|SOURCE:THE HALAL JOURNAL MARCH/APRIL 2008|
|By Dr. Saad Al-Harran & Patrick Low, Universiti Brunei Darussalam|
|Mar 03, 2008, 15:04|
Today, Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth, both by birth and adoption, with the Muslim population estimated to reach 2 billion by 2010. With the global Halal market estimated to be worth US$580 billion a year and the Halal food industry pegged to grow at a rate of 7% annually (Asia Inc, July/August 2007), businesses should indeed be tapping at this growing market segment.
Halal’s burgeoning popularity can be linked to religious fervour; and beliefs that it’s cleaner, healthier and tastier (Burgmann, 2007). Halal logo has now become a symbol of quality and religious compliance and this makes it sound as the new green. Then again, some argue it is driven by consumers’ urge to follow ritual or their desire for acceptance, while others see it as part and parcel of another rising global trend.
Another reason for the tremendous acceptance of Halal within the global population is the process of assimilation. Foreign foods in some countries as in Europe have become assimilated and local tastes are changing, encouraged by global tourism and reverse colonisation. Curry is now the number one take away meal in the United Kingdom and kebabs are a typical German staple (Evans, 2007).
Halal has also been subjected to different interpretations to include other non-food segments. Most broadly, it may also be applied to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, hygiene products and nutritional supplements, travel, art, music and books; even marriage and finance (Burgmann, 2007).
Emphasis on Halal is also growing. It is fast becoming a new market force and identifier, and is now moving into the mainstream market, affecting and changing perception on how businesses are being conducted, including from a marketing point of view.
The Marketing of Halal Products
The study of consumer behaviour is vital when it comes to marketing of Halal products. The fact of the matter is, Muslim consumers are very much similar to any other consumer segments, demanding healthy and quality products, which must also conform to Shariah requirements.
McDonald’s in Singapore can be seen as a prime example; it has seen an influx of eight million patrons a year after obtaining a Halal certification. Since being certified, “Halal, KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell have all seen an increase of 20 percent in customers” (Hairalah, cited in Hazair, 2007a: 13).
Consumers would turn their attention to a well-marketed product that does not have a Halal mark but they would read its ingredients, in contrast to purchasing one that has less credibility but sports a Halal logo. It is therefore worthwhile that we take a look at each of the four tools of marketing mix that can be used to satisfy customers and company objectives.
Product, Packaging & Quality
Success in marketing a Halal product can be attributed to a strong brand name and more importantly, knowing what the customers want. When a Muslim consumer buys a Halal product, he is doing so because of his commitment to Islamic principles and teachings, apart from his need for the product.
However, some Halal food producers have developed a patronising attitude towards the buyers, feeling that the consumer’s lives will remain hard and dry since they will not be able to enjoy the product (El-Mouelhy, 2007). Such an attitude needs to be changed. The quality must be there as well as the willingness of the suppliers to supply such quality Halal products.
According to El-Mouelhy (2007), this patronising attitude is very real and a common happening. It has affected the Halal food trade between many countries. He cited that some of the oil rich Muslim countries used to import poultry, meat and dairy products from some of the fellow Muslim countries that were rich in agriculture and cattle.
The exporters had taken the importer’s willingness to buy for granted and on occasions had failed to either maintain the quality or meet various other commitments. Despite numerous complaints, the exporters did little to improve or rectify the situation. Inadvertently, the buyers’ trust is lost, and they started looking elsewhere, including to non-Muslim countries.
El-Mouelhy further argues that the failure of Muslim Halal exporters to recognise that the consumer is in fact the final arbiter had led the switch to suppliers who believed in the ultimate rights of the consumer. Thus, non-Muslim suppliers who may not have heard or eaten Halal food in their entire life, have been very successful in supplying Halal to the Muslim market. The reason – they knew the golden rule of marketing – that the consumer is king!
As a result, today in many Muslim countries, Halal poultry, meat, dairy products and other foods are predominantly imported from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and America. And the consumers are happy because they are not only getting Halal food, but also high quality food (El-Mouelhy, 2007).
In terms of packaging, it also considered tactless for producers to name their products after haram or forbidden foods, such as chicken ham, Halal beef bacon or alcohol-free beer. This can be misleading to the Muslim community as “Halal consumers are quite sensitive to these issues” (Hairalah, cited in Hazair, 2007a: 13).
