UK: British Muslim shoppers found wanting during Ramadan

By Alicia Buller, Arabian News
Muslim shoppers think brands are ignorant of their needs, experts say

Ahead of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr in June, British Muslim shoppers are stocking up for what is the biggest religious event of the year.

UK shopping centres have reported footfall increases of up to 47 per cent throughout the month-long Ramadan period, according to research from marketing firm Ogilvy Noor.

British Muslims contributed an estimated £31 billion ($46.5 billion) to the national economy in 2014, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Of this, Muslim household expenditure on food and beverages was an estimated $6.3 billion in 2014 with five per cent CAGR to 2020.

But while British supermarkets have seen the Ramadan period driving multimillion-pound incremental value, many consumers think brands are ignorant of Muslims and their needs, said Shelina Janmohamed, vice president of Ogilvy Noor.

“Muslim consumers in the UK are looking for brands to keep pace with their contemporary attitudes and behaviours. For example, brands need to understand that the foods Muslims want to eat can cross a range of cuisines, some of which might be surprising – like the fact that the most popular food for Iftar for 18–24 year olds is chicken and chips,” Janmohamed told Arabian Business.

“Or how about the fact that health is high up on Muslim minds during the Ramadan period? Or even that two-thirds of Muslims are engaging in financial planning for Ramadan – something that seems to have been totally missed by the financial services sector,” she added.

According to Ogilvy’s research, 62 percent of Muslims in the UK feel that they are ‘not being served well’ by brands and retailers during Ramadan.

However, the good news is 78 percent of survey respondents said they “would be interested” if brands did rustle up targeted offerings for Ramadan and Eid.

Janmohamed said Eid habits are also changing, with British shopping centres that host Eid events seeing an additional 50 percent footfall in some cases.

“More families are eating out. The rise in family entertainment and days out for Eid demonstrate that the entire Ramadan season is something that brands need to engage with more effectively,” the Ogilvy Noor VP says.

Tapping into Muslim consumers

Noman Khawaja, CEO of Haloodies, the UK’s largest premium halal convenience food supplier, said Muslim shoppers make major adjustments to their shopping habits during Ramadan and Eid.

British Muslim shoppers found wanting during Ramadan
Noman Khawaja, CEO of Haloodies

Khawaja, who has overseen Haloodie’s expansion into most of the UK’s mainstream supermarkets, said: “Long fasts mean less frequent trips to the supermarket or butchers, especially when consumers are fitting trips in around work with extra fatigue.

“Usually, supermarkets move products to the front of the store so it’s more visible and it boosts sales for them. As it’s an important time for family gatherings, bigger packs are sold.”

Sales of certain foodstuffs that are important to Muslims in Ramadan increase, such as dates and cultural-focused consumables, he said.

“Making sure we give the consumer what they want during Ramadan is important to us. Be it through promotions that appeal to them, or reminding them how useful and convenient our products can be for their fasts.We always want consumers to keep Haloodies front of mind when they need quality halal products that can make their daily life and fasts easier,” the CEO added.

Khawaja said social media is a strong focus for Haloodies, as well as collaborations with influencers.

He said: “We are running Ramadan competitions and it’s also important to give back to the community so we are just finalising some charity work. It’s a digital age so there’s more activity online than print.

“We’ve just launched a range of frozen premium beef burgers so we’re promoting how they can be kept in the freezer and be used to make delicious Sahoor or Iftar meals.

“We’re also reminding everyone of key messages of looking after those less fortunate than us and the benefits of staying healthy and hydrated during the religious period.”