Allegra World Coffee Portal’s Project Café Middle East 2019 has revealed the total Middle East branded coffee shop chain market reached 9084 outlets in 2018. “The Middle East represents one of the world’s modern coffee culture hotspots, with high growth prospects for major chains across many markets and burgeoning opportunities on the horizon for the specialty coffee sector,” Allegra Group CEO and Founder Jeffrey Young says. Project Café Middle East 2019 analyses the latest trends, opportunities and challenges across 12 key countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Allegra says the UAE has experienced huge growth in both domestic and foreign-invested specialty coffee shop chains. In Dubai, an influx of artisan food and beverage brands has capitalised on consumer appetite for premium coffee shop experiences. A majority of UAE industry leaders Allegra surveyed say there is still plenty of growth potential in the branded coffee shop market. Despite the growing popularity of specialty coffee, industry leaders cite convenience as the number one factor behind coffee shop success – ahead of coffee quality and service. The liberalisation of Saudi Arabia’s economy under the government’s ‘2030 Vision’ is expected to significantly boost the country’s food and beverage sector. More than three-quarters of Saudi industry leaders Allegra surveyed believe like-for-like for sales in the Saudi coffee shop sector will outperform national gross domestic product in the next 12 months. Industry leaders report a surge in third-wave café concepts in Kuwait, with well-travelled and highly educated consumers rapidly adopting artisan coffee products, such as single origin and cold brew. Allegra forecasts above regional average growth for branded coffee shops in 2018, with industry leaders surveyed unanimously agreeing that more Kuwaiti consumers are visiting coffee shops than 12 months ago. An economic blockade against Qatar continues to frustrate industry leader confidence in Qatar’s coffee shop market. Allegra says Israel has a healthy but highly fragmented coffee shop market comprising of more than 1000 domestic chain outlets. However, international brands have fared less well, with major chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ so far unsuccessful in attempts to gain a foothold in the country. Allegra says significant outlet growth is forecast over the next five years as western café concepts become more popular in the area and premiumisation gains momentum.