Consumers in Saudi Arabia should look for food products labeled with ingredient information and have healthy dietary values, said Monther Al-Harthi, the CEO of Al Rabie Saudi Food Company.
The Saudi food sector has been inundated with products whose ingredients consumers should be wary of, while selecting them for consumption, Al-Harthi added. Certain ingredients, such as saturated fats and trans-fats, are therefore considered unhealthy and should be consumed in small amounts.
Nutritional content labels on food items are an integral part of this awareness process. “One should consume a balanced diet and be careful in selecting the right choice of food products that contain essential amounts of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals required for a balanced diet each day,” Al-Harithy explained.
His company has been instrumental in the initiative to launch a nation-wide award called “Excellence in Health Education Award,” in cooperation with Hayatona (“Our Life”), a Saudi charity run by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The award, announced in Riyadh recently, will be presented to winners in four different categories at the national level.
Al-Harthy said the basic objective of the award would be to promote health education among Saudis. The Excellence in Health Education Award will be given in areas that promote scientific research, health education, electronic media companies producing awareness films for children and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in community-based initiatives and services.
Al-Harithy said there is a need for creating awareness among the consumers with regard to healthy food products. Saudi Arabia has a huge market with a number of local companies actively selling their products.
“Of course, marketing has been playing a role in popularizing food products, but the choice to select what’s healthy ultimately, is the consumers’ decision,” he remarked.
As per general observation, he added that the Saudi market offers various types of beverages but one category of consumers – who are conscious about their health – prefer to buy additive-free beverages.
“I would like to emphasize that this does not mean that there are expired products out there in the market. For energy drinks, we advise consumers to choose products with substances that offer a healthier option,” he stated.
He said that his company has already organized a number of health awareness campaigns and will continue to share experiences and expertise on health products with consumers.
“I would like to make it a point that we have recently invited several schools from Riyadh to attend seminars on healthy beverages, basically with the aim to create awareness about healthy beverages. This is part of our corporate social responsibility activities during the past several years,” he said.
There is, however, also a category of customers who like to buy beverages that are rich in taste. Children especially, are simply attracted by the color and flavor of the products. “The level of awareness varies from one category of people to another, but there are many consumers who are aware of the importance of nutritional value and pay attention to the nutrients contained in products,” Al-Harithy explained.
The vital step is to check the ingredients and expiration date of products before placing them in shopping carts.
Al-Harithy noted that the Ministry of Higher Education has been doing an exceptional job in creating awareness about healthy eating among students and there is general awareness about what constitutes healthy food.
The per capita consumption of milk in Saudi Arabia amounts to around 55.3 liters a year on average, which is a bit higher than in many other countries. This reflects the high level of awareness about the importance of dairy products in the local diet.
He added that the total Saudi market size of juices and other beverages is in excess of one billion liters with per capita consumption standing at 34.5 liters. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of juice and beverage is 6.5 percent, he said.
Al-Rabie is a Saudi-owned company headquartered in Riyadh with its own warehouse and sales offices spread across the Kingdom. Al-Harithy said the Saudi Food Company is highly committed to conducting various initiatives and programs to increase society’s awareness of healthy beverages as well as food. “We have a lot of plans lined up to achieve our goals in this regard, and we intend to inform the public of our latest accomplishments,” he stated.
Investing in the right people and the best new technology has helped Al-Rabie occupy a position that helped producing exceptionally high quality products that we believe the consumer deserves.
SHAHID ALI KHAN