x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Halal products are heading to France

Al Islami Foods will sell its halal goods in France this year, marking the Dubai-based company's first push outside the region.

DUBAI // Al Islami Foods will sell its halal goods in France this year, marking the Dubai-based company's first push outside the region. Alex Andarakis, the chief executive of Al Islami, said yesterday the company's halal frozen food products would be on sale in France by the third quarter of this year. Within two years of that, Mr Andarakis said Al Islami planned to enter Belgium, the UK, Germany and Sweden.

"They have relatively large Muslim populations and their market is seriously undersupplied with genuine halal products," he said on the sidelines of the Gulfood conference in Dubai. "The demand is there." Halal products, which comply with Islamic standards, have become big business. The global market for Sharia-compliant goods, including food, cosmetics and even hotels, is expected to reach more than US$650 billion (Dh2.38 trillion) this year, the UK research firm Business Monitor International says.

In the Middle East it is expected to reach $45bn this year, according to the International Halal Integrity Alliance. Although last year was difficult for most retailers, halal food producers have benefited from being in a niche market. Mr Andarakis said Al Islami, with a range of halal products including frozen chicken and vegetables, had organic sales growth in "the low double digits" last year.

He said he expected this year to be challenging but expected the company to grow by at least 15 per cent. Al Islami also plans to expand its fast-food restaurant line, Al Farooj, this year, adding new outlets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to its portfolio of 18 restaurants in the UAE, one in Lebanon and two in Oman. Although the company had a small joint venture with a UK company three years ago, its entry into France marks its first presence outside the Middle East.

Al Islami is considering the lucrative Asian markets such as China, but not for at least three years, said Mr Andarakis. He said the expansion into Europe would be measured as Al Islami was researching how to tailor its frozen food products for the European consumer. "We need to understand the European market; we need to test ourselves in France," he said. "And we need to make mistakes, and we need to learn from those mistakes as we enter into new markets."

aligaya@thenational.ae