In this guest post, our French distributor and European retail expert Jerome de Ferrieres explains how the halal market has developed in France and why he believes that KQF products are well suited to some of its most promising niche markets.
A Taste for the Exotic: France’s Changing Halal Market
Firstly, thanks to KQF for giving me an opportunity to talk about the halal market in France, which is very important to the work of AsiaFoodCo.
There are some significant differences between the halal markets in Britain and France. I think it’s fair to say that the French market is a lot more mature, it has a very different composition and it’s certainly larger – roughly twice the size of the British market.
Between 5 and 6 million inhabitants originate from the Maghreb – the countries of Northwest Africa – whereas only a relatively small proportion of the Muslim population comes from India, Pakistan and Bengal. There are perhaps half a million people of Turkish descent living and France and the demographic mix also features more than a million people from West Africa – Gabon, Togo, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. As a rough estimate, around a third to a half of these African consumers will be Muslim.
Muslim populations tend to be quite concentrated, particularly around Paris, which could account for about half of the national halal market. The capital and its suburbs are therefore very important to retailers serving Muslim consumers.
Each ethnic group has its own characteristics and preferences and this applies particularly to the issue of halal certification. Some groups are not particularly fastidious and will simply avoid pork. Others will seek halal labelled foods but will not be greatly concerned about their certification. Others however – particularly certain communities in and around Paris – consider halal certification to be very important and will opt for foods that bear the stamp of their preferred monitoring body.
In France, the two leading bodies are AVS and Mosquée de Lyon. AVS tends to be regarded as the most stringent and is comparable in many respects to Britain’s HMC. The HMC itself is relatively unknown amongst ordinary shoppers in France but retailers specialising in the Muslim market are usually well informed about its work and therefore happy to stock HMC-certified foods, including those produced by KQF.
When it comes to judgements about the reliability of halal credentials, many French consumers tend to trust their chosen brand of supermarket/hypermarket. These shops will generally have a frozen foods aisle with a clearly marked ‘halal’ section so if a retailer is prepared to stock a certified food, its customers often tend to accept it.
KQF’s halal certification has therefore been very important for convincing retailers to stock its products and for proving that those products will stand up to the most rigorous scrutiny. Now that they are in stock in many parts of Paris and elsewhere, the next consideration is how well the market responds.
We are still at a relatively early stage of market testing but the early responses have been good. In June, we agreed a deal with Le Clerc FRANCE, which has over 500 stores, and this followed agreements with other retailers including Alphaprim and distFresh.
In France, KQF foods are branded as Khan Exotique and I think they are successful because they appeal to particular niches. Burgers are common in France but they tend to be cheap and the meat content is low. KQF is not offering ‘just another burger’ but is, instead, offering authentic and exotic flavours from India and other parts of the world.
This illustrates how the halal market in France has changed, particularly over the last ten years. For a long time, shoppers had no difficulty in finding staple halal foods but their choice was very limited, especially when it came to products with more exotic flavours.
More recently, well known food brands have begun to introduce their own halal products so the market has started to develop a taste for variety and convenience. In addition, many Muslim consumers are anxious to buy products with reliable halal credentials, but there is a very limited number of products that combine all three qualities: exotic flavours, convenience and trusted certification. Fortunately, these are all areas in which KQF is very strong and this is what first attracted me to the Khan Exotique range.
Looking ahead, I think there is great scope for us to work with KQF to introduce more halal certified ‘flavours of the world’ to French Muslim consumers. The larger product sizes, the emphasis on quality and the reliable certification are all important selling points and as the range grows to include flavours from Mexico, Thailand, North Africa and elsewhere, I expect the brand to become increasingly popular.