Country Profile

Saudi Arabia Country Profile

Discover more about the Saudi Arabian market including overviews about the retail, food service, and food processing sectors. Events, resources, and more are linked throughout the profile.

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Market Overview

Over $100k in New Export Sales

$655 Million
total U.S. consumer ready products imported in 2021

 

Market Access Program (MAP) Funding

24th
largest market for U.S. food and agricultural products

USDA’s Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Riyadh hereinafter referred to as “Post” reports that there are plenty of opportunities for a wide range of new U.S. food products in the Saudi market; especially, healthier products aimed at a generation with more disposable income.  Saudi Arabia was the 24th largest market (US$1.34 million) for U.S. food and agricultural products last year. A return to pre-COVID living and working conditions are invigorating U.S. agricultural exports to the Kingdom in 2022. U.S. Customs data for January – August 2022 shows an 11% increase in U.S. agricultural exports to Saudi Arabia compared to the same period in 2021. Unfortunately, there are also significant impediments to trade including several halal-related restrictions on meat and poultry products, as well as export facility registration requirements. Despite these issues, U.S. food products are generally viewed as a higher quality product and are well-positioned to meet Saudi Arabia’s changing dietary habits over the next several years.

U.S. exports of consumer-oriented food products to Saudi Arabia increased from US$535 million in 2021 to US$655 million in 2022 due to expansions in the foodservice sector, an increase in foreign visitors, and the continued development of several major real estate projects. Top U.S. processed food exported to Saudi Arabia in 2022 included processed meat, baby food, baked goods, frozen treats, and breakfast cereals.

Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Food Exporters in Saudi Arabia

Post adds that like all vital U.S. agricultural export markets, Saudi Arabia comes with its own unique opportunities and challenges.

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Advantages

  • The U.S. is considered a reliable supplier of quality food products
  • Saudi Riyadh (SR) is pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of US$1 to 3.75 SR, and historically favors U.S. exporters
  • The 6.5 million expats that live and work in Saudi Arabia create a strong demand for diversified and ethnic food imports
  • Major retail chains are constantly looking for new to-market U.S. products
  • Saudi retail outlets are well equipped to carry all types of food products, including fresh as well as frozen items

Challenges

  • The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has been issuing new regulations and standards at a rapid pace that has closed the market for several products
  • Freight costs from the U.S. are higher than those from export competitors in Europe and Asia
  • Local importers prefer to initiate business deals with small orders; conditions many U.S. exporters are not willing or able to meet
  • High markups, listing and other fees that major retailers charge significantly increase the cost of launching new products in the Saudi market

“All of Food Export’s programs were a tremendous help getting us export ready, understanding the challenges that come with international business, and learning how to navigate them.”

Katz Gluten Free

Food Export-Northeast Participant since 2018

Interested in importing from U.S. suppliers?
Contact us to learn more.

Retail Sector

Over $100k in New Export Sales

$50 Billion
total retail sales in Saudi Arabia in 2022

 

Post reports that in 2022, total retail sales in Saudi Arabia were estimated at approximately US$50 billion. Of that amount, 52% was generated through traditional grocery stores and 48% through modern retail channels. Revenue in traditional retail channels has been declining due to rapid expansion of hypermarkets and supermarkets. The retail sector is expected to continue to expand with the creation of more urban centers.

FAS Riyadh reports that the traditional Saudi retail sector is losing ground to hyper and supermarkets as demand for packaged food continues to increase.  Major drivers of this transition include increasing disposable income, a growing population and the creation and expansion of urban centers.  Total 2021 retail sales of packaged food were approximately US$36.2 billion, and of that amount, 55% was generated through traditional channels while 45% came through modern retail channels.

There are no specialized food publications or retail journals in Saudi Arabia and as a result, reliable data on food retailers’ sales and floor space is not readily available.  Panda Retail Company: The largest retailer in Saudi Arabia.  This publicly traded Saudi company has 230 retail outlets (hypermarkets and supermarkets) in Saudi Arabia.  The firm also has two hypermarkets in Egypt and one in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Most of the company’s purchases are local, but it also imports directly.  Othaim Supermarket Chain: This Saudi company has 227 stores in Saudi Arabia and 46 stores in Egypt.  The company has also several wholesale outlets.  Most of the company’s purchases are local, but it also imports directly.