The Halal labels should not only be descriptive, but also be clear and meaningful to the consumers. The technique is to clearly identify the source of the food elements, more so if the food components contain unfamiliar elements such as the E-numbers, which “could cause confusion and problems for Muslim consumers” (Junaidah Hj Abu Bakar, cited in Han, 2007a: 5).
Easily recognisable Halal accreditation labels will promote the religious compliance for the Muslims; however it needs to appear with a forward-looking font to differentiate it from other trademarks. Stylised Arabic fonts very much associated with Islam can be incorporated into the labels.
Promotion, Public Relations & Advertising
Promotion and branding is the key to making products ‘click’. “By creating a Halal brand, we (businesses) have the opportunity to touch lives of more people. Creating a trust mark for the Muslim community…it (Halal) could become its own power brand.” (Bayman, cited in Hazair, 2007c).
Additionally, participating in expositions and seminars on Halal products can only lead to more sales. It brings awareness to Muslims and non-Muslims alike of the availability of their Halal products and the suppliers / wholesalers at both the national and international level.
Advertising is also key for marketing and sales. From the Halal advertising perspective, strategy depends upon whether a particular market is Muslim majority populated or it is a mix of different ethnicities or communities.
In a Muslim majority case, where the total presence of non-Muslims is only marginal, it is appropriate to emphasise the Halal nature and characteristics of the food so that it attracts the common folks in the society who forms the majority.
However, in a multi-religious society where Muslims are a significant proportion of the population, the product can be marked as Halal on the label so that the members of the community are aware of its status as well as promoting the product in the Muslim and ethnic media. Here, for the non-Muslims, the product’s quality is to be emphasised.
In terms of pricing, strong Halal brands have to be created and be built upon. Brands can add value to a product, allowing the manufacturer to enjoy the ability to command a higher pricing for their products. Good Halal branding, while commanding higher prices, can also attract or entice the non-Muslim consumers.
As argued in Low (2007), companies selling Halal products should capitalise on the Muslim diasporas, that is, selling in Malay Muslim and/ or Arab Muslim majority countries or Middle Eastern countries. In this way, the companies have an expanded market and a bigger playing field.
However, it should be noted that from the producer’s point of view, there are two types of markets for Halal food, i.e. markets in non-Muslim countries, and markets in the Muslim countries. (El-Mouelhy, 2007)
In the case of the non-Muslim countries, the problem is serious because the Muslim communities are scattered. Thus it is difficult to distribute through dealers because in many cases there are no dealers but only the scattered small retailers. The labour cost is also high that the price will become not competitive as compared to the same product that lacks Halal attributes.
Despite these difficulties, one cannot disregard the huge potential it poses. The answer lies in making the product Halal in the first place, as well as making it available for all (El-Mouelhy, 2007). Marketers for Halal product in non-Muslim countries should also participate in established exhibitions and conferences within of their Muslim communities to build confidence and network.
For Muslim dominated markets, businesses need to:
* Avoid a patronising attitude and be wary that the customer is king, honouring commitments on a regular basis,
* Ensure and up-keep the product’s quality, and
* Know the culture of the local distributors. When dealing with these distributors, it is important to know their expectations and their way of saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. One should also be ready to learn how things can be made to move within any given culture.
Overall, businesses and marketers need to realise that Halal marketing is very much like marketing for any other products and the 4Ps of marketing mix should be applicable. They should also recognise that the Muslim consumers would be loyal when they always get the product they want, the supplier has kept his promise, supplying quality products, and the “Halalness” of the product is unquestionable. There should be some form of Halal certification and a respectable authority guaranteeing the producer’s claims.
|COMMENTARY: How do you ascertain that a product is halal? Do you take it at face value? Do you just accept unquestioningly that any product with a logo “halal” stamped on its packaging must be halal? Who is responsible for this aspect of a Muslim’s life? Can we compromise certainty of halalness with profits and earnings ? Why is it so important to consume halal poducts
for a Muslim? Is it not sufficient enough just to observe your daily prayers (solat) in lives of Muslims? Why do we take the trouble in ensuring our foods and drinks are halal in the strict sense of the word? Can we just take for granted that they are all considered halal if the logo halal is found on them?