iEat – bridging the UK muslim product/culture gap

It would appear ludicrous that with a spending power of around £20bn each year – a source of income any food manufacturer would like a slice of – that a whole consumer group and category is ignored: Muslims and halal foods. It is a fact that Muslim’s do not just eat curry and therefore as a product category Halal food is still undeveloped, with few major brands catering for it and those that do sticking to curry options.

ieat, a brand we helped to launch this year, is bucking the trend, producing the UK’s first halal ready meals of British favourites – shepard’s pie, chicken & leek pie, pizza etc. Founded by Shazia Saleem, she was frustrated with not being able to enjoy traditional British foods and so, in true British entrepreneurial spirit, created her own range.

Educating the public about a product and a new category is a daunting task. It requires the brand to be clear about their audience; their desires, their behaviours, their purchase triggers. For brands to stay relevant, they need to understand the context in which they exist. Also, embracing multiple cultures in our diverse society is something brands have to do to be attractive to the highly influential Generation Z audience.

For ieat, the strategy is built on insights into how modern culture is shaping the identity of British Muslims. Particularly the under 40s – or third generation Muslims, who have grown up in the UK – who are far more inclined to engage with other cuisines and societal behaviours, whilst still wanting to maintain a relationship with their mother culture. This group want to be part of the British food scene as much as everyone else; but whilst the restaurant scene is catching up, retailers have been much slower.

However, this demographic needs a new set of brand communications rules – it’s not enough to be in Muslim community newspapers or just talked about at the Mosque anymore. Whilst these help, in order to fully reach this growing group, with its new styles and habits, the brand needed to be more flexible and approach a multitude of different channels including social media. As part of our communications campaign, locally targeted community PR and marketing went hand in hand with larger national messaging for a far wider footprint.

This strategic thinking should be followed by all manufacturers who are looking to tap into this new product category. It will help drive sales, revenue and, ultimately, profit.