BinDawood Holding: This Saudi Company operates a total of 73 stores across the country, including the BinDawood and Danube supermarket chains and purchases food products locally as well as internationally.  It recently announced that it is filing an IPO.  Farm Superstores: This Saudi company has 69 supermarkets in the Kingdom, and most of the company’s purchases are local.  It also imports directly.  Al Raya Supermarkets: A Saudi-UAE company with 54 supermarkets in the western and southern regions of the Kingdom. It purchases domestically and imports some staple food products.

Tamimi Supermarkets: An upscale supermarket with 45 branches in Saudi Arabia and one in Bahrain.  The company is one of the largest consolidated U.S. food products importers in Saudi Arabia.  It is the only Saudi supermarket that currently sells chilled U.S. beef.  LuLu HyperSupermarkets: A Dubai headquartered retailer with 38 outlets in Saudi Arabia, mostly hypermarkets.  It has more than 150 hypermarkets in the Middle East and Asia.  Carrefour Saudi Arabia: It is a subsidiary of Majid Al Futtaim of UAE; the exclusive Carrefour franchisee in 38 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  They have 18 Saudi hyper and supermarkets, and mainly imports from France. Post has helped place some U.S. products in Carrefour.

Lulu, Tamimi, Danube, and Manual Supermarkets (a chain with nine outlets throughout Jeddah) imports a significant percentage of the food products they sell directly from the United States.  LuLu owns and operates Y International USA, Inc.; a U.S. purchasing and logistics company based in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, that will be opening additional U.S. branches.  The logistics company sources and exports U.S. food products and consumer goods directly to LuLu in the Middle East and Asia while the other three retailers make extensive use of consolidators.  Some products (like blueberries, strawberries, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and other fresh produce) are shipped by air, but most products are shipped by sea.

Best Product Prospects:

Top product prospects include healthier lifestyle products (diet foods, organic, etc.), beef, beverage ingredients, non-alcoholic beer, tree nuts, plant-based meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable juices, honey, snack foods, and various dairy products.

Food Service Sector

Post reports that the HRI sector was expanding prior to COVID-19. However, the pandemic devastated the fine dining restaurant sector for several months, but now the sector has fully recovered due to the lifting of all COVID-19 measures. In 2021, the HRI sector’s total revenue was approximately US$29 billion and is projected to grow approximately 10 % annually over the next few years. The HRI sector depends on imported food products to meet approximately 70% of its ingredient needs.Some U.S. fast-food and casual dining chains and some local fast-food chains import part of their supplies from the United States. This includes Applebee’s, Burger King, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, Herfy, KFC, Kudu, McDonald’s, Sizzler, and TGI Fridays. Large catering companies, especially those serving Western expatriates, also buy a portion of their food items directly from the United States.

Best Product Prospects:

Top product prospects include dairy products, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, red meats, condiments and sauces, beverage, and other coffee shop ingredients, baked frozen pastries, and frozen sandwich bread.

Food-Processing Sector

First-Time Sale to a Market

$70 Billion
total investments in the sector by 2030
Over $100k in New Export Sales

$3 Billion
total number of imports for food products in 2022
Post reports that Saudi Arabia is home to a growing food manufacturing sector that benefits from population and income growth, lifestyle changes, state support, and favorable trade agreements. Demand for packaged foods is growing and more multinational companies are entering the market as a result.

Saudi Arabia’s local food processing is significant. Current available data indicates that in 2022 the country imported approximately US$3 billion dollars’ worth of intermediate food products, with the United States supplying roughly 11% of that total. The Saudi government provides various incentives for the expansion of the local food processing industry to improve food security. As such, the prospect for increased expansion of the domestic food processing industry should increase the demand for food ingredients.

Best Product Prospects:

Top product prospects include poultry meat, beef, skimmed milk powder, full cream milk powder, block cheese, fats and oils, processed vegetables, pulses, and other processed dairy products.

 

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