Dietary Spending in Bahrain – Top 4 Most Bought Food Items

February 18, 2022
min read
Food spending in Bahrain
A cart of fruits and vegetables

Largely known to be a fusion of Arab, Portuguese, Persian, and even British influences, Bahraini cuisine has a number of versatile flavors to offer. However, the deeper you dig, the more you’ll learn how food consumption patterns have changed over the last few years, especially within an average household in the Kingdom.

Thanks to the region’s thriving economy, the patterns of food spending within average households have seen a rising trend for the most part. 

Here’s all you need to know about the shift in dietary spending habits within the Kingdom over the last two decades and the top  four most bought food items.

#1- Meat and Poultry

One of the biggest reasons spending on meat and poultry increased has to be the incessant rise in income. Moreover, meat and poultry are also undeniably the most preferred animal-based sources of protein for Bahrainis. Be it spicy Machboos or juicy Tikkas, Bahraini cuisine offers some of the most scrumptious meat-based dishes in the region. 

According to a study published by Fitch Solutions, the aggregate meat and poultry spending in 2005 was close to 15.1%. However, it’s expected to rise to 18.7% by 2025. This figure alone speaks volumes of the growth potential within Bahrain's food and beverage industry.

However, Bahrain's thriving economy is not the only factor responsible for this shift within food preferences among consumers. It's also the major influx of expats from Western and Asian countries that has contributed to changing trends that favor international cuisines such as hamburgers and fried chicken.

Despite the growing diversity within the region, lamb and poultry are by far the only major categories of meat people prefer investing in. This is majorly due to cultural and religious restrictions attached to the consumption of pork and beef. On the one hand, there are Muslims who make up more than 70% of the population and hence, avoid consuming pork. On the other hand, Hindus make up 17% of the total population and avoid consuming beef. 

#2- Dairy Products

The key factors responsible for the continual growth of the dairy sector market within Bahrain are:

  • A rising trend of consciousness about health and nutrition
  • An increasing trend witnessed in the per capita income
  • Increasing consumption

However, since dairy products in Bahrain are majorly imported from Saudi Arabia, fluctuation in prices also tends to affect the market in this region. The products that come under this category include milk, laban, and yogurt.

A key factor behind the elevated spending on yogurt is the growing trend of "drinking yogurt" and several other varieties in on-the-go packaging. On the other hand, the spending growth witnessed within the milk market is all thanks to the heightened demand for higher value milk products such as organic and plant-based milk alternatives.

Another crucial fact to acknowledge here is that Bahrain relies on food imports to make ends meet. High import levels mean that importers often increase their prices when making sales within the Kingdom. Due to the country's hot and arid climate, the potential for local food growth is limited. While the authorities are now investing their resources for domestic production, it is also expected that dairy spending will further be accelerated during this period.

#3- Sugar

According to data from the WOF or World Obesity Federation, Bahrain has one of the highest numbers of obese people in the world. With around 40% of women and more than 30% of men falling under the category, the Kingdom has an alarming rate of obese individuals. One of the key reasons contributing to their condition is the steady imports of sugar. 

Speaking of sugar, there’s hardly a dish that doesn’t incorporate this ingredient. From world-famous baklavas to mouth-watering maamoul, this small land has infinite varieties of desserts to indulge your sweet tooth. However, it doesn’t come without its consequences. 

While there has been some conscious effort from governmental authorities to restrict the consumption of sugar in the form of a tax introduced in 2017, its impact is observed to be limited. This is mainly due to the simultaneous rise in fiscal revenue, which has significantly reduced the tax's effectiveness. 

At the same time, increasing awareness about health and nutrition is also becoming mainstream among Bahrainis. This, in turn, is expected to decrease  spending on sugar from 4.5% in 2005 to 3.3% in 2025. 

#4- Fish

With a 161 km long coastline, this archipelago nation has generated a healthy demand for seafood, which primarily consists of fish. Again, this demand is not expected to bring the meat and poultry market down anytime soon, but the aggregate household spending on fish and seafood is projected to increase at 2.6% CAGR from the period between 2005 and 2025. 

Meanwhile, it is also expected for animal-based protein consumption to be affected by plant-based protein consumption. This is mainly due to the rising number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants popping up within the region, especially in the last few years. However, they still don't pose a threat to the ever-long dominance of meat in Bahraini cuisine.

The Bottom Line

All in all, Bahrain’s meat and poultry market has held and will continue to hold a dominant position in the region’s food industry. While fluctuations are expected to affect spending patterns, they’re not likely to threaten this long-held supremacy. On the other hand, spending on dairy products, seafood, and especially sugar is still projected to increase, given the rising demand for sugar-based products. 

Moreover, since the Kingdom is primarily dominated by Muslims, the meat and poultry market, with the exception of pork, is not anticipated to go down anytime soon. However, the rise of vegan and vegetarian restaurants within the Kingdom has caused a significant boost in the sales of several plant-based items. In the end, Bahrain's thriving economy is, by far, one of the biggest determinants behind increasing household spending on many high-value products.

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