Opinion: Businesses should offer more for Halal markets


Businesses are missing out by not capitalizing on the growing Islamic population and offering more halal products, suggests research by Euromonitor International.

According to the report, released this week, Muslim consumers are expected to reach 26 percent of the global population by 2030. The report argues that businesses should respond to this opportunity by offering more products, including food and fashion lines, aimed at the halal market.

Muslims pray at Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Muslims pray at Dhaka, Bangladesh

Halal, which roughly translates as “permissible” or “lawful”, requires food to be prepared according to specific guidelines. The animal should not experience stress before it is killed and the slaughter must be conducted by a Muslim using a knife to cut the animal’s throat.

“An environment catering to their religious needs as well as businesses certified in complying with Islamic requirements boosts the attractiveness of a product or service,” said Emil Fazira, food and nutrition research analyst at Euromonitor International, in a press release.

“Major companies adhering to mainstream trends are increasingly facing demand from Muslim consumers – mainly the young and able to spend – who are also interested in the latest consumer trends,” she added.

Feeding demand

Food is one area where businesses should focus their efforts. For instance, in predominantly-Muslim countries, volume sales of fresh meat have grown significantly. From 2009 to 2014, sales grew in Turkey by 11 percent, compared to a decline of about one percent in Western Europe.

Fast-food outlets are increasingly offering halal meat in response to demand from the Muslim community. In the U.K., where around 100 KFC stores serve halal-certified chicken, value sales of chicken fast food amounted to £2.1 billion ($3.26 billion) in 2014.

But the U.K. could do far more, according to Sadiq Mohammed, CEO of the Halal Food Authority, a non-profit organisation which checks whether products comply with halal requirements. It has certified several brands, including Kelloggs, Mars and Krispy Kreme.

“The U.K. food industry is still unable to claim its true and deserving share in the global halal market. Political, sociological and ethical concerns are some of the reasons with an element of Islamophobia and less focus on necessary PR and education,” he told CNBC by email.

“Manufacturers in the U.K. are often nervous in marketing their halal certification and only take reactive approach when receive enquiries on halal trade. Since halal encompasses food safety, hygiene, animal welfare and environmental health, halal provides an equipped PR and marketing tool to the industry.”

Other countries have been much more successful at certifying and promoting food as halal, Mohammed said, including UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, “where the right infrastructure, training and research are available leading to highly lucrative and competitive halal market place.”

Dressing up

Fashion businesses should also consider offering clothing lines aimed at Muslims. According to the report, young, modern Muslims want clothes that combine “up-to-date fashion with the Islamic value of modesty.”

“The Muslim shopping experience is often a frustrating one,” the report’s authors wrote. “The modern Muslim woman, whether in Turkey or the UAE, wants to wear clothes with similar prints, materials and accessories popular amongst women in the U.S. and Western Europe. International haute couture and runway-inspired designs by international retailers such as H&M or Zara are therefore often admired, but in many cases, do not meet the required standard of modesty.”

A number of small start-ups have responded to meet this demand. For instance, Ahiida is an Australian-based company specialising in swimwear and sportswear for Muslim women whose founder, Aheda Zanetti, designed the “burqini”.

But few multinational companies have tried to cater to this market. The report highlights DKNY, which launched a successful Ramadan collection in 2014, as a model for how companies can offer something to Muslim consumers without having to change their entire brand.

– By Luke Graham, special to CNBC