The Middle East has long been tipped as the next big thing in world cuisine, what with Lebanese restaurants such as new chain Le Comptoir Libanais winning rave reviews in London and Iranian restaurants spreading across the west of the capital.

But although its appeal is growing, it is doing so in a circuitous way. "We find a lot of Middle Eastern customers buy foods from our Mediterranean range, which targets primarily Turkish and Greek customers, as the cuisines are often similar," says Cathryn Ramsden, customer planner of Asda's emerging markets team.

"Dips, cheeses, vineleaves and baklava are hugely popular with all customers including core UK customers, especially under the Greek brand Delphi."

Moroccan food distributor Maroc Gourmet believes customer demand is growing for foods from North Africa. It plans to launch a branded range of olives and argan oil (highly valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties) next year.

"Up until now, it's been more about supermarkets selling Moroccan or Middle Eastern just as a flavour here and there, like a Moroccan cous cous salad," says Maroc Gourmet director Adnan Bennani. "People have been able to travel to Morocco with low-cost airlines and they want to try that food again at home."

A decade ago there were only a handful of Moroccan restaurants in London, says Bennani, but now he reckons there are closer to 70. "In the past five years Lebanese has also become far more popular. It would have been unheard of for a supermarket to stock baklava then, but now Sainsbury's stocks a Lebanese line from Dina Foods. "The category is definitely one to watch."

Focus On World Cuisine