How UAE consumers and businesses are refocusing on wellness this Ramadan

May 10, 2021
By: Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO, GMG

Ramadan has always been a special time of the year. This holy month gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the things that matter to us the most. Traditionally, it has been a period for connecting with our community, extending our hospitality to our family, friends, and business acquaintances.

This year, under the shadow of COVID-19, how we observe Ramadan has changed. For many of us, that has meant no more large gatherings with extended families, or social iftars and suhoor invitations. Instead, this Ramadan we have been giving ourselves something. That’s the fortune of good health and well-being.

Through GMG’s own operations within the UAE food industry, we have been seeing a rise in purchases of home-cooked meal kits this Ramadan. These are options that tend to be healthier than dining out. Likewise, initial insights from our sports division show mounting interest in athletic wear, home exercise equipment, and other sports accessories in Ramadan compared to just the month before. In the fields of healthcare and pharma, we see consumers in the UAE are continuing to include immunity-boosting supplements and vitamin products in their daily lives. This was a rising trend since the start of the pandemic, but it has spiked during Ramadan.

All of these purchase behaviors suggest that our community has in fact been using this Ramadan as a time to refocus on their personal wellness. Looking beyond the individual to society as a whole, this is very encouraging to see.

Our community’s wellness is vital to the UAE’s overall socio-economic development, particularly as we rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAE government has recognized wellness as a strategic national priority for our country, embodied in initiatives like the National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031. This national framework—broken into three levels for individuals, society, and the country—aims to make the UAE a world leader in quality of life. It also aims to promote an integrated concept of well-being, thus supporting the vision of the UAE Centennial 2071.

In parallel, research from McKinsey published just this past month estimates the global wellness market at more than USD1.5 trillion with annual growth of 5–10%. Consumers in every market surveyed have reported a substantial increase in the prioritization of wellness over the past two to three years.While that change may be especially pronounced this Ramadan, it is a pivot that has significant long-term implications. It is certainly something worthy to pause and reflect on. In particular, business leaders in the region would do well to remember that we have a unique opportunity—and indeed a responsibility—to meet consumers’ evolving preferences for wellness-based offerings, and that our actions in this space contribute to a much larger, positive transformation of our society.