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UK brands court Muslim consumers

News, 12 April 2016

LONDON: Pragmatic UK businesses are offering a range of halal products and services, ranging from greetings cards to gym memberships, aimed at meeting the requirements of Muslim consumers.

"Halal doesn't only apply to food but also to business ethics, dress, etcetera," explained Rauf Mirza, director of The Muslim Lifestyle Expo (MLE), which organises trade fairs on Muslim consumer trends.

And that was apparent at a recent London networking event where 150 business leaders, experts and young entrepreneurs met to discuss how they can profit from an expanding sector.

One entrepreneur related to AFP how she had set up her Muslim greetings cards company, Elaara, after finding too many existing cards contained unsuitable images such as champagne glasses and churches.

Another had launched an online fitness course – The Healthy Hijab – for women who wear the veil and who don't want to go to a gym with men present.

Nor are the opportunities restricted to small businesses as leading supermarket chain Tesco has run a Ramadan advertising campaign.

Launching the event, Shelina Janmohamed, vice president of Ogilvy Noor, a "bespoke Islamic branding practice", said that Muslim consumer lifestyle spending amounted to $2.6 trillion a year, with particular potential in the youth market.

In the past she has described British Muslims in particular as "a young, brand conscious, well-connected and increasingly affluent consumer segment" that is "a segment crying out to be served"

But a 2015 article in the International Journal of Market Research challenged existing assumptions around young British Muslims.

Research by Hannah Wright of Illuminas found "a much more complicated and subtle relationship between faith and consumption".

For example, media coverage of world events involving Muslims and discussion of British Muslims and immigration, made many respondents "uncomfortable with the very idea of products designed specifically for them".

But it seems to be the case that UK businesses are more comfortable with the idea than their continental counterparts.

"In France instead we immediately politicise the debate," noted Ali Djedid, of French fashion marketplace Zeynara. "Crossing the Channel, there is more pragmatism on these issues, which are seen only through an economic prism. It's seen as a business opportunity."

Data sourced from AFP, IJMR; additional content by Warc staff