The facility, which began making the new Royal Halal frozen, microwaveable meals last month, forms part of the 5,574m2 Bombay Halwa factory in Southall, Middlesex. It has the capacity to make 100,000 meals a day from four dedicated lines. The wider factory will continue to make a range of other sweet and savoury Indian dishes.
Speaking at the launch of the dedicated plant and lines, Labour peer Lord Gulam Noon, chairman and md of Bombay Halwa, said: "I have been surveying the [halal] market for a couple of years now. It has become something that goes beyond the Muslim community."
Tesco and Asda
However, he said current handling of mainstream halal products had been "slipshod" and felt there was a gap in the market for a range of meals of consistently high quality. He had previously held back from taking halal into the mainstream market. "The time is now, because I see halal food everywhere. Halal meat, [for example] chicken and lamb, are available in Tesco and Asda."
It would be possible to extend the lines "once we have tested the buoyancy of the market", he said. "Lots of my non-Muslim friends like halal. A Muslim will not eat non-halal meat, but a non-Muslim has no problem eating halal."
The facility had a significant bank of microbiologists and technical personnel trained to handle all aspects of food safety and quality, he said.
Four dishes have been launched initially: Saag Chicken; Butter Chicken; Chicken Tikka Masala; and Kadhai Chicken, all with Baghara rice, with plans for more in the pipeline. In addition, the firm has launched two types of Toast & Eat Parathas as meal accompaniments, which can be cooked in a toaster.
All products are free from artificial additives and preservatives and have been officially certified by the Muslim Food Board UK. Where possible, all meal ingredients have been sourced from within the UK.
The new meals, which specialist chefs took a year to develop, are being rolled out to cash and carries and leading supermarkets first and are available in Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Waitrose. However, Bombay Halwa intends to target other channels, including foodservice, airline catering and convenience stores.
Noon said Royal Halal would be launched first in the frozen category, but he did not rule out exploring the chilled food category after assessing its performance. In addition to selling products in the UK, he said: "My vision is to take these foods to the rest of Europe and the Middle East."