Halal on the high street
When it comes to restaurants, supermarkets and products in the U.K. there is definitely a shift occurring. Some have been ahead of the curve but silently so, such as Tesco, who have been selling halal products since the end of the 90s and who even sell un-stunned meat. While others offer halal in a specialist way, like Ocado, which has an online halal store or Asda, which has opened Haji Baba Halal butcher meat stands in a number of outlets. All the major supermarkets and restaurant chains have statements on their provision of halal meat, but most qualify whether this includes stunned or un-stunned meat. McDonalds, Costa and Pret do not serve halal meat at all, while Subway, Pizza Express and KFC have halal only branches.
How halal can you go?
Not surprisingly, restaurants that provide authentic food from the Middle East, like Comptoir Libanais and Shawa, also provide meat that comes from approved and certified halal suppliers. Founder Tony Kitous says, “We are proud to provide halal meat, so that our chefs feel at home and our guests can experience real, wholesome, healthy and delicious food. The kind of food I had when I was growing up!” Comptoir Libanais does serve alcohol, which some Muslims do not drink, but this is in keeping with Tony’s mission to make food from the Middle East as popular as Italian food. He is trying to bring people together through food, but also drink!
Restaurants like Meat & Shake, however, are responding to the demand in their communities (Tooting, Ealing and Watford), by catering to a stricter halal diet. As The London Haloodie, says “ I LOVE that there is no alcohol on the menu and that Meat & Shake are so openly halal.” Haloodie refers to a foodie who happens to follow a halal diet and this particular haloodie is part of a growing number of halal bloggers who are helping Generation M find their halal food.
Hold up, what is Generation M?
It stands for Generation Muslim AND Millennial. With their focus on food, we reckon this demographic should at least get the nickname of Generation Mmmm, but who are we to coin a trend? As a PR agency we are more focussed on spotting them and in assessing the shifting cultural-economic landscape. Although the idea of Generation M was conceived a couple of years ago, we believe the potential impact this generation can have is more relevant than ever to the declining meat and dairy industry.
This is especially so when one considers that one-third of all Muslims are under the age of 15, and two-thirds are under 30. Generation M is therefore a huge proportion of Muslims in the U.K. and they are increasingly more vocal. Their ability to vocalise and influence have been shaped by two things…
The global response to the Muslim community post 9/11 and the internet
This is according to Shelina Janmohamed, author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. The former has galvanised religion for this generation, while the latter acts as “the glue that binds [Gen M] together and creates the critical mass that turns them into a globally influential force.”
Across the internet, haloodies can help each other out, by providing reviews, directories and even apps that let users find halal food and restaurants.
One such app is Halal Gems, which encourages users to rate as they go, like an alternative TripAdviser. Halal Gems also provides a digital magazine and houses all its content with guest features on a very swanky website, which is just as well as their focus in on fine dining. Although sites are mostly stylish affairs with polished social media profiles to match, there is a real range of halal bloggers, each catering to different sub genres.
Tell me more about these halal bloggers
On first inspection, the majority appear to be young and female haloodies, who have made use of the freedom that the internet gives them to connect with each other. Traditionally marginalised voices within the community, they have, as Janmohamed says, been “given space…to express their views.” When it comes to food they are doing so with rating systems and food imagery that is on point.
For Halal Girl About Town her reviews are like any other food blogger, except that in the rating section there is an additional pork/ alcohol question, i.e. do they serve it there.
What started for Layla Hassanali as a hobby at uni. turned into a full time job once she graduated. She puts this down to the fact that “there was no resource for halal restaurants in London at the time, so I started to journal my food adventures online and it just took off from there.”
Like many halal bloggers she was answering her own need to be catered for and this is what really defines the halal blogger and more generally, Generation M; their determination that the world should cater for their needs.
With her blog boasting over 5 million views, appearances on the BBC and features by The Observer and The Guardian, Hassanali really is influencing things. She wants to “show [her] followers that halal dining doesn’t need to be limited to stereotypical Indian or Pakistani cuisine, and can range from European to Filipino too. Things have changed quite rapidly in the last few years, with lots of restaurants now accommodating the halal consumer.”
