Halal food a ‘bigger market than China’

By James Ridler

Halal food and drink should be the UK’s focus once it leaves the EU: Abdalhamid Evans

Halal food and drink is a bigger market than China – worth more than £900bn – and will become increasingly important to food manufacturers when the UK leaves the EU, according to a specialist consultant.

Speaking at the recent Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Beef and Lamb Halal Seminar, Abdalhamid Evans – strategist at halal consultancy Imarat Consulting – told delegates that the UK would need to compete in Islamic markets after Brexit.

The global population of Muslims – who follow strict dietary halal guidelines – is about 1.2bn globally. That compared with 854M Chinese people, according to American think-tank The Pew Research Center.

Muslims spent £956bn ($1.17tr) on food and drink in 2015, according to Thomson Reuters State of the Islamic Economy  report.

Speaking about the importance of the halal market post-Brexit, Evans said: “If we want to be open for business with the world, we need to be aware that a lot of the rest of the world is Muslim.

“Muslims are the only major religious group projected to grow faster than the world’s population as a whole.”

Understand Muslim customers

Evans told FoodManufacture.co.uk after the event that if UK food manufacturers wanted to tap into the Islamic market, they had to understand their Muslim customers and respect their values and preferences.

“It is quite nuanced, but Muslims generally can tell if a company is just trying to make a quick buck, or if they genuinely want to engage with this emerging market opportunity,” said Evans.

Evans felt that manufacturers were not doing enough to provide halal products to consumers. But he understood that firms were afraid of alienating more customers than they would gain by going halal.

“This is a pattern that we can see playing out on a global scale,” Evans explained. “Halal products, if they are well designed and marketed, can appeal to the general population. Halal is clearly at a point where it is moving from niche to mainstream.”

Importance of halal meat

The AHDB also highlighted the importance of halal meat in the UK, particularly to the sheep industry.

Head of global supply chain development Phil Hadley said: “The halal market is already very important to our sheep industry, with the Muslim population estimated to consume approximately 20% of sheep meat in England.  

“The Muslim community, both in the UK and overseas, is growing at a faster rate than the population in general, therefore the relative significance of this market is only likely to increase.”  

He warned that with the uncertainty surrounding access to export markets once the UK leaves the EU, it was essential that firms maximised the potential of the domestic halal industry and also looked for opportunities to access valuable halal markets overseas.

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