With a preference for octopus-flavoured crisps, it is fair to say the food flavours market in the UAE is already varied, but it is set to get a lot bigger over the next five years.
Analysis by Frost & Sullivan valued the sector across the GCC at more than US$145 million (Dh532.5m) last year. But the consultant projects it could double to $298.9m by 2017, as blenders and manufacturers create new flavours in an attempt to satisfy consumers' expanding palates.
"The higher revenues are mainly due to the increasing demand for flavourings by fast-moving consumer goods companies," said Gayathry Ramachandran, a senior consulting analyst in Frost & Sullivan's food practice.
"Dairy and beverage are the other growing application sectors, owing to the increased domestic consumption and consumers' desire for novel flavours," she added.
Osama El Sayed, a UAE-based chef, and chief "flavourologist" for Lay's Flavor Me campaign in the Arabian Gulf to select a new flavour of crisps, received suggestions for a few of those during the last competition.
Pesto and pizza, the eventual winner, were the most popular in the last campaign. But it resulted in a large range of suggestions, some of which can be described as more than a little alternative.
"Believe it or not we got all kinds, including octopus, water and strawberry," he added.
However, as a rule tastes tend to be local, he said meaning a flavour popular in China, such as sweet and sour, will not sell as well here.
But some international flavours, such as pizza, tend to do well everywhere, he added.
And the introduction of more international food brands to a country or increasing overseas travel among residents can help to broaden tastes.
"You have so many restaurants and people are eating so many different kinds of foods [here]: Italian, Asian, Chinese and all this," said Mr El Sayed, the founder and president of El Sage Associates, which produces Arabic-language television cookery shows, cookbooks and offers culinary consulting services. "The whole country now is almost like a food court," he added.
But tastes are definitely changing here, partly as a result of the region's rapidly expanding youth population.
He said young people in the UAE tend to have more of a sweet tooth than those who are middle aged or older.
"[It is] not as sweet as the Asians, but sweet as in ketchup or barbecue. Older people are not used to that because that's what they have been exposed to."
The higher purchasing power of citizens across the Middle East is another factor driving up the size of the sector according to Frost & Sullivan, while a number of mergers and acquisitions and investments in research and development have also benefited the food flavours market in the region.
Frost and Sullivan says revised regulations are squeezing the profit margins of some companies, yet blenders can offset the challenges by developing new processes.
"Overall, new techniques that revamp flavouring applications, along with new product developments, are vital to maintain an advantage in this highly competitive market," added Ms Ramachandran.