(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Manufacturers across the UAE and the GCC are increasingly focusing on solutions that will help them achieve more long-term sustainability, in line with current market trends, experts at the fifth edition of Gulfood Manufacturing said.
The annual food and beverage processing forum, began on Tuesday with food production experts from more than 60 countries attending the event. With regional food consumption due to hit 51.9 million tonnes in 2019, the Middle East's manufacturing sector is expanding rapidly as countries in the region seek to build increasingly diverse economies. The UAE is seeking to increase the contribution of the manufacturing sector to overall GDP from 11 per cent to 25 per cent by 2025.
Martin Schmedes, strategy and marketing director for the MEA region at SIG Combibloc Obeikan, said: "Our business has three key ambitions in relation to social responsibility and sustainability which underpin everything we do - the way we run our company, source our raw materials, and make our products. We partner with our customers to bring food products to consumers around the world in a safe, sustainable and affordable way, and we have identified a major shift in what end-consumers expect in today's heightened eco-aware society when it comes to food and drink packaging."
He explained that millennials and Gen-Z are far more discerning and conscious about the environment and the content of the products they consume.
"Fair trade, recycled, sustainable, and GMO free are no longer buzzwords but are fast becoming a prerequisite for consumers," he said. "R & D departments need to be dedicated to expanding their portfolios of packaging systems to reflect these demands. Innovations must underline a commitment to deliver responsible products without compromising on the need for unique design and convenience. By 2030, we will halve our environmental impact and double our benefit to society; we want to be net positive by contributing more to society and the environment than we take out, across our value chain."
Similarly, Rodney Rogers, sustainability director at Tetra Pak, noted that sustainability is quickly becoming a key topic of discussion for businesses across the region. "We are investing heavily in ensuring that we minimise the impact on our environment. We do this through a variety of ways such as sourcing responsibly, and increasing the amount of renewable resources in our products."
Rogers explained that currently, the company uses 75 per cent of renewable content in its products. The company's strategy, over the next few years, is to bring this figure up to 100 per cent. "We have recently invested in a recycling plant in KSA that will recycle our cartons, and which will begin operations in the first quarter of 2019. In addition, our global commitment to sustainability is such that we have reduced the climate impact of our manufacturing plants by 13 per cent, while growing the business around 19 per cent."
Rohma Sadaqat I am a reporter and sub-editor on the Business desk at Khaleej Times. I mainly cover and write articles on the UAE's retail, hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors.Originally from Lahore, I have been living in the UAE for more than 20 years. I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism, and a double minor in History and International Studies from the American University of Sharjah.If you see me out and about on assignment in Dubai, feel free to stop me, say hello, and we can chat about the latest kitten videos on YouTube.