Evidence of cultural stereotypes holding back innovative new business and marketing opportunities for British companies

halal meatThe recent food labeling controversy where supermarket meat products were halal but not labelled as such threw a spotlight on the choices as consumers we want to make not just about the quality of our food but also the method of its production and manufacture.

We live in a world of infinite choice and it’s absolutely right that as consumers we are given the choice of eating halal or non-halal food which is why labeling is so important.

Taking that one step further, when flying long-haul, many airline passengers will be asked for their food preferences ahead of such a journey and of course many Muslim travelers will choose halal food to be served to them on the flight.

But Muslim consumers are just as discerning in their choice of food as anyone else.

So it won’t come as any surprise that the repertoire of Muslim passengers extends beyond chicken tikka masala, although judging by the typical fare offered by the vast majority of airlines you do begin to wonder that they’ve fallen into the trap of cultural stereotyping Muslim consumers as curry lovers.

However, many Muslim consumers and in particular younger Muslims love British, Italian, Chinese and other cuisines and surely represent a lucrative and hungry market for entrepreneurs who’ve spotted a sales and marketing opportunity to serve them with such fare.

Halal queenOne such company that’s making fantastic inroads into this lucrative market segment is I Eat Foods, founded by 29 year-old entrepreneur Shazia Saleem whose previous business ventures have included redeveloping a rundown holiday resort in Cambodia.

Her inspiration for launching the company was the frustration she felt by being restricted to the ‘same old boring choices’ in halal products offered by the big supermarkets.

Bubbling away for years, this frustration fueled a personal quest to create the most exciting halal food range ever developed in the UK. “Our team have been busy working in partnership with consumers and some of Britain’s top development chefs to design an entire range of delicious, contemporary British dishes – made from the finest ingredients and bursting with flavour.”

Her company now pumps out halal shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognese. Not surprisingly, these and other halal products are a hit among an increasing number of Muslims who like Shazia Saleem grew up in Britain craving the same grub that their non-Muslim friends ate. The new line of convenience foods can be found in the new halal bay in the chilled ready meal aisle of selected Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s stores in South East, West Yorkshire, Midlands and online.

Halal food is getting posher and has spurned a new consumer segment – “Haloodies” or halal foodies who are always on the look-out for something different. Willowbank, an organic halal farm in Oxfordshire has also tapped into this lucrative market by producing “bacon” from beef and rolled shoulders of lamb that are ideal for the traditional Sunday roast.

And why not?

Near where I live in Wimbledon, butchers in Tooting, south West London now offer many traditional cuts such as fillet steaks.

What we are now rapidly realising is that halal food is about more than just the ritual of slaughter and includes animal welfare which is why Shazia Saleem avoids factory-farmed meats in her ready-meals.

However, such consumer choice does come at a price. For example, at trendy west London restaurant The Meat Co, halal T-bone steaks cost £50 and at up market burger joint Meathalal kebabs and Shake the non-alcoholic Tempranillo is just as pricey.

It’s high time more mainstream brand owners switched onto this potential business and sales opportunity. Britain’s Muslims are getting wealthier.

According to The Economist, the average monthly income of those born locally, with at least one parent born in Britain is £1,219 compared with £815 for those who arrived here aged six or older. And growing numbers of converts – estimated at around 100,000 – like food that unites their old eating habits and new faith.

Things are starting to change and on-line supermarket Ocado for example now stocks a range of halal products aimed at discerning Haloodies.

Haute halal is definitely now on the menu.

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