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Growth in marketing of halal food products

Muslims will make up more than a quarter of the world’s population by 2030.

The global Islamic market was worth over $3.6 trillion in 2013, and the market is projected to be worth over $5 trillion by 2020, according to reports published in the leading magazine. The Halal food market is projected to be worth $1.6 trillion by 2018. This sector is also estimated to be growing faster than the conventional food market, and could exceed 17% of the world food market by 2018.

Halal’s burgeoning popularity can be linked to religious fervor; and beliefs that it’s cleaner, healthier and tastier. Halal logo has now become a symbol of quality and religious compliance and this makes it sound as the new green. Then again, some argue it is driven by consumers’ urge to follow ritual or their desire for acceptance, while others see it as part and parcel of another rising global trend.

Another reason for the tremendous acceptance of Halal within the global population is the process of assimilation. Foreign foods in some countries as in Europe have become assimilated and local tastes are changing, encouraged by global tourism and reverse colonization. Curry is now the number one take away meal in the United Kingdom and kebabs have become a typical German food. Emphasis on Halal is also growing. It is fast becoming a new market force and identifier, and is now moving into the mainstream market, affecting and changing perception on how businesses are being conducted, including from a marketing point of view.

Marketing of halal products

The study of consumer behavior is vital when it comes to marketing of Halal products. The fact of the matter is that Muslim consumers are very much similar to any other consumer segments, demanding healthy and quality products, which must also conform to Shariah requirements.

Consumers nowadays are aware of the ingredients in foods thus making them more selective in choosing foods that they want to purchase and consume. Halal certification from an authorized body is important to verify that the processed food products are genuinely Halal. Consumers would turn their attention to a well-marketed product that does not have a Halal mark but they would read its ingredients, in contrast to purchasing one that has less credibility but sports a Halal logo. Following four tools of marketing mix can be used to satisfy customers and company objectives.

Product, packaging & quality

The exporters had taken the importer’s willingness to buy for granted and on occasions had failed to either maintain the quality or meet various other commitments. Despite numerous complaints, the exporters did little to improve or rectify the situation. Inadvertently, the buyers’ trust is lost, and they started looking elsewhere, including to non-Muslim countries. As a result, today in many Muslim countries, Halal poultry, meat, dairy products and other foods are predominantly imported from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and America. And the consumers are happy because they are not only getting Halal food, but also high-quality food.

 

The Halal labels should not only be descriptive, but also be clear and meaningful to the consumers. The technique is to clearly identify the source of the food elements, more so if the food components contain unfamiliar elements such as the E-numbers, which could cause confusion and problems for Muslim consumers.

Easily recognizable Halal accreditation labels will promote the religious compliance for the Muslims; however, it needs to appear with a forward-looking font to differentiate it from other trademarks. Stylized Arabic fonts very much associated with Islam can be incorporated into the labels.

Promotion, public relations & advertising

Promotion and branding is the key to making products ‘click’. By creating a Halal brand, companiescan touch lives of more people. Creating a trust mark for the Muslim community (Halal) could become its own power brand. Additionally, participating in expositions and seminars on Halal products can only lead to more sales. It brings awareness to Muslims and non-Muslims alike of the availability of their Halal products and the suppliers/wholesalers at both the national and international level. Advertising is also key for marketing and sales. From the Halal advertising perspective, strategy depends upon whether a particular market is Muslim majority populated or it is a mix of different ethnicities or communities.

In a Muslim majority case, where the total presence of non-Muslims is only marginal, it is appropriate to emphasize the Halal nature and characteristics of the food so that it attracts the common folks in the society who forms the majority. However, in a multi-religious society where Muslims are a significant proportion of the population, the product can be marked as Halal on the label so that the members of the community are aware of its status as well as promoting the product in the Muslim and ethnic media. Here, for the non-Muslims, the product’s quality is to be emphasized.

Because of the high Muslim population in the region, southeast Asia is also a general hub for Islamic products. Japan is beginning to get in on the Halal action with food producers applying for Halal certification from religious bodies, and China is on this path, too. Japan in particular is hoping to tap into external markets including Singapore, which has a Muslim population of around 15%.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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