DUBAI // Organic food has been slow to take off in the UAE but tastes may be changing with hundreds of shoppers flocking to a new market in its first week.
More than 600 people turned up to the Saturday organic market, Ripe, held at the Dubai Garden Centre, and all the stock had sold out in an hour and a half.
"The first market day was fantastic and exceeded all expectations," said Becky Balderstone, the founder of Ripe. "There was a great turnout. All our 200 boxes sold out so we sold some extra produce we had by the kilo and this too sold out soon after. Some people who arrived later on were disappointed that we had sold out. But this won't happen again."
The most popular products were the rocket, which sold out in 30 minutes, and the mushrooms. A mushroom risotto was on display to taste and other organic recipes were available.
All the market's produce is handpicked from farms near Al Ain and Abu Dhabi 48 hours before it is delivered to consumers.
The market featured tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and onions, sold in boxes for between Dh80 and Dh130. That range would increase as the weather cools, said Ms Balderstone. "I would love to add more variety but we have to be patient."
Organic products have not always been so easy to find. And although certified organic products are usually more costly than their standard counterparts, Ms Balderstone believed her produce gave Ripe an edge.
"Most organic brands in the supermarket are not affordable for the majority but Ripe's unique selling point is that we are organic and local," she said.
In the UAE, organic greenhouse farming increased by 15 per cent last year, generating more than 5,000 tonnes of produce.
Read The National food writer Emily Shardlow's take on the market at our new food blog, Bites.