She is right and this often means it can be difficult to know whether a halal blogger is even showcasing halal food at all, if you’re just going by instagram feeds. If it weren’t for their name or bio, or in the case of the brunching biologist, a silhouette profile pic of her hair in a hijab, you wouldn’t know. Others you would guess from their hashtags or from imagery of them in the hijab, but generally the signposting is very subtle and indicative of how Generation M “straddles different heritages and feels comfortable in all of them”.
This hybrid identity of religion and modernity that Janmohamed defines is what makes Generation M’s voice so unique and it is thanks to halal bloggers that we are able to hear them more clearly.
This voice is not just a female one though
Halal Food Guy has a very slick website with every category covered, from Halal Michelin Starred Restaurants to Where to go for Ramadan/ Iftar. One thing unites every review though: halal is always in the heading. The whole rating and sticker system is very professional and more detailed than most. It not only covers whether there is pork or alcohol, but also whether there is a mosque 10 minutes walk away or a prayer space inside.
Other popular male halal bloggers include Halal Hunt who seeks out burgers and “man food”, Steak and Teeth whose focus is made quite clear, the brilliantly named Man Vs Halal Food, who does what he says and usually wins, as well as the massive halal blogger London Foodee, whose feed is full on delectable.
However, it is not just the male bloggers who have a penchant for pow food aka burgers and all things big and beefy. Halal blogger collectives like haloodie and female halal bloggers like Halal Food London are also repping the super tasty melt your eyeballs treats. We would call them #foodporn shots, but we know that they don’t because the word is pretty immodest.
Although they mainly spread awareness of the U.K./London food scene, some halal bloggers focus on their hybrid heritage, like Makan Inda Beranti This duo proudly declare their search for great food in both London and Brunei. Whilst even halal bloggers based in Canada, such as Halal Foodie, are able to share food posts that are relevant due to their regular travels abroad.
The Eco Halal Movement
From male to female, professional to part time and from junk food to fine dining, halal bloggers are giving voice to their community. For most of their reviews of halal food, taste, presentation and halal are the defining factors, but what about the environment and animal welfare? Well, this takes us back to our earlier definition of halal.
For many Muslims, halal food & drink refers to no pork, no alcohol and meat that has had its blood drained. But as per our list in part one of this blog, which attempts to define halal, there is quite a lot of emphasis put on rearing livestock in a natural way and in killing animals with kindness. As mentioned previously, this approach is called tayyib and evidently has varying levels of observance.
The Vegan Muslim Initiative define tayyib as “pure, clean, good, wholesome and a host of positive meanings”. While this definition is vague and open to interpretation, there is clearly a belief on their part that meat and dairy consumption does not qualify. Other vegan muslim bloggers tend to agree, like One Arab Vegan.
Historically, veganism and Islam have been seen as mutually exclusive
This is keenly exemplified by the annual celebration of Eid Al Adha which involves the ritual slaughtering of over 100 million animals during a 48 hour period. More generally, many Muslims see eating meat as an integral part of everyday Islamic life. For them, because meat is mentioned in the Quran, it is therefore condoned and if there is halal certification then they are following the Quran.
But what about tayyib?
The online publication Animals In Islam argues that the lack of observance of tayyib means that truly halal meat is “largely a myth in the industrialised world”, and that “none of the conditions requiring that the dignity of the creature be respected and maintained are met in today’s world of industrial meat production”. This view certainly chimes with the concerns of modern day non-muslim consumers, who crave cruelty-free products that are also organic and sustainable.
Hence the emergence and success of Willowbrook Farm and Halal Exotic Meats. The former is based in Oxfordshire where animals roam freely and are reared organically while the latter is based in Yorkshire where they observe the highest animal welfare.
Owner of Willowbrook Farm, Lutfi Radwan, says that “Sustainability and renewability are part of the Islamic idea of ‘stewardship of the Earth’”. To deliver his halal produce “Resources must be properly respected [and] workers in primary industries must not be exploited.”
