Spotlighting Europe’s Muslim consumers

Spotlighting Europe’s Muslim consumers

Author: Daphne Kasriel

Date published: 10 Sep 2008

is the religion of a vast and growing number of consumers around the
world. There is strong evidence to suggest that religious affiliation
plays a significant role in consumer behaviour. As sources like the
Journal of Euromarketing point out, enhanced knowledge of religious
differences in consumer decision-making can have a marked impact on the
effectiveness of global marketing strategies.

Key trends

A growing market;
Money management for Muslims;
Modern Muslim women demand modesty with flair;
Expansion of the Halal market;
Stamp of approval;
Safety first;
Muslim make-up;
Marketing to Muslims.

Commercial opportunities

Cross-over Halal market – Kosher, vegetarian, health-conscious;
Halal certification adds value;
Fashion, cosmetics and personal care products.


The European Muslim market is a significant market segment:
estimates put it at 25-30 million and rising. The UK has a growing
Muslim population of two million; while at five million or 8% of the
population, France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim community; and
Germany has three million Muslim inhabitants.

There are also sizeable
Muslim populations in Belgium, Norway and Sweden, with Mohammad the
first or second most popular boy’s name in cities such as Brussels,
Oslo and Malmo.

Europe’s Muslims have diverse backgrounds but as
consumers they are unified in three areas: they want Halal food and
products; Sharia financial products which conform with the prohibition
on payment of interest; and modest clothing.

A growing market

The tendency of Muslim families to have more children means that
targeted marketing is an attractive proposition. Current population
figures across Europe are impressive, but the growth rates are more so.
Europe’s Muslim population, even at conservative estimates of around 25
million, increased at a rate of 140% over the decade to 2005.

Muslims make up less than 1% of the Irish population, but statistics
show a 70% increase in the community’s numbers from 2002-2006.
Similarly, the number of Muslims in Austria increased 15 fold from 1971
to 2006, and Islam will overtake Protestantism as the country’s
second-largest religious group by 2010, according to a recent study
from the Austrian Society for International Understanding, while
Belgium’s approximately 400,000 Muslims represent 4% of the total
population. And this year, El Pais reports, Spain’s burgeoning Muslim
community established Life Halal to defend its rights as consumers and

Money management for Muslims

The UK is the largest centre of Islamic banking and finance in the
Western world. Its first specialist Islamic bank opened in 2004, and
HSBC and Lloyds now offer Sharia-compliant mortgages and accounts.

Lloyds’ research shows over 75% British Muslims want banking services
that fit with their faith, but they also want all the benefits they’ve
come to expect from banks. Other European countries, such as the
Netherlands, have recognised this as a potential growth market and have
expressed interest in offering similar services to their resident
Muslim communities.

Modern Muslim women demand modesty with flair

To accord with Muslim sensibilities, the Burqini swimsuit was
launched in 2006 and is now sold internationally, mainly online. The
polyester suits are a cross between a burqa and a bikini, and are
designed in accordance with Islamic law requiring women to dress

A survey by advertising agency JWT confirms the view that the
Muslim market presents considerable opportunities for clothing
retailers. A JWT spokeswoman said she hoped to convince H&M to
introduce a line of modest clothing, noting that survey respondents had
entreated: “Tell H&M to sell more conservative clothing we can
enjoy, especially long sleeves in the summer.”

And for Muslims who are
offended by the idea of their daughters playing with a blonde, busty
Barbie doll, an alternative is now available in the form of Fulla. She
has dark hair and a small chest, and wears a headscarf and coat. Unlike
Barbie, Fulla does not have a boyfriend or a job, say her makers. She
spends her time cooking, reading and praying.

Expansion of the Halal market

Islamic law defines the eating habits and therefore purchasing
choices of millions of people Europe-wide. Muslim consumers are
therefore one of the largest market sectors in the food industry and
constitute a complex and diverse market demographic: spread across the
globe and straddling all income brackets.

The Muslim customer eats the
widest range of foods, encompassing everything from spaghetti suppers
to stir-frys, and fine dining to fast food.

A spokesman for Malaysian Kasehdia, the media company behind the
annual World Halal Forum, identifies Europe as a growth area for niche
Halal foods: “In France, for example, second and third generation
Muslims are no longer happy eating what their parents bought in the
local stores. They want pizzas and hotdogs that are certified Halal.”

The forum attracts major global players in the food industry, including
McDonald’s, KFC and Nestlé, eager to talk-up their new ranges of Halal
products. “What they are starting to realise now is in the UK and
Europe there are these identifiable Muslim markets,” the spokesman
adds. Leading supermarket chains have recognised that by offering Halal
foods they can tap into a consumer-base that previously shopped at
small ethnic stores.

Leading the way on the fast food front, last year McDonald’s began
serving Halal Chicken McNuggets and other food items permissible to
Muslims, at one of its London outlets. Demand is strong, sales are
increasing, and McDonald’s is thinking about extending the experiment
reported the Economist.

