Reflections on the Kingdom: A Journey through the evolution of Saudi Arabia

In a world experiencing significant growth deceleration, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appears to have created a model of its own. Saudi Arabia is a once-in-a-generation growth market; one that has reinvented its business model from oil to tourism, and is actively investing in its future by investing in corporate business, sporting names, events and cultural icons. 


This is a country that feels different every time you visit. Even if only a few months have passed. The change is rapid. But wholly planned. 

Saudi Arabia is now halfway through an economic development plan called Vision 2030, which aims to turn Saudi Arabia into an economically diverse powerhouse. And the country has undergone a remarkable shift in a few years. This ambitious initiative is aiming for cultural reform across various sectors with a significant shift from tradition. 

Central to Vision 2030 is fostering a vibrant society that embraces diversity and welcomes tourists. As Saudi consumers grapple with the implications of these changes, there’s a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty regarding cultural identity and the future. However, this opens a world of opportunity for brands poised to meet the evolving needs of Saudi consumers. 

At Butterfly, our extensive experience in KSA has afforded us unique insights into this evolving landscape. We started working in KSA in 2012 and have completed more than 30 engagements in the region, which have brought us eye to eye with consumers to adapt global brands, uncover local insights and build propositions that fit such a fast evolving culture.  

Fresh off our most recent trip to Riyadh, our Butterflies have seen the dynamic interplay between holding onto tradition and embracing modernity, as Saudi consumers navigate this transformative journey.  

We’ve unlocked three categories offering clear opportunities for brands to adapt and align with evolving needs of Saudi consumers, as well as the country’s vision for the future. 



Beauty is playing an increasing role in empowering Saudi women, bolstering their confidence and sense of attractiveness; many brands are actively pioneering innovative ways to engage: 

Asteri, proudly owned by a Saudi woman, tailors its products to the specific challenges of the region. The make-up is formulated to endure the unforgiving conditions of the desert, high winds and parching heat. The brand also empowers Saudi women’s evolving role in society, as captured in its ethos: “Asteri makeup has journeyed through the desert and had a busy day at the office, been on vacation and out to dinner. Now it’s ready for wherever life takes you.” 

Halal skincare brand Peacefull targets Middle Eastern women, capitalizing on the growing popularity of halal cosmetics. This trend doesn’t just appeal to Muslims; consumers globally are seeking these products to avoid skin-irritating alcohol or animal-derived ingredients. There’s an opportunity to tap into Halal standards and meet the needs not only of Saudi women, but an increasingly diverse customer base.  

Gel A Licious recognized an untapped opportunity with Wudu press-on nail rings. The rings offer an alternative to conventional polish with the appearance of false nails. But unlike gel or acrylics, they can be taken off and reapplied, allowing customers to easily remove them for prayer. The viral rings have consistently sold out, underscoring the demand for unique solutions that cater to Muslim women. 



In Saudi, F&B is transforming. In the dining scene, international influences mingle with traditional flavors, creating a dynamic culinary landscape. As Riyadh emerges as a global gastronomic hub, brands are seizing the opportunity to innovate and cater to evolving consumer preferences through the spectrum of possibilities: 

In Riyadh, Al Mamlaka Social Dining seamlessly merges Saudi culture with global F&B, fostering culinary diversity and cultural exploration. With 21 kitchens and interactive experiences, it caters to over 7000 daily visitors, resonating with a younger, globally minded demographic. Reflecting Saudi Arabia’s evolving F&B landscape, it champions inclusivity and experiential dining. 

In Riyadh, Via Mercato offers artisanal delights from around the world, including a caviar bar and cheese shop, curated by knowledgeable staff. Amidst a growing street cuisine scene, it stands out with a blend of local and international flavors, symbolizing sophistication, and global gastronomy. 



Now with 18 million tourists visiting in a year, Saudi now tops the list of Arab countries and its hospitality sector is booming with innovation. This is truly spectacular given how recently the country opened up to tourism.  Locals and tourists seek immersive, luxury experiences focused on wellbeing. Future-forward, climate-conscious ventures are shaping the Arabian landscape: 

Dreams of the Desert, a five-star luxury train launched in partnership between Italian company Arsenale Group and Saudi Arabian Railways, marries local interests in slow luxury and taking extended vacations. Inspired by the Orient Express, the train embodies flexible, localized lux, enabling consumers to live hybrid, decompress, and experience home in new ways. 

Six Senses Southern Dunes shows that extreme weather isn’t deterring luxury seekers in Saudi Arabia. With eco-friendly facilities including its own solar farm, plastic-free bottling plant, and conservation workshops, the hotel thrives, unwaveringly committed to sustainability while appealing to travelers’ dual appetites for adventure and wellness. 

Giga projects like Project Neom are redefining luxury. Under Neom, Xaynor, a beach resort re-imagined, is designed to blend seamlessly with the coastal landscape, merging indoor and outdoor spaces. Sindalah, an island resort, integrates nature, advanced technology, and responsible design. These offerings capture how Saudi is transforming classic hospitality offerings into futuristic experiences. 


Embracing both tradition and modernity, Saudi Arabia presents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to innovate and align with the evolving needs of a nation on the brink of a cultural renaissance. In this dynamic landscape, the future of KSA is full of promise, daring brands to venture into uncharted territories and redefine the very essence of consumer engagement. 

We would love to talk to you about our reflections on KSA and the impact that these and other trends in the region could have on your brands or businesses: reach out to Marilena D’Amone, or Michelle Boulos,

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