There is therefore an interesting convergence of halal with the demand for organic sustainably-sourced animal products by non-Muslim consumers. The focus or association of halal with higher welfare is perhaps why it has become increasingly popular among non-Muslims in China and Europe.
As globalisation and commercialisation have disconnected people from the source of their food, halal (tayyib) seems to reconnect them and allay their concerns. Hence the lucrative trend of halal food manufacturers catering to the trend for both religiously-permissible and organic food. Alongside this is also the trend for eco muslim bloggers like that belonging to Zaufishan Iqbal whose blog claims that “if it’s not organic, it’s not halal”.
Whether pushing for environmentally sustainable meat or for veganism, these viewpoints are clearly filtering through to the more mainstream halal bloggers, whose instagram stories and reviews are starting to cover this kind of halal food.
Halal bloggers don’t just herald in the change, they make it!
According to MuseFind, 92% of consumers are likely to trust a social media influencer over an advertisement or celebrity endorsement. And according to the Global Muslim Economy Report, social media and influencers are the top opportunity within the consumer needs ecosystem, i.e. this is the arena in which needs are most clearly and significantly expressed.
It is little wonder that businesses look to influencers for direction and to, well, influence! Many of the aforementioned halal bloggers work professionally reviewing and sharing content for a brand, because the brand is making it worth their while. But because these bloggers have honed authenticity in their blogging and generally stay true to their values, principles and aesthetic, this is mutually beneficial for all.
This system is obviously nothing new, but within the context of Generation M and the Muslim market it is certainly starting to impact the British and global F&B industry in a more noticeable way. We see how brands don’t have to be a “Muslim” to successfully connect with Generation M, but we also see how Muslim brands don’t have to be overtly muslim to appeal to non-Muslims.
In general, non-muslim businesses are waking up to the spending power of the Muslim pound while Halal Lifestyle conglomerates are starting to mimic the broad offering of those such as Nestle. Amongst this growing convergence and acceptance, the definition of halal still varies wildly, but while debate is sure to continue, one thing is for sure – haloodies really love to eat!
Food is central to many religions and cultures. Perhaps for the Muslim faith, where family togetherness is so strong and drinking is so frowned upon, this accounts for the huge importance of food; it is something everybody in the family can enjoy.
With the U.K.’s trend for drinking less and for being more sustainable it seems like the modern eco halal way of life is much closer to home than many would think. So hurrah for Gen M and halal bloggers who champion their identity and culture!
As veganism marches on, we take a little time to reflect on the biggest food trend for 2018 and how it is having an impact across the industry and in our lives.
The V Word
Veganism. What does it mean to you? For some, it’s a way of life that overhauls previous behaviours and habits in order to make some positive difference to the living world. Whether that be to your own body, the animal kingdom or the environment; it’s defined as being more conscious and responsible. For others, it signifies a tapping out of the taste game or a raising of the white flag in the crusade for good food. In short, for many it takes away from the everyday bliss that food can bring and the journey of creating great flavour. But can you have your eggless cake and eat it? Can you be a vegan gourmand?
To Foodie or Not to Foodie
To the resolutely carnivorous, it would seem you cannot. If you’re not open to eating absolutely anything; if you have chosen to prioritise the wellbeing of animals over the taste they produce, then you can no longer be deemed a “foodie”. From this viewpoint, the system of values has shifted, knocking taste off the top spot and making the term “foodie” no longer applicable to vegans. A twist on the French saying might be: foodies live to eat, vegans eat to live.
But with places such as Michelin-starred Pied à Terre doing vegan tasting menus as well as others, like Gauthier Soho, going from serving 20KG of foie gras each week to being 100% vegan within two years, there are certainly sophisticated vegan offerings out there. We are especially excited by the relatively-fresh-on-the-scene, Plates, which declares itself “a plant-based food studio and restaurant, influenced by art and inspired by nature”.
There the Executive Chef Kirk Haworth, together with his Creative Director (and sister) Keeley, are really pushing the boundaries for vegan fine dining by using Michelin-star techniques focussed solely on seasonal, organic plants. With Nigel Hawarth as a father and the restaurant being based in Hoxton (near to the JAMS office), we will have to find out for ourselves and report back in our monthly JAMSession!
