Yes, they do buy in Dubai


Being such a competitive market, it’s vital to understand the importance of brands as well as local trading conditions, says long-time biscuit and confectionery exporter Fitzpatrick International. And to do that means having a local distributor who has intimate knowledge of "what sells where" in this heavily segmented market.

With strong rivals in the biscuit business from Germany and France as well as India, local agents need to be kept motivated to effectively service the huge ex-pat community which makes up 90 per cent of the Gulf state’s population. Expats are predominantly Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani, for whom sweet confectionery and biscuits are popular.

“Dubai is also seen as a shop window for the Middle East generally,” says the founder of the business Ernie Fitzpatrick. “We first got into Dubai in 2005 but we’ve found that you can’t just parachute goods into the market place and hope they’ll sell. If they don’t know it, they won’t buy it.

“You need to have servicing and merchandising facilities and the only way to do that is through a local distributor. Brands are king in Dubai. Everything is deal-led and the distributors and retailers are very promotion conscious.”

Fitzpatrick International sells around £200,000 worth of Fox’s more up-market biscuits into Dubai each year via its UK distributor which in turn deals with representatives in Dubai.

“It’s important to incentivise the distributor with promotional tools such as branded key rings, pens and small gifts,” adds business development controller Ruan Clayworth. “They’re often very powerful tools in promoting your brand.

“The reason we go through someone in the UK is for their expertise in knowing the buyers in the market place. It’s also because all products have to be unpacked and then re-stickered and labelled with a production and expiry date and ingredients in Arabic before being re-packed. You have to be careful with ingredients to make sure there is nothing pork- or alcohol-based.  Or for that matter even poppy seeds!”

Although opportunities abound in this rich Middle Eastern country, so do obstacles (including things you probably don’t even know you don’t know).  Which is why local knowledge is essential.


Telephone David Attia on 0845 0347200 or email for advice.

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