Healthy outlook: why Emirati entrepreneur Mahmoud Bartawi is launching a new startup


You launched Mealzap earlier this year, can you tell us more about the platform and why you decided to set it up?

Given that I previously owned and operated a basket of healthy food brands – including Under500 – in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, the experience gave me insight into the challenges that brands face. healthy food. As a healthy food brand on other aggregators, visibility is low and you always feel overwhelmed by “unhealthy” food brands.

On the other hand, healthy eaters are constantly on the lookout for foods that taste great, so we have created a platform that only focuses on healthy food restaurants. We wanted a place where savvy consumers would find a wide variety of healthy food options and meal plans and that’s how Mealzap was born. On Mealzap, you can choose from a predefined plan or customize your own meal plan.

Have the eating habits of consumers in the United Arab Emirates changed significantly in recent years?

Dubai is forging the trend towards a healthier lifestyle with a strong emphasis on well-being which is gaining ground among residents. The Dubai 30 × 30 Fitness Challenge takes place every November and is a testament to their leadership and vision for a healthier lifestyle. Abu Dhabi, Ajman and the other emirates have also seen similar trends and we have seen an increase in fitness clothing, gyms, sporting events and all aspects related to a healthier lifestyle.

That said, the fact remains that the GCC has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. While up to 31% of women in the UAE and 25% of men fall into the obese category, obesity figures rise to 31% of men and 42% of women in Saudi Arabia, according to the reports. data compiled and released by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) last year.

Poor diet and eating fast foods are the main causes of rising obesity rates year over year, and unhealthy diets are a significant risk factor for depression and anxiety.

Mealzap is rising to the challenge of making a change, starting with Dubai, with plans to expand across the GCC in our first year of operation.

The term “healthy” is often used extensively. What do you think constitutes healthy eating?

I totally agree that the term ‘healthy’ can be used in a number of ways that seem to contradict each other and that there seems to be a new kind of fad every day. However, there is a common understanding and agreement on the scientific approach – counting calories.

Using this method, you can accurately calculate how much you are getting and how much energy you are burning.

Mealzap bridges the gap between healthy eaters and their meals, allowing them to choose dishes in a few simple steps. Our technology will enable consumers to make better choices and ultimately lead healthier lifestyles.

In addition, “healthy eating” is often subjective – based on an individual’s needs. Does your platform offer personalized options?

Personalization is at the heart of our offer; we give users the option to filter dishes by allergies and preferences such as vegan, low carb, and keto. In the backend, our AI-powered machine learning platform studies user choices and creates algorithms that support custom options.

You have decided to create Mealzap even as the region is still seeking to fully recover from the Covid crisis. Why?

I understand that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on many sectors, but deliveries have increased, especially when it comes to food. The “unboxing experience” has gone from being a differentiator to a must-have: the brands that have done well are the ones that embraced this trend early and focused on better communication and better packaging.

Covid has been successful in convincing people to become more health conscious and we have seen the growth of many healthy food brands to respond to the surge in these consumers. We believe that the number of healthy consumers will continue to increase and that they will also constantly seek out a better variety. Mealzap is the platform that connects a community of healthy eaters with a community of healthy restaurants.

What are the main challenges you encountered when starting the business?

Find the right co-founders. I believe in teamwork and you have to work extremely hard to make your vision a reality in order to attract talent just as passionate and ambitious as you to accompany you on your journey.

Looking ahead, do you see strong potential for further growth for the healthy food segment in UAE?

We studied different user personalities and found the gym to be a starting point for most healthy consumers. Most people walk into the gym and the typical question they ask a personal trainer is “How do I look like you?” To which the general response is “Food is 70% of how you look, have a meal plan.”

Although economically developed, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are still seen as developing markets for gyms and fitness. Compared to Western countries such as Sweden, USA and UK, GCC countries have room for growth and can potentially double their number of registered gym members over the next five years.

This growth potential for gym members means there will also be a growth in demand for healthier eating options as residents transition to a healthier lifestyle.

Another contributing factor is the growth of healthy food restaurants that are popping up in major cities around the world. Education is also on the rise and is also a key factor that is directly correlated with the growth of healthy eating habits and a healthier lifestyle.

Also, what is your vision for Mealzap? Where do you hope it will reach?

Mealzap’s vision is to empower people who seek to lead healthier lives. Over the next five years, we seek to connect healthy consumers with a platform for the entire “healthy” ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Our mission is to connect the world on a healthier level and we want to reach out to every individual who takes this journey.


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