brands to gain traction in the market. 

In beverages, there’s demand for fruit-flavoured soft drinks

To zoom in on a more specific shift, the beverage industry is seeing a rise in consumer preference for fruit-flavoured soft drinks. People are choosing citrus, tropical, and berry flavours – as they seek refreshing, flavourful drinks. 

This shows that just as demand for different food options grows, so too does the demand for a wider range of beverages. As the local food industry adapts to market changes, it’s important that beverage businesses tap into the opportunity here too – providing consumers with the products they want. 

And food consumption patterns are changing across the market

The development of the F&B sector in Saudi Arabia is being driven by a wide range of factors – including, but definitely not limited to, the ones we’ve already mentioned. 

Other influencers include…

  • Workforce changes. In 2021, women’s participation in the workforce was 35.6% – which has already surpassed the Vision 2030 goal of 30%. Female unemployment rates have also declined; so a growing number of women have purchasing power in the market.
  • Urbanisation and growth in disposable income. More people have more money to spend, and are living in areas where they can access new F&B products and services.
  • The emergence of online food delivery and e-commerce. Local consumers are enjoying more convenience and are able to compare prices and products on digital platforms, so they can choose good value and/or high quality options. 

Saudi Arabia is a country undergoing intentional and widespread economic and social transformation. And inevitably, that’s changing what people want to eat. For F&B, this makes now a really exciting time to engage with the market potential here – investing in local research and new relationships that can help your company grow. 

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