F&B trends and more with Wadih Joseph Aoun of Gabriel Bocti

F&B trends and more with Wadih Joseph Aoun of Gabriel Bocti

Wadih Joseph Aoun, senior brand manager of Gabriel Bocti SAL

Wadih Joseph Aoun, senior brand manager of Gabriel Bocti SAL, shares insights on the latest F&B trends in the Middle East.

 What can you tell us about Gabriel Bocti SAL and some of its key achievements?

Gabriel Bocti SAL, a family-owned distribution company in the food and beverage industry since 1967, excels in its field. Transitionally, from small delis to major supermarket chains, hotels, restaurants and pubs, we’ve established ourselves as industry leaders. With constant commitment to efficiency and quality, we aim for excellence to always be the best in what we do. Our brands make us who we are.

How would you describe the market for spirits in the Middle East?

As a senior brand manager for premium imported spirits in Lebanon, evaluating the Middle East market is crucial for strategizing effectively. In the Middle East, the spirits market, encompassing whisky, tequila and gin, offers both growth opportunities and distinct challenges.

On one hand, a rising interest in premium and imported spirits across the Middle East is driven by factors like growing disposable income and urbanization. As consumers’ drinking preferences evolve, there’s a growing demand for diverse and high-quality spirits, including imports from international markets.

Furthermore, the hospitality sector in countries like Lebanon boasts a vibrant bar and nightlife scene, fostering growth. This is a prime opportunity for premium spirits brands to solidify their presence in elite venues and cater to luxury-seeking consumers.

However, the Middle East market also poses its challenges, including regulatory hurdles, cultural sensitivities and geopolitical uncertainties. Some countries in the region have strict regulations on alcohol consumption and advertising. This consequently impacts the distribution and marketing strategies of spirits brands.

Additionally, geopolitical tensions and economic fluctuations in the region can influence consumer confidence and purchasing power, affecting market growth.

What changes have you observed in the Lebanese market?

Some of the major changes include:

Shift toward local production

Despite the challenging economic and political situation in Lebanon, there has been a growing trend om supporting local producers and products. This includes an increased interest in locally produced wines, arak and craft beers. Consumers are showing a preference for products that showcase Lebanese craftsmanship and heritage, contributing to the growth of the domestic alcohol industry.

Diversification of offerings

There has been a greater variety of wines, spirits and beers available to consumers. This includes both local and imported products, catering to different tastes and preferences. Additionally, there has been a rise in artisanal and craft alcohol producers offering unique and distinctive products to discerning consumers.

Emergence of boutique wineries and interest in wine tourism

The Lebanese wine industry has witnessed a rise in boutique wineries crafting high-quality wines, emphasizing terroir and artisanal craftsmanship.

Wine tourism has become increasingly popular in Lebanon, with more visitors exploring the country’s wine regions and vineyards. Wineries host guided tours, tastings and culinary experiences, drawing domestic and international tourists eager to explore Lebanese wine culture.

Challenges and opportunities amid economic instability

The Lebanese alcohol market is grappling with economic instability, including currency fluctuations, inflation and supply-chain disruptions. However, amid these challenges, there are also opportunities for innovation and growth. Some producers have focused on export markets to diversify their revenue streams.

Regulatory environment

The regulatory environment for alcohol in Lebanon remains relatively liberal compared to some other Middle Eastern countries. However, there are regulations in place governing the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. Changes in regulations or taxation policies can impact the alcohol market and influence consumer behavior.

Focusing on spirits in the Lebanese alcohol market, there are several notable trends and changes, including:

Arak renaissance

Arak, a traditional Lebanese spirit distilled from grapes and flavored with aniseed, has experienced renewed popularity both locally and globally. Though arak has been integral to Lebanese drinking culture, there’s a newfound interest in high-quality, artisanal arak from boutique distilleries. Employing traditional methods and premium ingredients, these distilleries craft distinctive and flavorful arak varieties, appealing to discerning consumers.

Craft spirits’ movement

Similar to trends in other parts of the world, Lebanon has seen a rise in craft distilleries producing small-batch, handcrafted spirits. This includes artisanal gin, vodka, rum and other distilled beverages made with locally sourced ingredients and innovative flavor profiles.

Innovation in cocktail culture

There’s growing interest in cocktail culture in Lebanon, with a focus on creativity, craftsmanship and premium ingredients. Bars and restaurants are offering innovative cocktails made with high-quality spirits, homemade syrups, fresh herbs and exotic fruits. Lebanese bartenders are gaining recognition for their skill and creativity, contributing to the vibrant cocktail scene in the country.

Premium imported spirits

Despite the rise of local and craft spirits, there’s still a demand for premium imported spirits in Lebanon. Whiskey, vodka, tequila and other international spirits are popular choices among consumers, particularly in urban areas and upscale establishments. A diverse array of imported spirits meets various tastes, reflecting Lebanon’s cosmopolitan culture and international perspective, enriching the market.

In your opinion, what is the latest trend to watch?

The alcohol industry is witnessing significant shifts driven by changing consumer preferences and societal trends. One prominent trend is the rising demand for low- and no-alcohol beverages, fueled by health-consciousness among consumers, particularly younger generations. This trend reflects a broader societal focus on wellness and responsible consumption. Concurrently, there’s growing appreciation for premium alcoholic beverages, with consumers willing to pay more for high-quality, artisanal products that offer unique experiences.

Another important consideration for consumers is sustainability and environmental responsibility. Companies adopting eco-friendly practices throughout the supply chain are gaining favor among environmentally conscious consumers. Moreover, the digital transformation has revolutionized the alcohol retail landscape, with e-commerce platforms offering convenience and accessibility to a wider range of products.

Additionally, the industry is witnessing innovation in product development, with a focus on functional benefits beyond intoxication. Beverages infused with health-promoting ingredients are gaining popularity among health-conscious consumers. Cultural exploration and flavor experimentation are also driving the demand for exotic and diverse alcoholic beverages.

What are your best-selling products?

Our top-selling products vary across categories, reflecting the diverse preferences of our consumers.

In the sparkling wine category, our famous Piccini Prosecco is one of the leading in the market.

Hendrick’s Gin stands out with its iconic diamond-shaped logo and black bottle, captivating consumers with its exquisite flavor profile.

Transitioning to Stoli Vodka, renowned for its brand equity, it notably resonates in the vodka category with Stoli Premium and Stoli Gold.

Additionally, Mijenta Tequila has swiftly gained attention for its unique attributes: additive-free, environmentally friendly and carbon-free. Clase Azul Tequila holds a special place in Lebanon’s market, renowned for its handcrafted bottles and unparalleled style.

Monkey Shoulder whisky is a favorite among bartenders for its versatility in crafting cocktails and its contemporary appeal. Concluding our lineup, Glenfiddich Single Malt speaks for itself as the world’s most-awarded whisky, consistently leading with exceptional quality.

Each of these brands represents excellence in its respective category, catering to the diverse tastes of our valued consumers.

Is there any exciting news you’d like to share with our readers?

With summer approaching, I recommend keeping an eye on Mijenta Tequila. We have something significant in the works, which promises to revolutionize the industry.


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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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