From honey to beef, Canadian food makers at the Gulfood show see the event as a way to tap new markets
DUBAI — There was a distinct feeling of home last week in Dubai at the world’s largest annual food show.
Gulfood attracted 90,000 visitors and 160 exhibiting countries to more than one million sq. feet of trade show space.
Nestled within this sprawl was the Canadian pavilion, featuring 46 booths hosted by Canadian suppliers to the food and beverage industry.
The pavilion was dressed with high quality graphics and logos depicting Canada and the Canada Brand, an association that many exhibitors say is a coup for them when it comes to marketing and selling their products.
“In the world, we are perceived as a very clean country,” said Al Lau, who represented V Life Honey from Western Canada.
He said being known as a Canadian company ties in directly with the V Life brand because the product is marketed as natural and pure with no additives and little processing.
“A lot of people come here specifically looking for Canadian product because they know of our purity and integrity.”
Ali Attia is one such customer.
The importer from Tunisia is based in the United Arab Emirates and primarily does business in Africa. He came to the Canadian pavilion because of positive experiences with Canadian partners in the past.
“Canada products are very good,” he said. “I’m happy with them because I already imported lentils and it was very good quality and I’m happy with my customers.”
Attia said he hoped to begin importing honey from Lau in the near future.
“I love it and inshallah (God willing), I do business with him next year,” he said.
Lau said making connections with buyers such as Attia is one of the major benefits in attending a show like Gulfood, but it’s not only about sales leads. It also brings him face to face with a market he may have previously had misconceptions about and allows potential customers to tell him what they are looking for.
Canada Beef, which supports provincial partners in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, attended the Gulfood show for the sixth time this year.
Robert Serapiglia, the organization’s director of business development and innovation, said it is an important to be at the show be-cause the Middle East is an emerging market for Canadian beef.
The region represents only one percent of exports for the industry, but it is a quickly growing market where Canadian beef is perceived as a premium product.
Canada Beef has done extensive work to capitalize on this by branding its product and engaging traders and consumers in the area, including attending Gulfood.
Serapiglia said a significant part of the Canadian beef brand is its association with Canada, which is why attending a show like this adds value.
“Canada’s not well known as a beef producing nation, but Canada is well known for being clean, having fresh air, clean water, being friendly, honest and hardworking,” he said.
“Our brand promise is around country, pride and tradition and doing what’s right. As Canadians, we put the best of Canada in our beef and we think that Canada is the best place in the world to grow beef.”
Agriculture Canada, which co-ordinates Canada’s participation at Gulfood and offers partial funding to exhibitors through its AgriMarketing Program, said exhibitors posted $250 million in on-site sales and anticipated sales over the following 12 months.
The department launched Canada Brand in 2006, aiming to provide a unifying symbol that Canadian producers of food and agricultural products can use to complement their individual branding and marketing efforts.
“The goal of the Canada Brand is to help Canadian food products stand out from competitors through use of a recognizable common look, the stylized maple leaf, and messaging that emphasizes the strengths of Canada’s food and agriculture sector,” said James Watson, a media relations officer with Agriculture Canada.