With the recent announcement of the Michelin Guide for 2019 revealing a more inclusive attitude, this PR agency wonders how soon it will be before a vegan restaurant makes it onto the list. l’Arpege in Paris is the ultimate veggie-centric icon, having retained its three michelin stars since it earned them in 1996, but at the moment, it cuts quite a lonely figure. Considering how swiftly veganism has entered into the mainstream in the last two years, perhaps the Michelin judges will continue to embrace change and welcome more plant-focussed restaurants into the hallowed starry world of awards.
A meteoric rise
Veganism is an obvious trend at the moment with products and dishes popping up at an ever-increasing rate. Most recently, we have seen Domino’s announce its Vegan Supreme pizza and receive a very enthusiastic response, as well as another vegan option, which is still being trialled, but is on the way. Also recently, the national pub chain, Marston’s, became the first to put Moving Mountain’s “bleeding burgers” onto their menus, as part of a £1m deal.
These meatless burgers gain their “bleeding” status from beetroot and their umami hit from mushrooms. They have clearly received the seal of approval in the vegan community as they are now served in vegetarian stalwart, Mildred’s, as well as, newcomer to the veggie/ vegan scene, Tell Your Friends (owned by Made In Chelsea star Lucy Watson) . But will the Moving Mountains burger reign supreme for long? Or will it soon be surpassed by the much talked about impossible burger? Perhaps, if the burger ever makes it to these shores.
Designed by a small US company, it is telling that Beyond Meat has had to postpone its UK supermarket debut because it would struggle to meet demand. Now that it is receiving funding from America’s largest meat processor, Tyson Foods, it will surely be taking the impossible out of its journey, at least. Some vegans, who do not like to support meat production, may be miffed by the brand’s association with a meat producing corporation. But there is an argument that working to change from within can be very effective.
There have been some significant reductions in meat and dairy consumption recently. For instance, beef, lamb and pork are all in volume decline with chicken only growing by 0.5% this year. According to DEFRA’s National Food Survey, the sale of meat products overall has reduced by almost 7 per cent since 2012. In dairy, milk sales fell by around £240m between 2014 and 2016 in the UK. In light of this and also predictions that the global vegan cheese market will skyrocket to almost $4bn by 2024, it is not surprising that dairy giant Danone has invested $60 million in dairy-free products.
Nor is it very shocking that big retail is expanding its vegan ranges when one considers the success it has having. Online grocer Ocado enjoyed a staggering 1,678% increase in sales within its ‘vegan’ category between 2015 and 2016. While Sainsbury’s sales of its vegan cheeses surpassed the company’s predictions by 300%. More recently, Tesco’s rolled out Wicked Kitchen vegan meals at 600 stores and sold more than 2.5 million units in the first 20-week period ending in May 2018 — more than double the company’s sales projections.
Moving back to consider the restaurant industry, this time in America, a recent study has shown that 51% chefs added vegan items to their menus in 2018 and this is not because these chefs found veganism (becoming vegan does sometimes have a whiff of religious zeal about it don’t you think?), it is because doing so is profitable. The study also reveals how social media is the driver, which makes sense, as social media has a history of moving things forward as part of the counter-culture as well as being able to make big noise for a small movement.
Although veganism is certainly leaving the fringes of society and becoming more widely accepted and catered for, it must be noted that real options are only really concentrated in the cities. Also, the figures do tend to get hyped. For instance, it is often quoted that there are 3.5 million vegans in the U.K. This is not true. According to The Vegan Society, there are only 600,000 vegans in Great Britain in 2018. In other words, 1.16% of the population is vegan. It is quite impressive, therefore, how much news coverage veganism gets in the media! But this disproportionate coverage really comes down to two things.
Veganism is as veganism does
First is that the UK has an estimated 22 million “flexitarians”. Yes, the term does define people with the backbone of a jellied eel and that’s why the word is so icky. However, it is an important part of the meat/ veggie spectrum. As a gateway to veganism or simply, as a way to significantly reduce consumption of meat, fish and dairy, flexitarianism is a valid choice as well as a significant consumer. This is especially so when one considers how the youth are the main adopters. In 2017, YouGov found that 25% of millennials were either vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, while 44% of all consumers are willing or committed to cutting out meat. With the youth mobilising through social media and testing the waters with flexitarianism, veganism is understandably making waves in the media, as many consumers crave to learn more.
