Philippines boosts efforts to tap into GCC food market through ‘healthy convenience’

MANILA: The Philippines has identified healthy convenience food as a potential opportunity in the GCC market, officials told Arab News as a special trade mission ended its tour of the region on Saturday.
The Outbound Business Matching Mission from the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry began in Bahrain on Feb. 11 and covered Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, culminating in Dubai this weekend during Gulfood 2023 — the world’s largest annual food and beverage expo.
A total of 21 Philippine exporters of halal-certified food, and personal-care and cosmetic products joined the mission to look for opportunities in the $3 trillion global industry and identify a potential niche for themselves.
“The strongest trend is for what they call ‘healthy convenience,’” said Glenn G. Peñaranda, who is in charge of the Trade Promotions Group at the Department of Trade and Industry.
As one of the world’s top producers of agricultural products, especially fruit, and with more than 2.2 million Filipinos living and working in the region, the Philippines already has a major presence in GCC markets.
“Wherever Filipinos are, there is a captive market … But then we also want to share these tasty, safe and convenient products with the mainstream,” Peñaranda told Arab News.
“The Philippines is really reaching out to new markets and new partners. There’s a lot of opportunity (in the GCC) … as resources in this area are being redirected and they’re also looking for partners to help them do that.”
The food sector, in particular, provides a number of opportunities, he said, as Gulf countries have been focused on ensuring stable supplies since the beginning COVID-19 pandemic.
To ensure that it can be a part of that process, the Philippines is focusing on making its products compliant with local regulations and halal-certified.
“We can play a role in being their partner … I’m very excited about the prospects for us,” Peñaranda said.
Food products are the Philippines’ main export to the GCC and in 2022, exports increased by 8 percent to a value of $223 million. The country hopes to add an additional $100 million to that sum annually.
While the special trade mission was focused on GCC countries, it has yet to visit the largest, Saudi Arabia.
Charmaine Mignon S. Yalong, commercial attaché at the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Dubai, said that promotion efforts in the Kingdom require a separate roadshow.
“Saudi is much bigger than the rest of the GCC countries. When we do our Saudi run it’s always three legs — we have Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam,” she told Arab News.
“It really requires a dedicated effort … You’ll have a different and dedicated project for them in the coming months.”