Indonesia is the main focus of the latest marketing drive for Saudi dates, along with Morocco, France, the UK and the US, as the Kingdom aims to be the first choice for date consumers globally

Saudi Arabia is intent on becoming the number one choice for consumers looking for top-quality dates. However, so many varieties and sources exist that standing out from the crowd can be a tall order. At Asia Fruit Logistica in Bangkok, Thailand, the National Centre for Palms and Dates (NCPD) sought to do just that, hosting a large pavilion for multiple Saudi date producers to promote their products. 

According to Abdullah Al-Yahya, marketing department manager at NCPD, Saudi Arabia alone produces more than 400 kinds of dates. “There are so many kinds of date available that are less well known,” he says. “So at exhibitions we want people to taste the different varieties available. We need to do a lot of marketing campaigns, in the supermarkets, at universities, on social media. We are already doing this.”

NCPD has launched a marketing campaign for Saudi dates in five countries initially, says Al-Yahya. “Indonesia, Morocco, France, the UK and the US - this is the beginning,” he reveals. “In the second year, we will look to add some more countries. We are trying to connect all the data, do all the marketing studies and strategies and share this with all our producers. We also educating them on all the certifications they need to export.”

Abdullah Al-Yahya (right) with Ali Alsagri

Abdullah Al-Yahya (right) with Ali Alsagri

According to Al-Yahya, two things make Saudi dates stand out: quality and differentiation. “We are looking to promote the quality of Saudi dates,” he says. “There are more than 400 kinds of dates in Saudi Arabia, but we are focusing on a dozen or so. We are trying to educate people on the different kinds available, how tasty, how juicy, how healthy they are. We are focusing on organic dates as a super fruit and a healthy fruit.”

Demand for organic dates is increasing, he says, including in Saudi Arabia. “This is for both health and environmental reasons,” he explains. “The Saudi government is encouraging farmers to go organic, and the growers are seeing the benefits.”

Indonesia may the principle target for the latest marketing drive but it is by no means the only market in Asia with good potential for Saudi dates, with Malaysia and India also high on the list. “India is the biggest importer of dates globally, taking more than 300,000 tonnes of dates a year,” says Al-Yahya. “Only 3-5 per cent of that is Saudi, so there is a massive market there and lots of room to grow.”

According to Al-Yahya, one consideration for the Asian market is the greater focus on price. “Price is more the priority in this market than quality, so we are trying to find a good balance,” he says. “We want to be the first exporter of dates worldwide and the first choice for consumers. Globally the trade in dates is worth around US$2.2bn. Saudi accounts for around US$324m of that. From 2016 until now, we have seen an increase of more than 25 per cent, but there is still room for growth.”