Halal Goes Mainstream… Mainstream Goes Halal

You know there is something going on when the world’s biggest retailer is chasing after your product. Usually it is the other way around. Manufacturers of all sizes queue up for the chance to pitch, slash costs, squeeze suppliers and upgrade their software systems in order to get their products onto Wal-Mart shelves.

So when Crescent Foods got a call from Wal-Mart buyers, saying that they were looking for Halal chicken products and someone in Colorado had recommended Crescent, it was clear that this was a different trend at work. This was not just Halal going mainstream, this was the mainstream going Halal.

For many food producers, and Halal producers especially, meeting the exacting, and somewhat complex standards demanded by Wal-Mart can add up to an insurmountable challenge. You have to deal on their terms. For Crescent, however, following the vision of founder and CEO Ahmad Adam, meeting Wal-Mart’s standards did not present any problem.

“We realized from the beginning that to succeed as a world class Halal chicken producer, we would have to meet, and even surpass, the highest standards of the mainstream food industry. This has always been part of our vision. Our latest round of upgrades and improvements meant that we were already inline with what was expected of us from Wal-Mart,” said Mr Adam. “We had seen this coming.”

Consequently, negotiations proceeded rapidly and the first deliveries were completed in November 2008 to stores in Dearborn, Sterling Heights, Rochester Hills, Chesterfield and Shelby.

Crescent products currently carried at Wal-Mart include a variety of fresh whole chicken and tray-packed chicken parts. Certainly, if all goes according to plans on both sides, the number of products and outlets will increase in the future.

“For Crescent, this is all about developing beneficial long-term relationships,” said Mr Adam. “Whether it is with the Amish farms where our vegetarian-fed chickens are raised, our local neighbourhood community stores, international airlines or with Wal-Mart…it is all about delivering the highest quality and service, pure and simple! That’s what the Crescent approach to Halal is really all about.”

In many ways, Crescent’s deal with Wal-Mart is something of a breakthrough in the Halal food industry in America, and is an indication of the way that Halal is moving into the mainstream, not just in the USA, but also around the world.

“We are really seeing Halal developing as a global movement now, and of course the USA, with a well-established Muslim population of around 8-9 million people, is a big part of this movement. According to the marketing group that did the study, US Muslims have an overall purchasing power of around $170 billion dollars a year…this is a very significant market sector, and one that is expanding and is increasingly getting noticed by the major players,” Mr Adam continued.

The challenge for smaller Halal producers is to not leave it just to the big players to make the running in the Halal market, but to carve out a niche for themselves in the Halal sector.

This is not a fad. Demand for Halal products right across the range of product offering and price, is way ahead of supply, and is going to increase dramatically over the coming years.

Clearly, the world’s largest retailer has certainly taken notice, and it seems little doubt that we can expect to see Halal products appearing with increasing regularity in our mainstream stores.

This is part of a wider global pattern that sees many of the biggest food industry players now with serious long-term commitments to Halal. For manufacturers and retailers alike, small or big, Halal is appearing on the horizon as beacon of hope on an often gloomy skyline.