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Middle East Consumers Choose Drink Brands that Resonate with Their Values

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More Middle Eastern consumers are looking for brands that align with their values, for example local sourcing and sustainability. In an age of social media, consumers are looking beyond pricing when making drink brand choices, and seeking those brands that resonate more with their values. However, this phenomenon had been less visible in the Middle East in the past due to less consumer awareness of value-driven claims and limited brand choice. Yet this has been changing with increasing product knowledge and expanding choices on the shelves. Drink brands need to take note of this, particularly with a young, socially engaged population, making use of all social media tools available to them.

Locally sourced products gaining traction

One value that has particularly become important in the Middle East is locally sourced products, as concerns over carbon footprint and natural or organic ingredients have gained traction. As such, consumers are starting to pay more attention to brand origin and ingredients, believing that local brands are more likely to offer quality and ethically sourced ingredients.  This is in addition to other important attributes, such as recyclability and sustainable production.

According to Euromonitor International’s , fielded January-February 2023, 26% of consumers in Egypt reported that they tried to purchase locally sourced products and services and 24% of consumers say they try to shop in locally-owned stores.

In the UAE, 37% of respondents said they buy from brands that support social issues that are aligned with their values

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, fielded Jan-Feb 2023

Moreover, a national allegiance to local brands has been gaining momentum in the region. Historically, soft drinks categories were dominated by international brands. Over the past few years, Middle Eastern brands have entered the market to some success.  These include Star Cola in the UAE, Almarai RTD coffee and RTD tea in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Nada RTD coffee in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and Barakat RTD tea in the UAE. Some other brands were launched years ago but are now gaining popularity with triple-digit growth, for example, Spiro Spathis in Egypt, a soda water brand. A key reason for this growth is the emphasis on local production and evoking consumer patriotism for domestic brands due to geopolitical instabilities.

The ingredients contribute to the decision

Consumers are also paying closer attention to ingredients.  The proportion of natural juice and the amount of added sugar have become important to consumers in the Middle East, with greater focus on health and wellness.  For example, ‘low sodium’ and ‘alkaline’ water are amongst the fastest growing packaging claims in the region, with the ‘reduced sugar’ segment slowly eating into the share of ‘regular’ soft drinks, including in carbonates, energy drinks, sports drinks and RTD tea.

For example, in the UAE, 100% juice demonstrated 8% volume growth in 2023, while nectars declined by 2% and juice drinks by 2% during the same period. Low sugar carbonates and energy drinks are also favoured when promoting their benefits. In the UAE, Regular Carbonates volume CAGR between 2018 and 2023 grew 3%, while Reduced Sugar Carbonates demonstrated a 5% CAGR growth for the same period. In Egypt, a culture of ‘reduced sugar’ has only started to evolve, with Reduced Sugar Carbonates, demonstrating a 4% volume growth year-on-year in 2023, compared to 3% volume growth for Regular Sugar Carbonates in the same period.  During the forecast period, Reduced Sugar Carbonates are projected to outpace Regular Sugar Carbonates in volume growth in both UAE and Egypt.

As checking ingredients becomes a habit, especially among younger consumers, highlighting a brand’s natural ingredients on the packaging will help consumers further with their decision making

Source: Euromonitor International

Since the trend for healthier products and ingredients is not yet fully developed in the Middle East, most consumers do not always recognise that “low sugar” might mean artificial ingredients, and at this stage both trends evolve in parallel.

Social values even more important to the young

The Middle East has a high population of young consumers aged 15-24, with strong growth expected in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Egypt over the forecast period.    Chart showing Forecasted Total Growth of Population Aged 15-24, 2023-2028This population is especially interested in social media and look to brands that align with their values.  For example, according to Euromonitor Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, fielded January-February 2023, nearly 50% of those in the UAE and 45% of those in Egypt, '“Follow or “like” a company’s social media feed or post,’ higher than the global average of around 34%.Chart showing Online engagement with companies over the previous size monthsThe main social media platforms currently popular with young consumers in the Middle East are TikTok, You Tube and Instagram. Given social media content is integrated in the daily life of the young, any message delivered by brands through these sites can be enormous. For instance, Almarai holds a leading position within 100% juices in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and is successfully expanding into new product categories. The company’s One Bean brand of RTD coffee was launched in 2023 with a claim to contain 100% Arabica coffee beans. The brand is constantly updating their consumers with new launches, highlighting product values and ingredients, such as sustainability and communicates with their consumers on the benefits of using locally sourced ingredients.  This strategy can be replicated by other brands for successful new products launches, with success for those drink brands that clearly communicate values aligned with that of the young: local sourcing, regionally owned, natural ingredients and sustainable packaging.Image of Almarai brand range

Aligning to consumer values is key to success

Local sourcing, natural ingredients and sustainability values are finally having a greater impact on soft drinks consumer purchases in the Middle East, particularly amongst a more socially actively engaged population. Pointing out product origin and clearly stating natural ingredients on a pack and aligning with sustainability goals will go a long way with consumers in the region. 

Engaging with consumers on Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram provide a means of successfully launching a brand, particularly with younger consumers who, more than ever, are looking to soft drinks to express their own social values

Source: Euromonitor International

Read our report , Innovation: Food and Beverage in the United Arab Emirates for more analysis on the recent trends in the United Arab Emirates.

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