The Rise of Processed Foods in East Africa: Market Analysis & Future Outlook

May 8, 2024
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The processed food market in East Africa is undergoing significant transformation, driven by shifting consumer preferences, urbanization, and economic development. As the region experiences rapid population growth and rising disposable incomes, the demand for convenient and ready-to-eat food products is on the rise. In this article, we will explore the dynamics of the processed food market in East Africa, identifying key statistics, consumer preferences and opportunities for businesses operating in this sector.

Key Statistics: East Africa Processed Food Market Size & Share Analysis

The East Africa region is home to a rapidly growing population of over 1.5 billion people. This population growth is putting a strain on the region's resources, including food and manufactured goods. The demand for food is expected to grow by 25% by 2025, and the demand for manufactured goods is expected to grow by 30%. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including urbanization, rising incomes, and changing dietary habits.

 In 2022, the East African Community (EAC) Aggregation witnessed a significant surge in processed food imports, reaching a noteworthy (USD 7.4 billion) with an increase of 10% compared with 2021 imports. Kenya emerged as the top importer, boasting a substantial (USD 3.2 billion), accounting for an impressive (43%) of the total East African Community ‎ imports. Following closely are Uganda, Tanzania, and Congo, contributing (USD 1.1 billion), (USD 1.0 billion), and (USD 966 million) respectively. (Source: ITC Trade Map – East Africa Processed Food Imports).

The East African market is very competitive where many exporters all over the world can find it as a good destination for their products. In terms of key suppliers, Malaysia takes the throne as the primary contributor to the East African processed food market, followed closely by Brazil and South Africa. When it comes to categorizing the imports, cereals command the lion's share, occupying a dominant (35%), followed by Animal, vegetable or microbial fats and oils at (26%), and Sugars and sugar confectionery  at (11%).

Challenges Ahead: East Africa's Population Surge and Resource Pressures

The current population of the East Africa region is over 1.5 billion people. This population is expected to grow to over 2 billion people by 2025. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including high fertility rates, declining mortality rates, and migration.The growing population is putting a strain on the region's resources, including food and manufactured goods. The demand for food is expected to grow by 25% by 2025, and the demand for manufactured goods is expected to grow by 30%. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including:

Urbanization: The East Africa region is urbanizing rapidly. In 2015, 37% of the population lived in urban areas. This number is expected to reach 50% by 2025. Urbanization is leading to a change in dietary habits, as people in urban areas are consuming more processed food and meat.

  • Rising incomes: The incomes of people in the East Africa region are rising. This is leading to an increase in demand for manufactured goods, such as cars, appliances, and electronics.
  • Changing dietary habits: The dietary habits of people in the East Africa region are changing. People are consuming more processed foods and meat, and less traditional foods. This is leading to an increase in demand for food, as well as for agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.


 Kenya Dominates East Africa's Processed Food Imports

 Kenya is the largest food and agricultural products importer in eastern Africa. In 2022, Kenya imports for processed food reached (USD 3.2 Billion) with an increase of 10.5% compared with 2021 imports.

 The value of food imported was equivalent to about 92% of the money earned from food exports, raising fears Kenya could become a net food importer.

 Kenya has been struggling to ramp up food production and cut its appetite for imports but challenges such as erratic rains, reduced farm sizes and high production costs have been standing in the way.

 As for the retail market, Kenya’s food retail sector is well developed in an African context. Foreign retailers are yet to break into the market with four local players – Nakumatt, Tuskys, Uchumi, and Naivas – dominating the scene. Nakumatt has the biggest market share, although Tuskys has a larger number of branches. Stores of these companies are also very prevalent in other East African countries, especially Uganda.

Unlock Potential & Explore Opportunities in the East Africa Market

In order to succeed in the East Africa market, businesses need to build relationships with local partners. This is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • Local knowledge: Local partners have the local knowledge and experience that is essential for doing business in the region.
  • Government relations: Local partners can help businesses to navigate the complex government bureaucracy in the region.
  • Cultural understanding: Local partners can help businesses to understand the local culture and customs.

One of the best ways to build relationships with local partners is to attend trade shows and conferences in the region. This is a great way to meet potential partners and learn more about the market. Another way to build relationships is to participate in joint ventures with local partners. This is a great way to share resources and expertise.

Foodpack East Africa Kampala

Foodpack East Africa is a trade fair for food and food processing, beverages, food preparation, and packaging, held annually in Kampala, Uganda. It is organized by MXM Exhibitions in Dubai, an exhibition organizer specializing in trade shows in Africa. Its focus is on the five sectors of food and food processing, beverage and beverage production, food preparation, dairy, and food packaging. The latest trends and developments in the food and packaging market are presented here, thus helping to drive the increasing development of the food and packaging industry in Uganda and the region.

 It also offers an excellent environment for making new business connections and gathering market information. At Foodpack East Africa, visitors can expect product launches and product demonstrations relating to beverages, food, and packaging. It is unique in the whole region and particularly suitable for producers, buyers, wholesalers, and importers looking for new products and packaging options.

The Foodpack East Africa will take place on 3 days during 16 - 18 May 2024 in Kampala. For more details, check Foodpack East Africa Website:  


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