Understanding red meat buying behaviours in the Middle East

Friday, 16 June 2023

Bespoke consumer analysis reveals that Quality, Halal Assurance and Taste are vital components for red meat buying decisions from consumers. This article reviews key consumer nuances for the Middle East and how exporters can harness the power of consumer buying behaviour.

Research carried out by AHDB across the Middle East explored key consumer buying behaviour for red meat. It builds on from previous studies on consumer buying behaviour across North America, South East Asia and the EU.

The research across other regions highlighted how important it is for exporters to harness the strengths of British red meat in their target markets. Finding the right messages to amplify the products and justify any premium price positioning can unlock future growth opportunities. Consistently seen across markets is the important role that quality, taste, price and value have in buying decisions.

The latest research in this global study took place in the Middle East and involved an online survey of over 2,000 consumers. It covered countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. They were asked about the key buying motivations for beef and lamb.

Quality scored highly across all the regions researched; in the case of Europe and North America it was followed by taste and price/value. In South East Asia food safety was prominent, while in the Middle East the importance of halal assurance was evident.

Top three meat buying behaviours - quality, taste and price/value

Drivers of quality

We've seen in other regions that quality was the top purchase driver, but it can often mean different things across the regions. The study dug deeper to look at what aspects of quality are important for beef and lamb purchases in the Middle East.

Overall quality indicators  of beef and lamb products. food safety, taste and freshness are key

It highlighted that food safety, taste and freshness are key messages to reinforce quality. Wider appeal around the health benefit, origin and tenderness of the product also came through from consumers. In Saudi Arabia, tenderness, localness, and production methods scored higher in assessing quality, while food safety and freshness came out higher in Kuwait.

Food Safety – Importance of slaughter and processing methods

The research explored in more depth what was important to those consumers who referenced ‘food safety’ or ‘origin’ in their assessment of ‘quality’. This helps gather more insight into the more particular elements that were important to consumers. Sanitary/hygienic production standards came out strongly – this was also the case across the globe. In the Middle East there was particuliar interest from consumers in the animal slaughter method and how the meat was processed.

Middle East- F.safety and origin deeper dive. Sanitary/hygienic production standards came out strong

It showed that 56% of consumers agreed that “knowing how the animal was slaughtered” was important, with 47% stating that “knowing how the meat was processed” was important. Other elements, such as the freshness and the origin of the product, were also considerations.

Halal deep dive

The research identified how critical halal is to consumers in the Middle East, with 76% of consumers agreeing that they trust shops will only sell halal meat. Just under half do not tend to look at the details of the halal certification on packaging because of that trust in shops.

how critical is halal to consumers. with 76% of consumers agreeing that they trust shop

The research also highlighted that 76% of consumers believe different countries will have different halal standards. As a result, if the source market is prominent on pack, it is critical consumers have trust in halal production standards of that exporting market. To understand this context further, AHDB looked at the perception consumers had of British Beef and Lamb in the Middle East.

British Perceptions – Middle East

On specific metrics that are key to purchase, British Beef and Lamb is seen as strong on Quality, Taste (in UAE and KSA) and offering good Food Safety standards overall.

drivers of Beef and Lamb purchases, perception of British versus other imports

Productions standards of British Beef and Lamb are currently well regarded, with 60% of consumers agreeing with the statement “British Red Meat has higher production standards compared to red meat from other countries”. This was higher compared to the average seen in South East Asia (47%) and North America (37%).

Barriers and opportunities for British Beef and Lamb

Price featured heavily when looking at the barriers to purchasing British Beef and Lamb. This reinforces the importance of justifying any price premium by communicating around quality, halal assurance and food safety messaging.

Barriers to purchasing British Beef and Lamb in the Middle East - Price featured heavily

While environmental sustainability is not currently a primary purchase driver of beef and lamb in the Middle East, there are signs of strong claimed interest, with 71% of consumers considering broader sustainability topics to be important. This is further encouraged by the fact British Beef and Lamb is currently well regarded on sustainability credentials, which could provide a good platform for future opportunities.

Beef and Lamb exports from the UK to the Middle East are modest but have potential for growth. Strong population with forecasted growth in disposable income, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, together with limited production capacity, will increase food import requirements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over the next decade. This provides good prospects for exporters in MENA: understanding and adapting to consumer buying behaviour can further place British meat exporters in a strong position versus competitors.

Levy payers have highlighted exports as a highly valued AHDB activity, and it remains one of the cornerstones of our work. AHDB works collaboratively with industry and the Government to deliver services that can help our exporters thrive. To support levy payers in the market AHDB recently hosted a stand at Gulfood in Dubai, where British exporters were actively engaging with key supply chain delegates. There was also a butchery demonstration providing product tasting opportunities, all aimed at showcasing quality British produce in the Middle East market

Visit the AHDB export pages for further news and insights.

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Steven Evans

Lead Consumer Insight Manager

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