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Tue 7 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Co-op Islami launches global expansion plan

Leading UAE meat and poultry supplier rebrands as Al Islami Foods and looks to tap growing halal market.

Co-op Islami, one of the UAE’s leading suppliers of halal meat and poultry, has re-branded as Al Islami Foods as part of an ambitious US $25 million expansion plan to tap a growing global market for halal products.

With the global market for halal food expected to be worth about US $500 billion by 2010, compared with its current value of about US $150 billion, Saleh Abdullah Lootah, chief executive officer, Al Islami Foods, is convinced that his company is well positioned to take a significant slice of the market.

“The re-branding is part of our five-year plan,” Lootah told RNME. “The global halal market has been developing aggressively. There are so many new entrants that have entered the market. We wanted to stand out as a group, and we are sure that our group, one day, will become like a multinational. We have a very aggressive expansion plan for the five years and we are moving towards it step by step.”

And with consumers, particularly Muslims, increasingly wary about the origins of meat products labeled as halal, Lootah is thinks that Al Islami Foods, which enjoys high levels of trust among consumers owing to its 25 year history, has an increasingly important role to play.

“The halal market has grown tremendously and people have started to question what they are eating, whether it is halal, what the ingredients are and whether people are supervising it,” Lootah said. “There are so many questions being raised in the eyes of the consumer.”

As part of its expansion plan, Al Islami, which has its main meat processing plant in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone, as well as joint ventures in Brazil and Australia, is planning to extend its market reach across the Middle East and into Europe in the next few years. It is also set to establish a joint venture in Iran in 2006.

“We are already covering all of the GCC and the next step is to cover all the Middle East. From there we will go to Europe. We’ve been getting so many enquiries, people want us to go there as soon as possible,” Lootah said.

Al Islami launched its new brand identity at Dubai’s Gulfood exhibition in February, and expects the new name and logo, which uses bright colours and a distinctive logo, to help create greater brand awareness of the company among consumers.

Furthermore, the company’s change of name was also important to differentiate it from the numerous co-operative supermarkets that have opened up across the UAE in the past few years.

“So many new brands came with the co-op name,” Lootah said. “To differentiate ourselves from them we decided we wanted to change it and also come up with a different personality. We wanted to give it a more outstanding look, full of colour to represent what we stand for: outgoing, friendly with people, something you want to enjoy.”

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