With the region positioning itself as a global halal leader, local businesses would do well to start marketing their product the Islamic way
The global halal industry may be in its infancy, but it increasingly looks set to dominate the business agenda for Muslim traders and consumers across the world.
No surprise when considering that market comprises some 1.8 billion people, is valued at $2.3 trillion and is set to grow by $500 billion annually.
The potential growth of the industry promises a windfall for whoever can successfully satiate the various wants and needs of a diverse market segment that accounts for one quarter of the world’s population and knows no geographical boundaries.
Muslim consumers around the world look for the green and white halal label, the presence of which promises the product to be Islamic compliant. However, while this emerging market offers vast opportunities for entrepreneurs, being a successful halal brand requires much more than just certification, warns Liow Ren Jan, founder of Sri Kulai, which manufactures ready-to-eat halal meals in Malaysia.
“Credibility and integrity is everything when it comes to marketing halal,” says the Malaysian, who recently authored the book Marketing Halal: Creating New Economy, New Wealth. “It hinges on three important pillars: the product, the manufacturer and the certification body.”
Halal is a lifestyle choice, says Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of Cresentrating, a halal friendly service that ranks travel and hospitality services and facilities. “This is why businesses need to understand the values behind halal and ensure they are reflected in their marketing to this segment. Just making your product or service halal or halal friendly and then targeting this segment with conventional marketing strategies may not be enough.”
The ‘consumer is king’ core marketing principle applies to halal as much as the mainstream. Therefore, understanding consumer habits and preferences is an important part of marketing halal, a unique segment in global industry. Not ‘one market’, it is made up of big and small sub-markets that span different regions and cultures of the world.
Further fragmenting the market are the number of different Islamic sects, income disparities and ethnicities, requiring a local approach rather than a one-fits-all scheme.
“Muslims in Indonesia are less conservative compared to those in Malaysia. Thus a marketer in Malaysia may need to emphasise more on the halal aspects while an Indonesian marketer may give more emphasis to the product’s functioning aspects,” says Liow.
By the same token, South Asian Muslims are more likely to consume lamb products while their European and American counterparts enjoy ‘old world’ style sausages, luncheon meats and smokehouse items.
While this rapidly changing market comprises more than just food, about 61% of the industry’s trade is in foodstuffs. Pharmaceutical products comprise 26%, cosmetics 11% and leisure activities, among others, account for the rest.
While consuming products and services that are halal has always been the foremost consideration for a Muslim, the ability to make any product and service halal has changed.
“Most people think that halal only refers to prohibited meats, but halal is a lot more than that,” says Liow. “Once one understands halal toyyibban (what is permissible and wholesome), one will realise that halal as a concept could be appealing to both Muslim and non-Muslim. It is not just a religious thing, and it is not just for Muslims. It is a symbol of quality.”
This has given new impetus to the halal-conscious consumer to look for a ‘halal’ choice in anything they consume, says Bahardeen.
Halal as a market segment for mainstream business started with the food industry about 20 to 30 years ago; Islamic banking (which is expected to reach $1.1 trillion this year) quickly followed. Within the last five to 10 years, this has extended to lifestyle and leisure activities.
“This opens up huge opportunities for innovation and change,” says Bahardeen. “Almost every product or service can be re-aligned to attract this segment specifically while continuing to cater to other segments.”
With more people conforming to Islamic compliance, the halal industry has recorded impressive growth rates – with multinationals such as Tesco, McDonald’s and Nestlé expanding their approved product lines.