The other reason comes down to the highly charged times we live in. The world is either on the precipice of nuclear war or languishing in an endless refugee crisis, but overarching all of these issues comes climate change. And with it there is a a growing awareness that, if agriculture continues at its current rate, it will be producing 52% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of which will come from meat and dairy. The youth have shown themselves to be the most moved by these projections, which is why perhaps 1 in 5 of young adults believe meat will not be eaten by 2030. This statistic comes from a recent study conducted by YouGov for technology company ThoughtWorks, where young adults are classified as 18-24 year olds.
So there is a highly charged climate, environmentally and politically, but on a more a personal scale, the reason that the debates rage so furiously online and offline is because food is so essential to our identity and our social interaction. You are what you eat and when those everyday choices and rituals become something we are forced to defend, battle lines are drawn very quickly. When people do not have the ability to break bread together, discussion can get fractious and people become divided.
Note the effect of veganism on friendship groups deciding where to go for dinner, picked up by our hard-nosed journalistic team/ going about our normal lives…! On this topic it is interesting to note the President Of National Restaurant Association USA, Dawn Sweeney, who was quoted saying, “any restaurant that does not serve vegan food is burning money. Everyone knows that the vegan chooses where the group eats.” But is this true Dawn? Is it not more the case that vegans start to find more vegan friends with whom they can eat out and that omnivores have to lament the loss of a foodie partner in crime? Perhaps the vegan and the meat eater can’t be friends, perhaps veganism is tearing us apart?
Either way, there has been an increase in negative reviews reported, which highlights how vegan expectations are rising. This is according to new research by guest feedback, recovery and social reviews service Feed It Back. The 5% increase was calculated from surveying more than 400,000 consumer reviews of restaurants, quick service restaurants and pubs between January and May this year. It mainly concerns the lack of options as well as a problem with being charged the same for a dish that has had ingredients removed.
For restaurants and retail, it looks as though the small, but powerful growth for vegan products as well as the rising expectations for vegan offerings will indeed require providers to focus on innovation, variety and bespoke dishes. Luckily, some media outlets and restaurants are trying to keep the peace. Time Out is offering two people the opportunity to dine out at nine vegan-friendly restaurants with 50% off their bill. While Google, kindly removed the eggs from its salad emoji. What inclusive and progressive times we live in!
Although it must not be forgotten, that some attempts for us to all get along are seen for the marketing ploy they really are. Witness, the so bad it’s good call out from Argos, who launched the “world’s first ever vegan barbecue” this summer. It was just, as you may expect, a barbecue. We love Argos and we love how coy their justification sounds, “we took one of our most popular barbecues and re-launched it especially for the ever-growing vegan market”.
Unfortunately, barbecue season is over, but at least, Bake Off is back! And with it came the announcement that there will be a week dedicated to veganism. As the second most influential cooking show, after Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals, this really does put veganism on the mainstream map. If it’s on prime time telly it must be true! Although, research last year does show that 22% of Brits get their recipes from YouTube, 18% from TV and 62% from recipe books, which somewhat undermines TV’s power to influence our eating habits.
One lady who certainly inspires us with her vegan recipes is Kali Hamm. Via Kali Cooking and Palm Greens, Kali delivers fresh, healthy, plant based and consciously sourced food. Having recently become one of only 6% of applicants accepted into the KERB InKERBator programme, we are really proud and excited for the future of Kali Cooking and Palm Greens, especially as veganism is integrated more and more into a Londoner’s lifestyle.
You can find her vibrant salads at KERB West India Quay on Tuesdays, Granary Square, Kings Cross on Wednesdays and St Katharine’s Dock on Thursdays, as well as Broadway Vegan Market on Saturdays. She is also available for supperclubs and private events.
Check out our next two blogs where we will be exploring halal, the muslim pound, Generation M and the influence of halal bloggers.