Big brands are losing ground on halal food

According to a Nourish Food Marketing report, halal consumers are more likely to buy from online and DTC sources.

Halal shoppers heavily overindex on online spend compared with the general Canadian population – and its helping more innovative challenger brands gain market share from established players.

These are among the insights from the latest Halal Shopper Study conducted by food and beverage specialist Nourish Food Marketing, involving 1,000 respondents who are Muslim and regularly purchase halal food.

According to the numbers, 72% of respondents report doing their shopping online, compared to 53% of the general Canadian population who were asked the same question in separate research. This represents an opportunity retailers can take advantage of to better service the halal shopper.

“With such growth in the platforms and interest from this shopper group, it’s important that halal brands are represented on retailers’ ecommerce platforms,” says Salima Jivraj, head of Nourish Multicultural and account director at Nourish Food Marketing

Jivraj tells strategy in previous years it conducted the survey, Maple Leaf Foods’ Mina Halal and Maple Lodge Farms’ Zabiha Halal were the two dominant players, but increasingly, new entrants are eating away at those brands’ market share through product innovation, like Prizm Foods’ halal jerky or Meathead’s wagyu burgers. 

According to qualitative focus group feedback, she says some consumers report being tired of the “same old same old” from established brands, and looking to expand their options beyond traditional offerings like halal bologna, chicken or hotdogs. And given that these upstart brands – as well as specialty grocery stores – have developed their delivery and DTC options, it has made it easier for a digital-friendly consumer base to access them.

That said, 50% of respondents still rated companies as “good” or “very good” when asked if major food brands meet their needs for halal products, up from 32% in 2019.

Among the other interesting findings is that plant-based remains a somewhat misunderstand concept in the community. People recognize it as being halal by default in some cases, but according to Jivraj, there are opportunities for brands to do better outreach by emphasizing, for example, that there is no alcohol in the products.

When it comes to grocery loyalty, specialty store Iqbal Halal Foods is among the top most shopped by consumers in the Greater Toronto, while Costco is an increasingly important player in this space.

According to the latest Stats Canada figures, 3.7% of Canadians are Muslim, with the population fast approaching two million. The halal market is a lucrative segment, worth more than $1 billion in sales annually.

Ramadan, a key period for the purchase of halal food and groceries, begins the evening of April 1 and, according to Jivraj, marketing spend around the event has remained stable, as families, rather than holding large gatherings during lockdowns, were instead bringing food to one another.