Photo: Haloodies booth at Muslim Lifestyle Show in London, May 2016 / Instagram / @Haloodies
The market for halal foods in the UK is expanding rapidly to cater to rising demand and changing consumer preferences. Just in time for Ramadan, last month Haloodies launched the country's first selection of pre-packaged sliced and cooked chicken, marking the onset of what its co-founder Imran Kauser (the other co-founder is Noman Khawaja) predicts will be the growth of 'value-added halal food products' in the UK.
Just a few years ago, the availability of halal foods in the UK was limited to small butcher and kebab shops. The breadth of options, too, was limited: it simply wasn’t possible to buy premium cuts, such as fillet steak or pre-packaged delicacies.
But month by month this is changing: British innovators such as meat seller Haloodies (a portmanteau of ‘halal’ and ‘foodies’) and ieat foods, a provider of halal ready meals to supermarkets, are pushing for change in this expanding market.
Co-founder of Haloodies, Imran Kausar told Salaam Gateway that the inspiration for his company came from his childhood struggle to find halal versions of non-South Asian food. Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, he explained that he had to “go to another part of town to shop” and so he began to dream of a way to create more halal food options.
Kausar, a doctor by trade, first tested the market for his modern halal meats by launching The Halal Food Festival, a three-day event at Excel London in 2013. Hoards of visitors were plied with halal fare, from street food and desserts to drinks, and given demonstrations by personalities such as French chef Jean Christophe Novelli.
Kausar explains: “The Halal Food Festival defined the market and gave us access to everybody in our industry, and from that Haloodies was born.” That same year, Kausar and his business partner Noman Khawaja, launched Haloodies in London’s upmarket department store Harrods and Ocado, an online supermarket popular with the middle classes.
ETHICAL, HALAL AND TAYYIB
“The Haloodies range, which includes halal beef, beef burgers, lamb and chicken, aims to raise the quality of Muslim meats in a market that is “shrouded in fraud, doubt and double standards,” says Kauser. All Haloodies cuts of lamb and beef are free range and grass fed, with the aim of appealing to the ethical values of halal and tayyib.
Kausar explains: “It’s a very strong theme for us that we have an ethical basis because it’s part of the philosophy of halal, as opposed to just the technicalities. Halal still has a general perception of being barbaric because it’s not understood very well by non-Muslims.”
The Haloodies co-founder says that perception does play a role in the sale of halal meats. “It’s the brand’s role to educate to the consumers. To date, there has been a paucity of brands, but now as brands come through, we can take on that mantle and get the truth out. We need to get people to understand that, beyond the blessing, most of the time there is no difference between the halal and non-halal process.”
In May 2016, Haloodies launched the UK’s first selection of pre-packaged sliced and cooked chicken. This marks the onset of what Kausar predicts will be a vertiginous climb for ‘value-added halal food products’ in the UK. “In 2013 as a Muslim I could not walk into a supermarket and buy meat, it did not exist. So the pre-packed thing is an even newer concept for the consumer.
“There’s lot of frozen things available, or you can make things yourself, but you can’t buy pre-packaged value-added halal foods. This is a clear gap in the market,” he explains.
“In the non-halal market 25 percent of all poultry is value-added, while the rest is all fresh. This option simply isn’t available for halal consumers. You can get a lot of very, very processed items but the meat is of such low quality that the supermarkets wouldn’t sell it.”
The market for halal food is growing exponentially. In Britain’s 2011 census, 2.7 million people in England and Wales identified themselves as Muslim, according to the Office for National Statistics, compared with a figure of 1.5 million in the census a decade earlier.
MUSLIM MIDDLE CLASS
In addition to the increase in numbers, a Muslim middle class is also becoming better established, concomitant with more education, a higher disposable income and an appetite for consumerism.
Kausar explains that while the first generation of British Muslims was driven by a simple need to locate halal meat, second and third generations often have more money to spend and higher aspirations for quality.
“I was born in the UK and everything I know is the UK because this is my home; I see all the quality and range available in the non-halal world and I want that because it meets a community need and a quality need. There are a lot of us now. We are time-poor and cash-rich, so we want convenience and quality. That’s where Haloodies comes in.”
© SalaamGateway.com 2016