Courier-magazine-workshop-halal-kosher

Fashion Finance Food Lifestyle Retail Workshop

Chasing the god squad: meet the companies targeting Muslim and Jewish consumers.

Young Muslims and Jews are emerging as a lucrative and untapped source of customers. But how exactly should a business pitch its religious creds?

1 Mar 2017

Trying to ‘keep kosher’ or buy halal (consuming items that are ‘permissible’ in Judaism and Islam, respectively) has so far existed outside modern mainstream consumerism. Choice has been scant, quality has been poor and products have been sold through niche ‘ethnic retail’.

Yet the spending power of Muslims in the UK is estimated to be £20bn. Observant Jews are reckoned to spend on average £2,000 more on food each year than the average consumer.

Companies of all sizes are waking up to the opportunity. Ad agency Ogilvy already has a division dedicated to targeting young Muslims. Meanwhile, the term ‘weekend Seder’ has emerged among marketing people to describe the pick-and-mix attitude of many young Jews towards their faith.

Ticking a box

New ventures have come through such as organic halal and kosher meat suppliers, and fashion startups aimed specifically at Muslim women, as well as a range of products, from cosmetics to mortgages, that tick a religious box. Last year, arguably the most famous and controversial example of a religiously compliant product for the modern Muslim came to the fore, as the increasingly popular ‘burkini’, designed by an Australian startup, was banned on French beaches.

There’s a growing number of young people from both religions who feel more connected to their religious heritage than their parents, but are also desperately keen to embrace many of the clothes, food, holidays, dating apps and other products enjoyed by their secular peers.

Courier-magazine-workshop-halal-kosher-2Uniqlo and Tesco

Last year, Uniqlo launched a range of hijabs and modest clothing (see picture, top), while Hovis obtained kosher certification for most of its loaves. Tesco, meanwhile, predicted £30m in Ramadan sales, making the Islamic month of fasting its third biggest sales period after Christmas and Easter.

Several halal gourmet burger businesses have been popping up, riffing on the success of the likes of Patty and Bun and Meat Liquor. Among them are Burgeri and Burgista Bros, described as ‘decent but not exactly exceptional’ by blogger Halal Girl About Town.

Poor downgrade

This kind of religiously compliant twist on a mainstream product frequently leaves people dissatisfied, and frustrated that the halal or kosher version is invariably a poor downgrade.

Many Muslim women are sceptical about clothing with a specific Islamic angle, preferring the brands worn by their western peers. It’s led to sites such as Amaliah, which sorts through mainstream designers’ lines and filters the clothing deemed modest and suitable.

Religious certificate

It’s left many companies deliberating how much they need to dial up the religious angle, even questioning whether to pursue a religious certification. There are several kosher and halal boards in the UK, charging at least £1,000 for certification. However, there exist a myriad interpretations of what constitutes halal or kosher in both communities.

Courier looks at a handful of businesses targeting Muslim and Jewish consumers in what is expected to be a burgeoning market in the coming years.

Book of profits

Eight businesses with a kosher or halal offering.

Willowbrook Farm
Organic meat

Problem: Halal meat is invariably low quality.

Lutfi and Ruby Radwan raise animals organically on their farm, arguing that truly halal meat should not be battery farmed, slaughtered by stun guns or given antibiotics. It’s a long way from the highly industrialised supply chain behind most halal meat sold in the UK.

PHB Ethical Beauty
Cosmetics

Problem: The red pigment in lipstick is forbidden.

Gelatines, insect shells and alcohol, all common cosmetic ingredients, are not permitted in Islam. PHB’s founder Rose Brown puts halal and vegan side-by-side. Brown can’t sell a bright red lipstick (carmine, the red pigment, is made from crushed insect shells), but has created a naturally derived moisturising gel.

Aduna
Superfood powders

Problem: Health food supply chains need to be checked out.

Demand for health supplements is on the rise among Jewish consumers, with 2016’s The Really Jewish Food Guide dedicating a chapter to herbal medicines and vitamins. Last year, Aduna collaborated with the kosher certification body KLBD to promote its brand and raise awareness of its supply chain.

Financing Sharia Enterprise
Loans

Problem: Charging interest is prohibited by Sharia law.

A Start Up Loan delivery partner, Financing Sharia Enterprise is a not-for-profit company that lends Sharia-compliant finance to small businesses in London. Instead of charging interest on the loans, a profit-share arrangement is agreed by the advisers.

Halal Booking
Travel

Problem: Finding a Muslim-friendly holiday.

Founder Enver Cebi came up with the idea for Halal Booking after struggling to organise a halal honeymoon. The company locates resorts that serve halal food, have women-only beaches and pools, and don’t serve alcohol. In 2015, the firm was valued at £24m.

J Swipe
Dating app

Problem: Tracking down eligible Jews to date.

J Swipe is often described as the Jewish Tinder. Set up in 2014, the app (see picture, left) aims to replace the caricature of the matchmaking Jewish mum. It also allows users to flag how observant they are, to pre-empt any awkward moments when ordering a pork chop on the first date.

Amaliah
Fashion

Problem: Picking up suitable clothing on the high street.

Sisters Selina and Nafisa Bakkar launched Amaliah in 2015 to improve the shopping experience for Muslim women. Scouring the high street, Amaliah picks out suitable items from the websites of mainstream brands such as Uniqlo, Zara and Topshop as well as halal-compliant make-up and cosmetic products.

Halal Gems
Restaurant finding app

Problem: Locating restaurants that serve good halal food.

One of a multitude of apps created to help Muslims find restaurants that serve decent halal food, Halal Gems covers the UK and the UAE. The negative reputation of halal food is something the team has had to negotiate, with some restaurants reportedly requesting not to have their venues publicised on the app.