According to the PEIE Marketing Director: “Local produce like, pomegranate, sea salt and goat sausage start out as exotic or niche offerings and then move into the mainstream based on consumer demand for variety, premium products and healthy foods.”
Indeed, Hamida Al Balushi, organizer of Origin Oman’s 150 Kilometre Meal scheduled to be held at the Oman Tourism College on May 26 and 27, has been studying the evolution of food popularity. "Stage one is something we see in fine dining or ethnic food," she says, adding that stage two is specialty-food-oriented retail and media channels, like the gourmet magazines we pick up in local supermarkets. Stage three finds the item in mainstream local restaurants and retail stores targeting recreational cooks and food lovers. Stage four finds such products getting general market coverage in family and women's magazines. Finally, by stage five the product would be showing up in supermarkets or on fast-food menus either as a stand-alone product, flavouring or functional food.
The key reasons driving the demand for local produce seem to be that today’s consumer wants to know more about how their food has been produced. They also care about food safety, traceability, provenance and animal welfare. “Oman-based shoppers of all nationalities, also want freshness and to have a sense of food tasting like it should or used to do,” remarks Al Faruji. Both Al Faruji and Al Balushi are upbeat about the 150 Kilometre Meal initiative and the importance of sourcing produce locally. “There’s so much more to the 150 Kilometre Meal project than simply focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are other win-wins out there. Buying locally, with more money flowing into the local economy, is good for the whole community. There will hopefully be less packaging and the food will be fresher and healthier as well,” suggests Al Balushi.
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