The Middle East and Africa are often seen as having the strongest growth potential for carbonated soft drinks around the world. The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have each invested heavily in manufacturing and distribution in countries throughout the region in the hopes of making their products more accessible to consumers, especially as the local economies improve and more people have disposable incomes. The region’s young population, including Millennials, are a particularly valuable demographic because they are experimental and often seek to imitate Western consumption habits. At the same time, carbonated soft drink (CSD) innovations have been diversifying in certain Middle East and North African countries in order to offer consumers a mix of international and locally relevant formulations.

Ingredient and premium claims take centre stage

Launches in Egypt, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) are undergoing changes as more consumers look for better-for-you and upscale products. For example, the growth of no additive/preservative and premium claims finds brands in the Middle East and Africa following global formulation and product positioning trends. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), no additives/preservative claims were carried by 12% of CSD launches in the region in 2016, compared to 16% globally.

On the other hand, the proportion of launches in the Middle East and North Africa which carried premium claims was slightly higher than the global average in 2016. Non-alcoholic malt beverages were among the carbonated beverages that were most likely to have premium claims. Many of the region’s premium malt-based drinks are available in a range of primarily fruit flavors, such as pomegranate, peach, strawberry and lemon, aligning such drinks more closely with CSDs than with malt-based non-alcoholic beer.

Halal claims among the fastest growing

Halal claims were also among the fastest growing leading claims made by CSD launches within the Middle East and North Africa. Halal claims can reassure consumers that brands meet the requirements of the Muslim religion. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited by the Muslim faith, making the addition of halal claims helpful to separate non-alcoholic malt brands from alcoholic beer or flavored malt beverages. In particular, halal claims can be helpful additions to drinks that might emulate alcohol in packaging or brand name.

However, halal claims appear on more than just malt-based drinks. In 2016, there were double the number of CSD launches with halal claims in the Middle East and North Africa compared to launches globally. To assure consumers the products are non-alcoholic, CSDs, such as such as Palestine’s Taybeh, include the word “halal” in Arabic on the label – which is green, a color associated with Islam.

Sugar consciousness is likely to increase amid health concerns

In November 2016, The Coca-Cola Company launched its reduced-calorie Coca-Cola Life brand in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is the newest market for the cola that is sweetened with stevia plant extract and sugar to provide fewer calories and less sugar than full-calorie Coca-Cola.

While premium ingredient and halal claims are increasing in popularity in the Middle East and North Africa, the region has seen a decrease in launches that make low, no or reduced sugar claims. This is noteworthy because many Middle East and North African markets report high rates of overweight, obese and diabetic consumers in their populations, suggesting that there is scope for more CSD manufacturers to tap into the reduced sugar market by providing innovative options.

Mintel is an official content partner for Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food & beverage exhibition, taking place in Dubai 26 Feb.- 2 March, 2017 . This year we will be promoting our Global Food & Drink Trends 2017, which offer a comprehensive perspective on the momentum and forecast for the food and drink industry in 2017 and beyond. Register here to attend the exhibition. For more information please contact mintelmarketing@mintel.com

Jenny Zegler is a Global Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel. She has a hybrid role on Mintel Food & Drink as the dedicated food and drink trends analyst and coverage of the carbonated soft drink category. Jenny joined the Mintel Food & Drink Platform after her tenure as a Beverage Analyst on the US Mintel Reports team. During her career, she has also written for several food and packaging magazines covering the US snack food, bakery, confectionery, meat, and packaging industries.

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