Five minutes with Laurent Damiens

Five minutes with Laurent Damiens

Laurent Damiens, COO of CNIEL, discusses how the organization is serving the French dairy industry and what’s happening in the market. 

How do you evaluate consumer demand for dairy in the GCC?
Although 2020 was very difficult, we witnessed higher demand in 2021. In Dubai, a stable market, demand for butter, cheeses and cream from France increased by 25 percent. In KSA, on the other hand, the increase was massive in 2020, at 70 percent. The following year, we saw further growth of 20 percent, so we expect to lead the market in two to three years now. Kuwait increased just a little, while consumption in Jordan has slightly decreased. Butter consumption remains high in Beirut, which has surprised us.  

What are the latest trends in dairy?
There is a rising trend for cream because of rising demand for French pastry, and to make good French pastry you need cream from France. The trend began in Dubai, but it is spreading around the region.

What are your latest innovations?
Over the past two years in France, we released a range of new products because we had plenty of time to create them. As you know, France is the country of cheeses. Five years ago, we used to have around 1,200 cheeses in France, but we are now close to 2,000 kinds of cheese, so we are trying to cater to all tastes. For the U.S. market, we add cranberry to camembert, but here we don’t; we adapt our offerings to suit local tastes.  

How has the healthy-eating craze affected purchasing behavior?
Dairy products can be good for your health. Many studies show that dairy can prevent many cardiovascular diseases, such as cancer, and other sicknesses. Health authorities often recommend the consumption of three dairy products a day, which equates to two pieces of cheese and one glass of milk, yogurt, and one glass of milk and cheese. This is good news for dairy suppliers.

Are people buying more cheeses in the GCC these days?
Yes, they are. It’s not a booming market like in other countries, but it’s a region that loves local cheeses, like halloumi. French cheeses are bolder in taste and more varied. In all cases, we are seeing greater demand for all kinds of cheeses, from sandwich cheeses to cheese balls. 

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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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