The United Kingdom is home to over three million Muslims, according to the Office of National Statistics. This accounts for approximately 4% of the entire population and is growing steadily. In fact, the Pew Research Centre predicts that Britain’s Muslim population will triple by 2050, rising to 13 million. Therefore it’s not surprising that demand for halal food products is also on the rise.
The food industry has recognized the demand for halal food products and reacted accordingly. AHDB Beef and Lamb estimate the total value of the UK halal meat market to be around £2.6 billion a year. Although Muslims in Britain represent just 4% of the population, they consume around 20% of all the lamb sold as well as a growing percentage of beef, the majority of which is halal.
As a result of suppliers’ investment in this sector, Muslim consumers have more choice today than ever before. From coated chicken and marinated lamb chops to meatballs, many of the UK’s major food retailers and foodservice suppliers are stocking a range of halal products. All offer frozen halal products, which range from coated chicken to desserts. M&S, for example, now stocks its own line of chilled halal ready meals alongside brand leader Shazan halal products.
Although there is a big market for halal products throughout the country, certain sectors and areas are larger consumers than others. The increase in demand can be attributed to the fact that there are now more suppliers in this market.
“Demand has also grown as younger generations of people who eat halal food are choosing to eat in more mainstream outlets, meaning that these outlets need to stock halal products,” said Tom Styman-Heighton, development chef at Funnybones Foodservice. “Further education and contract catering are massive consumers of halal foods, and to a lesser degree, so is event catering. Restaurant and pub sector halal food is driven by the location of the site and the demand from the local community. Demand seems to be stronger in the independent sector than in national chains.”
As a burgeoning demographic, consumers looking for halal products when eating out of home are a huge potential customer base offering significant profits, which is why major wholesalers such as Bidfood have expanded into this area.
Last year Bidfood acquired The Punjab Kitchen, now rebranded as Simply Food Solutions, with several sub-brands offering meal solutions across a wide range of cuisines – including both halal and kosher options. Halal meals include the Keema and Peas seen above.
“The Punjab Kitchen was started by my father over 20 years ago after a hospital visit opened his eyes to the shortage of halal options on offer to patients,” said Managing Director Yaqoob Ishaq. “Recognizing this gap in the market, coupled with his passion for food, he set up a small 5,000-foot production facility that specialized in making halal and ethnic meals based on his wife’s recipes.”
Although much discussion surrounding halal food focusses on meat and the ethics behind slaughtering practices, halal isn’t simply about animal food products, but the use of their by-products too.
“Halal is far wider than meat and includes alcohol, gelatine and other foodstuffs,” said Styman-Heighton. “There is more awareness of these products now, and different foods are attracting attention. For example, we are starting to see a degree of demand for fully halal desserts.”
The popularity of Birmingham-based Artisan dessert restaurant, run by Ali Imdad, a Great British Bake Off contestant in 2013, and his business partner Vakas Mohammed, is testament to the spending power of Muslim millennials.
Retailers and wholesalers are following in the footsteps of successful high street eateries and are now offering a range of halal desserts and highlighting existing ranges that are also halal-approved or carry halal certification.
Almondy’s Toblerone Tårta, for example, is a great option for foodservice outlets. This frozen cake with a chewy almond base which is layered with chocolate cream and topped with milk chocolate mousse and Toblerone pieces is not only suitable for vegetarians and coeliacs, but is halal- and kosher-approved too.
When it comes to offerings in the supermarket freezers, demand for more innovation has seen development of more flavorsome products as opposed to standard meat portions.
Central Foods offers a range of halal-approved products which include poultry, vegetarian and dessert options with its Golden Valley and KaterVeg ranges, which include American-style, coated and marinated Chckn fillets, BBQ chicken wings, vegetable kievs and spicy bean burgers.
“Meats are still the biggest focus product for us and beef in the halal meat sector is far more popular than in the non-halal sector,” said Styman-Heighton. “Tender Cooked Pulled Halal Chicken and Tender Cook Pulled Halal Beef are our most popular halal products.”
Burgers are always among favorite options among consumers, and frozen variants provide greater value for money. Tesco offers packs of 12 halal chicken and beef burgers under the Tahira brand for £3.50 and 600-gram packs of Humza-branded halal chicken kebabs for £4.
The street food phenomenon has taken over retail and foodservice markets, which has increased demand for halal versions of food truck and mobile cart menu items. Asda offers a wide selection of street-style treats to satiate the appetites of customers. From its 20-pack Shazans-branded halal chicken samosas for £3.50 to its 600-gram pack of halal Donner Kebab Meat for just £1.60, it has this demographic covered.
With the UK Muslim population poised for ongoing growth, the demand for innovative halal food products will increase accordingly. As a strong market sector with an impressive trajectory it’s not surprising that more producers and retailers of frozen products are getting on board. – Reported by Sarah Welsh