The Middle East is known for its unique cuisine and fine fare, but its menus are becoming more diverse and its ingredients more specialised as the demand for high quality food continues to grow.

While much of the rest of the world resorted to more conventional meals during harder times, the Middle East has continued on its path to richer tastes. Dubai alone has 66 luxury five star hotels, catering to an international and affluent client base. Hotels in general account for around 17% of food expenditure in the UAE, with the GCC importing over USD 12 billion worth of agri-food products annually, as reported by the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia.

With high per capita retail spending and over 11,000 restaurants, the UAE offers fine dining in one of the fastest growing markets in the world as the number of outlets is forecast to increase by more than 5% per annum. Catering to this growth phenomenon and the increasing sophistication of the Middle Eastern food service market, the inaugural Speciality Food Festival, taking place from 31 October – 2 November 2010 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC), will offer the industry some of the most sought after fine food and drink products sourced from specialist and international suppliers.

“The demand for artisan food and high end tastes is huge in this region and the market continues to hold strong. The reputation of many companies can often hinge on the quality of their food and the variety on their menus,” said Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President, Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of the event and the region’s largest food exhibition, Gulfood. “The Speciality Food Festival offers the ideal platform for these specialist buyers, chefs and suppliers to meet, taste, sample and network.”

Ms Hamideh Harizi, Owner, and Mr. Ali Mahmoudi, CEO of Gourmet House believe that The Speciality Food Festival will be a real driver for this market. “It’s great to have a speciality food event in Dubai. There are so many businesses which rely on the best food available and this is a city which has a reputation for attracting luxury tastes and premier customers. We‘ve no doubt it’ll be the first of many more to come and we hope we’ll be one of the regulars.”

Many premium and specialist brands are equally keen to support the event. Encompassing a mouth-watering selection, from superior taste shrimps by National Prawn Company (Saudi Arabia), high quality wild and farmed Caviar by Gourmet House (UAE), the world’s only WHO certified water, Cape Grim by Milk & Honey Providore/Trading (UAE) to extra virgin olive oil and artisan merino sheep cheese by Extrexport (Spain), this is a specialist showcase not to be missed.

“I think the demand for fresher, healthier, more refined food is upon us and this is a great chance to open new doors and drive that market even further,” said Shadi Joweihan, Managing Partner at Milk & Honey Providore/Trading.

Combined with the co-located events Sweets & Snacks Middle East, Sweet & SnackTec Middle East and The International Travel Catering Association Exhibition (ITCA Dubai), all four dedicated food industry events will run alongside each other providing visitors and exhibitors alike with the perfect trading, networking and cross-selling environment.

The exhibition is for Trade and Business Professionals only and will be open from 10am – 6pm daily. General public and persons under the age of 18 will not be permitted entry. Free visitor registration is available now online at www.speciality.ae. Registration will also be available at the show upon proof of trade status.