Meanwhile, Boots, a UK chemist chain, is
running a trial of Halal baby food in 30 stores. While Tesco, which
like other supermarkets, sells Halal certified meat at some stores, is
looking to include new products, such as ready meals. In France, to
cater to the sensitivities of affluent Muslim consumers, manufacturers
of gourmet foods are producing Halal foie gras.

Muslims are also going online to find markets and restaurants with
Halal products. A popular US website,, now features listings
from Muslim communities across Western Europe. “The Muslim community in
the West is a very internet-savvy community,” says the website’s

Stamp of approval

Certification is key to the Muslim market, with supermarkets such as
Tesco backing the drive for a set of global as opposed to local Halal
standards, so the supply chain for products is easier to manage.

And it’s not just meat, Halal is a wide category encompassing
everything from butter to soy sauce. It’s now commonplace to see a
Halal logo on a variety of food items: milk, bread, juices and soft
drinks, sauces, prepared meals etc. The Halal logo is also spreading to
toiletries and cosmetics, and even to pharmaceutical and medicinal

Muslims are also attracted to certain Kosher certified food
products, as they provide an assurance against hidden ingredients that
are ‘haram’ (forbidden). In the USA, approximately 16% of sales in the
$100 billion Kosher industry are to Muslims who lack adequate Halal
options. One leading manufacturer of Kosher foods has recently launched
a campaign designed to reach out beyond Jewish customers; an approach
that could be exported to Europe.

Safety first

The Halal symbol attracts not only Muslim consumers, but those
alarmed by food scares such as BSE and Bird Flu, and recent scandals
surrounding food contamination. These consumers associate Halal with
purer products and the use of fewer chemicals.

There is evidence of
significant but so far unquantified numbers of non-Muslims eating Halal
food. In the UK there are approximately three million Muslims and yet,
according to the UK Food Safety Authority, there are six million
consumers of Halal meat

Muslim make-up

The Muslim market presents major untapped opportunities for
cosmetics and personal care products, according to management
consultancy firm A T Kearney. “At a time when many other large consumer
segments are reaching a saturation point, Muslims are a new outlet from
which to build a box for future growth,” reads a company report.

“Since Muslims are the fastest growing consumer segment in the world,
any company that is not considering how to serve them is missing a
significant opportunity to affect both its top- and bottom-line
growth,” the report concludes, as reported in

A number of cosmetics companies are
beginning to develop this lucrative market, releasing Halal certified
ranges that contain no animal ingredients and are not animal-tested.
The cross-over potential of marketing to Muslims and vegetarians, and
those concerned about animal welfare, are obvious.

Colgate-Palmolive is ahead of the game with a number of toothpaste
products that are certified Halal, while Australian firm Almaas produce
Halal mascaras and eye shadows. The Body Shop, although not certified
Halal, has also proved popular with Muslim consumers due to its stance
against animal testing and its use of natural ingredients in its

Its success shows that clever marketing strategies may be as
important as offering certified Halal ranges.

Marketing to Muslims

JWT claims to be the first global agency to identify Muslims as a
consumer group, and compares it to the Hispanic market in America:
“Twenty years ago, if you said ‘Hispanic’ I’m not sure people would
even know what you meant. Today this segment makes up about 15% of
American consumerism.” JWT’s recent study, “Marketing to Muslims”, sees
the faith group as Britain’s largest untapped niche market, and one
that is certain to grow: it comprises 3% of the population, is
Britain’s second largest faith group and has the youngest age profile.
JWT is encouraging clients, including Unilever, Nestlé, HSBC, Esteé
Lauder and Johnson & Johnson, to develop strategies to reach this
global market.

Other companies, while not officially segmenting their customers by
religion, are nevertheless seeking to reach out to the Muslim consumer.
Coca-Cola, for example, runs a series of marketing initiatives each
year during the holy month of Ramadan. One of their advertisements
focuses on sharing food during ‘iftar’, the evening meal when Muslims
break their daily fast, and has proved extremely popular.

A striking feature of Islam is its diversity, as recognised by an
IKEA advertisement showing people from varying ethnic groups, some in
traditional dress and some in Western attire.

With the proliferation of
satellite channels across Europe, reaching target audiences has never
been easier. Many of Germany’s Muslim citizens are of Turkish origin,
and there are more than 40 Turkish-language stations available
nationally, a number closely rivalled by Arab-language channels.

When advertising to Muslims, a more modest approach than that used
for a non-Islamic audience is preferable. Because European Muslim
communities are not homogenous, and have a variety of ethnic,
linguistic and cultural characteristics, interpretations and attitudes
differ, so variations in the portrayal of women in advertising can be
expected. In light of the uproar caused by the inappropriate use of
verses from the Qur’an, sensitivity to religious sensibilities is


The European Muslim consumer represents a large and rapidly
expanding market segment, one which increasingly wants to participate
in the global marketplace in ways consistent with Islamic religious

It’s a market that companies cannot afford to ignore.