Imran Kauser, the co-founder of the UK halal food provider, talks to The National about his company Haloodies and his outlook for the sector and the firm.
What are your predictions for the UK’s halal food economy in the next few years?
We see enormous growth ahead. There will be a strong interest in halal food from mainstream retailers. As more and more retailers take on halal products it will attract others to come in. Growth is difficult to get and this is a very strong growth market so retailers wouldn’t be servicing the needs of their customers if they didn’t introduce halal ranges.
In addition, because of the rapidly shifting demographics, we’ll see a slight growth in the ageing population but a significant growth in the economically active population. There will be more Muslims leaving high school and universities to enter working life. We see the demographic effectively tilting towards a new middle class with increased disposable income. This trend will be combined with retailers increasing access to halal in a convenient manner for this consumer base, meaning consumers spend a lot more on higher quality products as well as opposed to cheaper, lower quality products that have been the hallmark of the last two or three decades of the halal products in the UK.
It’s worth mentioning that along with increased availability of halal products in mainstream retailers, we will also probably see an interest in halal from those who are not required to eat it for religious purposes but buy it for ethical purposes. The halal meat method practices humaneness towards animals and is mindful of its impact on the environment. I do see halal going mainstream over the next few years.
What kind of companies will enter the UK halal sector?
It’s a dynamic market. The halal industry to date has been littered with products and not brands. With the emergence of the millennial Muslim, you’re going to see a lot more brands. As soon as the first trickle comes through in terms of food and fashion, you’re going to see an avalanche. That will mean competition will intensify. Focus and investment will probably follow it as well.
When you see activity at the micro level with small SMEs setting up and offering a difference and, at the other end of the spectrum, major conglomerates doing the same, you can tell instantly that this is going to be a market with lots of activity. We’re going to position ourselves as a business so that we’re ready to go on that rollercoaster as well.
Interestingly, brands will have open ground to compete in terms of wholesomeness. As organic and halal become like kindred spirits in terms of their philosophy – a lot of what has worked in organic has started to trickle into halal – these concepts will filter through and brands will try to leverage a position and gain market share
Is halal food set to go organic in line with mainstream UK trends?
Not currently. We have access to organic suppliers but since we sell through retail, the retailers have to make sure enough volume goes through. The price differential between conventional halal and organic halal is so significant – fourfold or fivefold – and the retailers haven’t been persuaded that the market is necessarily there at the moment.
Even looking at non-halal, free range and organic in the context of poultry is only 5 per cent of the non-halal market. To persuade a retailer that in the niche of halal, to offer a further niche of organic is challenging.
Is the sometimes-negative perception of halal meat an impediment to growth?
There’s been a lot of research done in Europe that shows that non-halal consumers think halal meat comprises an element of brutality and is inhuman. This is often linked to some of the events that happen geopolitically and shape the vision and view of halal. Interestingly, consumers don’t have the same views about kosher meat, despite the technicalities being similar.
This issue isn’t seen in the US, this is a European issue. I think communication with the public will have to happen and brands will have to communicate that message rather than the accreditation authorities. I think a strong brand can effectively communicate those messages and express the true values, virtues, sentiment and philosophy of halal. This consumer education will be fundamental.