Companies from more than 100 countries descended on Dubai yesterday hoping for a bigger slice of the food retail sector across the GCC, which is expected to grow by US$23 billion (Dh84.48bn) over the next five years.
More than 4,200 exhibitors are taking part in Gulfood 2013, the world's largest annual trade show for the food and hospitality industry.
Consumer spending in the GCC food sector stood at $83bn at the end of last year, but is expected to reach $106bn in the next five years, according to a study by ATKearney, a global management consultancy.
And many of the exhibitors at the four-day show are hoping to expand their share of the spoils.
"There are billions of dollars of trade that takes place in and around this event and for them, when many of their home markets are at best flat, at worst struggling, here is a market in the ascendant and the Middle East for them is a very attractive place to be because it connects them with a very wide geography," said Mark Napier, the director of exhibitions at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Greece-based Agrovim, which owns the Iliada olive oil brand, is one such company. It mainly exports its products to countries including the Emirates, so it has not been too badly affected by Greece's economic woes. But many of the countries it exports to are in Europe, which is suffering from its own financial troubles.
"The Middle East is a very good market for us because the people have money," said Jenny Gyftea, the vice president of Agrovim.
The company is participating in Gulfood with an aim to expand its customer base in the region. "For us Egypt is a very good market [in addition to] Kuwait and Dubai. We are working on Saudi Arabia now."
Pro Ecuador, the trade and investment promotion organisation of Ecuador, is taking part in Gulfood for the first time to increase the country's exports to the Emirates and the region. Last year Ecuador's exports to the UAE stood at around $4 million.
"It is the new strategy of Pro Ecuador and the government of Ecuador to [penetrate] new international and especially emerging markets such as the United Arab Emirates and the region," said Hussam Hassan, the head of commercial office at Pro Ecuador.
The organisation brought four Ecuadorian businesses to the show, ranging from the fruit exporter, Earthfructifera to the organic chocolate company, Pacari to help them to establish connections.
But for some regional companies, Gulfood represents an opportunity to pursue opportunities further afield.
Aujan Group Holding, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and owns the Rani and Barbican drinks brands, has just created two beverage companies with The Coca-Cola Company - the Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Company and Rani Refreshments.
"One aspect of this partnership, is the international expansion of Rani and Barbican," said Roland Ebelt, the general manager of Rani Refreshments.
Aujan Industries began expanding into Africa about four years ago and Rani and Barbican drinks are now sold in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Ethiopia and Senegal. Aujan is using Gulfood to support the expansion.
"Africa is our number one target for international expansion," said Mr Ebelt. "We will use Gulfood to meet up with people who are working in these markets."