BUSINESS LEADERS

Haloodies reaps rewards for millennial Muslims

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Noman Khawaja (right): ‘Often, halal is treated as something to be ashamed of [but] we take the opposite view’
Noman Khawaja (right): ‘Often, halal is treated as something to be ashamed of [but] we take the opposite view’
In 2014, a dentist and a scientist joined forces to disrupt the world of halal meat and create new concepts for the ‘millennial Muslim’ – and, so far, it seems their initiative is reaping strong rewards.

When Noman Khawaja and Imran Kausar set up the Haloodies meat brand in 2014, they did so out of a love for quality food, which they felt the halal market simply wasn’t providing to the modern-day Muslim.

What started for them as a festival to celebrate halal food soon turned into a range of meat products that is now available in Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and online at Ocado and Amazon Fresh, propelling the halal food industry into the 21st century.

Backgrounds in dentistry and pharmaceuticals don’t always lend themselves to a career in the meat industry, but the duo feel this has been an asset at times.

“We don’t come from a meat background, so we started out with a lot of hard work and graft, as well as support from our suppliers,”​ says Kausar.

“Naivety can be a strength and we didn’t perceive the same challenges that those with more experience have. We didn’t have any market experience, but we did have passion and you need both for a business to be successful, so we leant on suppliers a lot for support while we built up that knowledge.”

Those suppliers on which that Kausar and Khawaja leaned during the early days are still with them now.

Partnerships with suppliers

Fact file

Names: ​Noman Khawaja and Imran Kausar 

Job titles: ​Co-founders

Ages:​ 42 and 38

Tenure at the company: ​Four years 

“Our raw meat range is supplied by DB Foods and they’ve been with us since the very beginning. We launched that into Ocado in 2014 and then our online store, Haloodies.com, which was unusual for halal at the time.”

But it was with the cooked range, supplied by CP Foods, that Haloodies really made its name. “We’re very data-driven, so we started working with Kantar on data on the halal market and saw cooked meat as an opportunity.”

The brand’s focus on catering for contemporary Muslims even stretched to how the product was presented. “Most food brands in the ethnic space have traditional or place-related names; we wanted to move away from that narrative,”​ says Kausar.

“We’re not saying we’re south-Asian because Millennial Muslims don’t see themselves that way. They see themselves as Muslim first and, then, wherever they happen to be from. Yes, there will be a cultural affiliation to a part of the world, but it’s broader than that.”

Haloodies presents an unapologetic view of halal, according to Khawaja and Kausar. “Often, halal has to be at the back, and is treated as something to be ashamed of, ​[but] we take the opposite view. It’s there and transparent. It’s not for everyone and never will be for everyone, but consumers can at least make a choice.”

Halal market

Of course, creating the product is one thing, but just how big can the halal market get? According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2017/18 Report, the halal food market alone is expected to be worth $1.93 trillion by 2022, while Muslims are predicted to be 10% of the UK population by 2030.

First off, it’s not just Muslims buying the brand, explains Khawaja, feeding into its quality-first ethos. “It’s not only Muslims buying these products; they’re our core focus, but we do have a broader appeal. We get a lot of great reviews from non-Muslims, which is very gratifying.”

“From a domestic perspective it can be very large,”​ says Kausar. “Products are halal by default, but that’s not their intended audience. The halal consumer typically has a larger family size.

“In the 2011 census, 5% of the UK were Muslim and that was seven years ago. Most estimates put the Muslim community in the UK growing to 10% of the total population by 2030. That’s one-in-ten consumers looking to buy halal produce.”

With the brand’s cooked range focusing on poultry, even though the halal beef sector has grown, Haloodies benefits from younger people wanting to eat white meat.

Kausar says this is just another way that young Muslims are helping the brand grow. “The restaurants and high streets move a lot faster than retail and you’re seeing a plethora of halal gourmet offerings, and the consumer is racing towards this.

‘Potential for a brand to dominate’

“With so much of the Muslim population under the age of 30, they are young, cash-rich and time-poor. The potential for a brand to dominate and create an audience with an affinity for the product is there.”

Khawaja adds that this is before considering the international market. “It’s an enormous market, and that’s just domestically, before you get into the export market. We’re talking trillions. It’s going to be extremely large. Islam as a culture, rather than a religion, has a very strong preference for meat, so it all feeds into the opportunity.”

Speaking of exports, Khawaja details future plans for the business, which includes overseas growth. “It’s only a matter of time before we get into the export market. However, we want to conquer the UK first. There are still gaps in the UK for quality halal food, especially in foodservice.

“It’s a dynamic market and a lot of the needs of the consumer are not being met and it’s a missed opportunity.”

As well as looking abroad, Khawaja and Kausar have even loftier goals for the brand. “Our number one ambition is to become the most respected and trusted halal food brand in the world. We don’t think that’s unrealistic. When people say they want a cola, they say they’re going for a Coke. We’re at the stage now where people say, ‘we’re having Haloodies for dinner tonight’.”

Business leaders’ forum

The January 2019 Business Leaders event takes place at the offices of law firm DWF in London. Email fm.events@wrbm.com to register your interest.

Related topics: People, Meat & poultry

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