Popularity of Saudi dates keeps growing

Yogi & Yousef was founded four years ago. This company sells self-produced Saudi dates on the European market. This fruit is increasingly viewed as a healthy snack.

Yogi & Yousef originated from a friendship between the Dutch Yogi (Jochem) and the Saudi Yousef. After their first meeting at the flower auction in Aalsmeer, Yousef invited Jochem to visit Saudi Arabia. There he tasted the Dalia Sukkary date, a fresh date that grows in Saudi Arabia. The idea to export the fruit was born. “Although date consumption has been increasing for years, they and the Dalia Sukkary date, in particular, is still not known to some consumers. This offers opportunities”, says Yogi. “Dates are a healthy, tasty alternative to sweet snacks. Sweets are full of unhealthy sugars and additives. They have no nutritional value. Dates, on the other hand, are a source of natural fibre and are full of vitamins and minerals.”

Things have been moving at a rapid pace since the date company was started in 2013. What started with 3 000 kg of Yogi & Yousef dates has grown to sales of 300 000 dates. From this year, the company also has certified organic dates available. To this end, a collaboration was entered into with a farmer who grows organic dates in Saudi Arabia. Dates are exported to various countries in Europe from the company’s head office in Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands. Yogi & Yousef dates can be found in supermarkets in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom. France, Spain and Denmark are to follow shortly. “We arrange many tastings, which lead to good results. Almost 95% of the tasters like our Dalia Sukkary dates. These dates also cannot be compared to the types of dates people are accustomed to.” The Dalia Sukkary is a completely new kind of date for Europe. The fruit is soft, juicy and has a creamy caramel flavour. “Completely different to regular dates”, Yogi remarks. “These dates also contain more minerals thanks to the soil they grow in.”

As a daily fruit
Dates are often eaten as snacks, but can also, for instance, be a good substitute for sugar. The fruit is being increasingly used as a sweetener in the preparation of cakes, baked goods, granola, and so on. “We, however, want to position the date as a daily fruit, to be enjoyed at any time of the day. It would be great if, eventually, as many dates as bananas were eaten. We are not at that point yet, but there is a clear increase in consumption taking place.” This is, according to Yogi, thanks to the increase in health consciousness. Dates are also brought to people’s attention by foodies and in many cooking and baking programmes. “It will also not be much longer, then not only foodies and health nuts will eat our dates. There are quite a few people who have never eaten a better-tasting date and are now sold on the idea. Our target market has expanded enormously.”

The busiest time of year has, once again, arrived at Yogi & Yousef. In the run-up to Christmas and the period around Ramadan, more dates are consumed. “In the UK, for example, a lot of dates are traditionally eaten around Christmas. The whole period from September to December is actually busy”, says Yogi. “The new harvest has arrived then. Although the fruit can be supplied from climate-controlled storage throughout the year, in this period there is a specific demand for fresh dates.” Yogi & Yousef trade exclusively in fresh dates which, unlike many other dates, are not treated after being harvested. Besides the fresh dates available in various large and small packages, Yogi & Yousef also supplies pitless Dalia Sukkary dates to the industry, date syrup, and chocolate-coated dates. The whole range is also available via their webshop. The online sales are soon to be expanded to include a business-to-business model.

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Yogi & Yousef

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