Today we look at some of MENA’s most delicious and inspired food startups. From falafel to cupcakes, watermelon to shawarma, these tasty new businesses are cooking up innovative business recipes that are redefining the region’s food and beverage industry.
These entrepreneurs represent just a few inspiring new ventures that are putting MENA on the culinary map as the regional F&B industry continues to expand. Feel free to add your favorite food and beverage startups in the comment section below – we would love to find some more culinary treats from across the region.
Batatee5 is quite simply an innovative business venture that finds unique and creative ways to serve watermelon. Whether it be as a smoothie, pizza, kebab, dip, or another creative snack, founders Mahmoud Al-Hamawi and Mohammad Eideh are reimagining traditional watermelon consumption to bring out the full potential of this refreshing fruit. Participating in events around the world, the Batatee5 bring a youthful and excited energy to their work, helping consumers to see the versatility of watermelon just as they do. Batatee5 has a huge following of loyal customers and continues to bring their excitement for watermelon to events around the world.
2) Catwalk Cow
Founded in the UAE by Palestinian-American Samia Ataya, Catwalk Cow has developed a delicious dessert mix that is free of preservatives, artificial fat and sugar substitutes, colorings, or other additives. With the bold slogan “Bite me!” Catwalk Cow has already expanded into Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain and has its sights on the rest of the region. The unique product even has the potential to spread to the global marketplace as there are no products like it in the world that Catwalk Cow is aware of. To manage all modes of production, Ataya spent six months outfitting her factory and quickly grew from 13 to 70 outlets in 18 months, a trend that will likely continue into the future.
Started in Tunisia in late 2011, CDB was founded by Karim Sehnaoui from Lebanon along with his wife Nadia Boulifa from Tunisia. Upon realizing that Tunis had no solid Lebanese restaurants, they decided to take it upon themselves to open their own. The new restaurant has remarkably quick and reliable service and caters to many in the surrounding business community. CDB has a clear streamlined vision to simply make good food, have great service, and go where they are in demand. After their launch less than a year ago, they have their sights on expansion, already being asked to expand to new cities across MENA, a goal they are cooking up over the next year.
4) Just Falafel
Founded in 2006 by Mohamad Bitar and Alia Al Mazrouei, among a group of Lebanese, British, French and Emirati friends with the intention of creating a healthy, vegetarian fast food brand rooted in the traditions of the Middle East, Just Falafel has since seen incredible growth in the region. Originating in the UAE, Just Falafel has expanded into nine countries including India and the UK, becoming the largest falafel chain in the world. They currently have ambitious plans to reach the western hemisphere and launch one new store each week. With such an impressive amount of growth so far, Just Falafel has the tools and reputations it needs to make this global dream a reality.
Founded by siblings Laila and Adel Sedky, NOLA is a family run business in Egypt that uses original recipes, flavors, and a little home-baked goodness to win hearts in Egypt and spread their brand to a global customer base. “Inspired by the spirit of Montreal, the authenticity of Paris and the taste of New York” NOLA Cupcakes bring a unique spin to the cosmopolitan cupcake. With a fair amount of mouth-watering flavors on their menu, such as “Nutella Twix,” “Sweet Potato,” and “Tiramisu,” NOLA has pioneered cupcakery in Egypt and has made a household name out of their brand.
Becky Balderstone launched Ripe in the UAE in 2011 to address a growing demand for seasonal, local, and fresh organic produce. Customers can select from a number of Ripe Boxes filled with produce from the UAE’s best farmers. Taking a cue from seasonal change, Ripe offers different fruit and vegetable boxes as the seasons change, making sure that customers always receive the best quality produce the UAE has to offer. Ripe has plans to open a farm shop, cooking classes, corporate orders, as well as to organize farm visits for customers to see where and how their produce is grown.
Founded in 2009 by three young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs, Ghadeer Khajah, Laila Al-Kandrai, and Mohamed Qabzard, Salad Boutique launched in Kuwait to huge success and has already expanded into Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. Salad Boutique offers health-conscious customers a delicious eatery with generous portions of fresh and innovative salads as a main course. This unique restaurant offers the region something different, redefining cuisine to make healthy food a treat that makes you want to go back for seconds. With such creations as the “egglplant and falafel salad” and the “sunny side up salad,” Salad Boutique is sure to continue to attract customers to their unique brand and spread further throughout MENA.
Established in Jordan in 2009, SNAX has since grown to nine locations in the Amman area and seeks to expand throughout the region. One of the first to apply the minimarket business concept, popular in the US, to the Jordanian market, SNAX provides on-the-go customers with basic necessities in a fresh and clean atmosphere for customers. They are also providing local area residents with the opportunity to purchase basic necessities and food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With plans to reach the entire MENA region, SNAX has a sleek design and local popularity making it a trusted brand in Jordan.
A Saudi entrepreneur who started her first business at age 19, Deem Al-Bassam is building her own unique brand. Switch is a chic culinary space in Dubai aimed at making dining an experience rather than a necessity. Al-Bassam seeks to spread her brand throughout the region, and eventually to the world with dishes that are taken back to their basic ingredients while maintaining the bold flavors of modern cuisine. Switch’s unique space, created by intrepid designer Karim Rashid, gives customers a stylish and spirited place to enjoy a simple and enchanting Mediterranean fusion cuisine.
10) Wild Peeta
Redefining the traditional shawarma sandwich, Wild Peeta is a “homemade idea” founded by brothers Mohamed and Peyman Parham al Awadhi in the UAE. The founders are deconstructing the classical shawarma sandwich by offering novel sauces, insisting on fresh local ingredients and deciding to use local artists in their ad campaigns. By keeping the company open to customers via social networks, Wild Peeta is able to involve their customers in creating and branding new products, an “invisible board” as they call it. The young and vibrant company continues to expand in the UAE, building an intense loyal following while redefining the shawarma sandwich for the region.