UAE – Food and beverage apps are gearing up for a busy period during the Holy Month of Ramadan, with experts in the industry forecasting a growing preference for traditional cuisines as well as healthy meals.
Tatiana Rahal, MD of talabat UAE, noted that pre-iftar, iftar, and suhoor hours are often the busiest times. “We do see considerable traffic even during the fasting hours, which tells us that we cater to a diverse community, i.e. we cater to both fasting and non-fasting communities. We do expect to see a slight drop in food orders, which as we’ve found during previous years has a direct correlation to a significant number of our customers fasting during the day.”
However, Rahal said that this drop is matched with an increase in grocery orders during the holy month, as people begin to cook more at home. “In Ramadan, “time” is greatly valued as it is the month of deep spiritual connection. This is where providing food and grocery delivery becomes invaluable as it gives people “time” back. This is especially true for groceries where quick commerce (q-commerce) plays a major role, allowing residents to skip queues and last-minute rushes and use that time to prepare iftar, and spend time with their family. We have been seeing a year-on-year increase in q-commerce as customers tend to order more from groceries and convenience stores during the month.”
An interesting trend, she added, is the increase in snacks ordered between 10pm and 2am, which she expects to see again this Ramadan. “We expect to see an increase in dessert orders, especially after iftar, which could be a result of family and friends gatherings and restaurants launching special Ramadan desserts. In 2021, people ordered more dessert during post-iftar hours, which was reflected in the significant uplift in the dessert category. This could be attributed to the fact that people tend to cook more food at home and rely on delivery apps for dessert.”
Ali Al Ebrahim, founder and CEO of COFE, said that Ramadan is “all about community building.” Given that this is the first Ramadan in the post-Covid-19 era, he says that there are definitely higher expectations from all industries. “With getting together being the focus of the month, there is definitely a higher preference for delivery. However, another aspect that we think will pick up even further is the home brewing segment. Coffee is an integral of our culture and hospitality that comes into even more focus in Ramadan than usual.”
Al Ebrahim’s vision is to “bring our entire ecosystem together”, which consists of over one million users, over 800 brands, and nearly 2,000 stores. “We are now also looking at integrating 75 roasteries to offer a whole gamut of home brewing products from drips bags, to filter coffee, and other related paraphernalia. Everything we are doing is to ensure that when people share a cup of coffee, whether it is from an international chain, a specialty store, at the store, at home or anywhere in between – they can do so with ease.”
KPMG’s 2021 report highlighted a 20 per cent increase in the sale of coffee pods, a 19 per cent increase in espresso capsules, 44 per cent for traditional home brewing, and a 74 per cent increase in ready-to-drink coffee. The report also showed an 11 per cent increase in the sale of consumer coffee equipment, as consumers begin to understand their preferred way of making coffee and increase investment in the right equipment.
Al Ebrahim says that this trend is only going to pick up further as various celebratory seasons such as Ramadan progress. “To this regard, we are launching special COFE boxes they will contain premium Saudi Black Coffee, which brings together the old ways of our culture, with the new ways of coffee consumption. With a whole variety of products being launched exclusively for Ramadan, we are excited to see how this segment will grow and evolve.”
Robert Juntke, VP of Food & Beverage, Design and Development, EMEA for Marriott International, also expects to see greater engagement on the More Cravings by Marriott Bonvoy app. “With the pandemic being a story of the past, and the UAE resuming operations full capacity across industries, abiding by safety protocols, we do anticipate a busy period where people can once again come together to share a meal.”
He explained that after fasting from dusk till dawn, customers would prefer to have access to restaurants nearby serving their preferred type of cuisine – and that is where the More Cravings app steps in. Numerous apps offer deals, and it can often grow confusing and tiresome, but More Cravings is designed to counteract this – the app proposes to be a solution to all pre-dining needs, ranging from finding the restaurant, checking all your food and dietary preference, to table reservations.
“Customers will also have access to a multitude of iftar and suhoor offers on the app, in addition, to buy one, get one free offers on main courses to beverages and more. The app also allows hotels the option to upload individual offers that they would like to position during this period, serving as a choice for the customers to pick from,” he said.
Asked how the app is tailored to people with different preferences or those with dietary restrictions, he said: “That’s the beauty of the More Cravings app. It is here to simplify the information on what the customer wants. The interactive app entails all of the customer’s wants on one single platform across a portfolio of acclaimed restaurants in the market. They can search and discover venues based on preference or dietary options with over 19 filter options available including kosher, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and more.”
Similarly, Rahal highlighted how talabat as a platform is more than just a food delivery app, with a focus on convenience, variety, accessibility, and services that save people valuable time. “Customers can order from different stores and brands all in one place. All they need to do is search for the item and they will have all options laid out for them. Variety is something today’s customer demands; giving them the choice to select what best fits their needs, without being limited to one store or brand, has been made possible through technology.”
She also noted that the platform is promoting fresh and healthy foods and groceries during Ramadan to encourage customers to make healthier choices, as well as remind them to take advantage of the ease and convenience that q-commerce offers.
“Year on year in Ramadan, we are seeing more people relying on online food and grocery delivery apps with increased reliance on technology,” she said. “Based on Ramadan 2021 consumer habits, we saw that people ordered more healthy food and groceries, a category which saw an uplift during the month. The spike in the ‘fresh food’ category was due to increased orders of fresh poultry, vegetables, and fruits to prepare for iftar and suhoor meals.”
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