Unleashing the F&B potential of emerging markets

Unleashing the F&B potential of emerging markets

Unleashing the F&B potential of emerging markets

In a region marked by transition and transformation, food entrepreneurs have plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a destination for a new project. However, while emerging markets are brimming with opportunities, they also present unique challenges. Christian Salloum, managing director of BrandPortunity F&B Consulting, offers a checklist for businesses eyeing openings in changing landscapes.

In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, emerging markets are proving to be fertile ground for food businesses, brimming with opportunities. However, with trends and tastes constantly changing, the need to keep up to date on the latest sectoral developments is essential, as evidenced by our deep dive into this exciting realm.

Digital transformation

The global shift toward digitalization has had a major impact on emerging markets, with entrepreneurs now leveraging e-commerce platforms and food delivery apps to reach wider audiences. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for online ordering and contactless delivery has soared, heightening the need for food businesses to adapt to remain competitive by investing in user-friendly websites, collaborating with delivery services and taking both orders and payments digitally.

Food Express, a startup in India, is an example of a digital success story, having begun life as a small local restaurant that rapidly expanded after partnering with food delivery apps. Its growth has been attributed to the swift adoption of digital platforms, which enabled it to respond to customers’ needs.

Sustainability and health drive

Consumers in emerging markets are becoming increasingly health conscious and environmentally aware. Businesses that offer sustainable, locally sourced and healthier food options are growing in popularity. Staying up to date on the latest health trends and incorporating sustainable practices into your food business will help you to accommodate this growing demand.

GreenBite, a food business in Brazil, has aligned itself with the sustainable practice drive by sourcing organic ingredients from local farmers. This approach not only resonates with eco-conscious consumers but also fosters partnerships with local producers.

Government regulations

It’s imperative to keep a close eye on regulatory changes in your target market since there may well be new policies in the pipeline that could affect your business, from food safety standards to import/export regulations and taxation. Maintaining compliance is essential to avoid legal complications.

In Russia, for example, recent changes in import regulations have affected the supply chain for foreign food products. Entrepreneurs need to ensure they remain informed about developments such as these and consider sourcing locally or adapting their product offerings to meet new requirements.

Political factors

Shifts in the political landscape and government policies can have a significant impact on the food industry in emerging markets. Changes in leadership, trade agreements and geopolitical tensions can affect supply chains, import/export regulations and market access, heightening the need to keep a close eye on developments in the political sphere and consider how they could impact your business.

When border disputes affected the Taste of the Himalayas’ ability to import certain ingredients into Nepal, for example, the business diversified its supplier base and began working closely with local producers, enabling it to maintain a stable supply chain.


Personalization and localization continue to be pivotal in emerging markets, highlighting the importance of tailoring your food offerings to suit local tastes and preferences. Ahead of launching, engage with the local community, and if possible, arrange to collaborate with local suppliers to help strengthen your brand’s connection to the market.

In Thailand, Spice Sensation took such a step and adjusted its menu to cater to both locals and tourists by offering traditional Thai dishes alongside Western options, helping it to establish a reputation as a go-to place for a diverse clientele.

Customer identification

Understanding your potential customers in emerging markets by identifying their requirements and preferences, alongside any gaps in the segments you’re targeting is critical in the planning phase. Undertaking analysis, ideally with expert consultants, to gain insights into what’s driving consumer choices will help you to refine your menu, channel your marketing efforts and develop a pricing strategy to better serve your audience.

Flavors of Africa, a food business in South Africa, did just that when they identified a growing interest in African cuisine among locals and tourists. By tailoring their menu to showcase the rich flavors of the continent, they were able to tap into a niche market and gain an important share of it.

The core business of hospitality

Hospitality lies at the heart of the food business, especially in emerging markets, where building strong relationships with customers can be instrumental in garnering success. It’s crucial nowadays to meet clients’ expectations beyond serving them great food by creating a positive and memorable customer experience. Train your staff to provide excellent service and consider harnessing unique cultural aspects that can enhance the hospitality experience and help make your place an attractive destination. This starts with your concept idea and should evolve to take account of the many other key factors requiring consideration, from name, design and brand identity to menu items, among others.

In Dubai, Desert Eats not only serves authentic Middle Eastern cuisine but also offers an immersive dining experience with belly dancing and traditional music. By providing these additional hospitality elements, the restaurant has become a popular choice with tourists and locals alike.

Market research

Conducting thorough market research will help you to better understand your target audience. Emerging markets can be diverse, with consumer preferences varying widely, even within the same region. By utilizing data analytics and surveys, together with official statistics made available by local authorities, it’s possible to gain valuable insights into your potential customers’ needs and behaviors.

As an example, Asian Flavors in Indonesia discovered a growing interest in regional Asian cuisine by undertaking in-depth market research. Tailoring their menu to include a variety of dishes from several Asian countries enabled them to successfully attract a broader audience.

Technology and automation

Implementing technology and automation in food preparation, inventory management and customer service can significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs. Keeping up with the latest advancements in food tech will give your business a competitive edge.

TechBite in China is one such prime example, having automated its kitchen processes, enabling it to provide consistent quality and quick service. Customers can also order and pay through a mobile app, enhancing their overall dining experience.

Marketing and branding

Effective marketing and branding play an essential role for businesses operating in emerging markets. Focus on developing a strong online presence through social media, influencer marketing and search engine optimization, better known as SEO. Make sure that the brand story you create is compelling and resonates with your target audience.

Flavor Fusion’s mastery of the art of social media marketing is clear for all to see in the way it has collaborated with local food influencers to showcase its unique fusion cuisine and, in turn, attracted a dedicated following of food enthusiasts locally in Mexico and elsewhere.

Supply chain resilience

Recent global disruptions in supply chains have highlighted the importance of building resilience in this important area of business. Diversifying your suppliers and considering local sourcing options can play a valuable role in helping to mitigate potential disruptions.

Supply Smart in Malaysia, for example, has built up a robust supply chain network of multiple suppliers for key ingredients, maintaining a close relationship with each of them, which has helped it to secure a continuous flow of resources, even in challenging times.

Starting a food business in an emerging market is both exciting and challenging, requiring entrepreneurs to be agile and innovative, adapting to changing trends and keeping informed about new developments across the industry and beyond. With the right strategies, commitment and a customer-centric approach, however, new food businesses can undoubtedly flourish in these opportunity-laden markets.

Christian Salloum
Managing Director of BRANDPORTUNITY

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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