Despite the tough market in the Middle East, retailer LuLu Hypermarkets has been busy, its buyers popping up at exhibitions and fairs across the world in search of new products and new sources for their increasingly demanding consumers. A trip to Poland piqued their interest in the country’s apples, strawberries, carrots, cabbages and mushrooms, while a visit to Greece brought their attention to Greek kiwifruit, Valencia oranges, stonefruit and cherries.
“The market in the Gulf is improving, and the food sector is doing well,” says director Salim M.A. “We are growing each year, as we look to introduce new products on the market.”
LuLu’s strategy is to concentrate on direct imports, from a growing list of sources, including the US, Spain, Turkey, France, Italy, Australia and East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. “Importing direct gives us an advantage,” says Salim. “We have a big team that looks after the quality, and we ensure we get the right fruit at the right time. Going direct to the producer also allows us to get a better deal overall.”
Rising demand in the Middle East for organic products has encouraged LuLu to initiate its own campaign, dubbed ‘Go Organic’, while enlarging its range. “There is good demand at the moment and we are seeing new innovations in this category,” says Salim. “Our consumers welcome these products. Our ‘Go Organic’ promotion includes a strong presence on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”
Such communication tools will also prove useful for LuLu’s recent efforts to tackle childhood obesity. “We are trying to educate and to create the habit among children to eat more fruit and vegetables and move away from fast food,” says Salim. “It is called United For Healthier Kids (UHK) and is in collaboration with Nestlé. This is an important step in our region.”
Equally noticeable is the increase in availability of locally produced items in-store. “We have a huge range of local products,” says Salim. “Supported by the government, we do a lot of different activities to promote local produce. We held a UAE-grown organic festival initiated by the ministry of environment and climate change. We did a big promotion.”
In addition to such efforts, LuLu has continued to open stores throughout the region, with plans for new launches in India, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia.