Opinion: how Dubai can build the world's greatest halal brands

The Islamic economy is growing at a 'steady' but 'not rapid' pace. Can Dubai change that?
Opinion: how Dubai can build the world's greatest halal brands
The market for halal food is projected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2023
By Lubna Hamdan
Fri 01 Mar 2019 05:05 PM

The $6.4 trillion global Islamic economy grew 100 percent from $3.2trn in just six years, with around 1.8 billion Muslims buying halal certified products ranging from tech-smart sports hijabs to fine dining halal meal kits and even Muslim Barbie dolls, according to the latest State of the Global Islamic Economy report.

Everyone from Nike to Dolce Gabbana and Haribo are riding the lucrative halal wave with certified products including luxury abayas and gummy bears.

GCC countries import over $50bn worth of halal products, of which $20bn are imported by the UAE alone, making up 40 percent of the Gulf’s halal imports, according to F&B consultants Farrelly and Mitchell.

With the number of Muslims rising to 3 billion around the world by 2060, it can only get better.

There is no reason that Dubai cannot build the world’s greatest halal brands for the world’s last great untapped economy

Dubai’s move to become the global industry leader

It is no wonder that Dubai wants to become the capital of the global Islamic economy, going as far as to host its own annual Halal Expo. In December, the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) announced it would raise the Islamic economy’s contribution to the city’s gross domestic product to 10 percent by 2021 compared to 8.3 percent in 2018. The move is in line with a five-year strategy launched by DIEDC in 2017 in a bid to grow three key sectors of the Sharia-compliant economy.

But is the Islamic economy growing fast enough?

It’s ‘steady but not rapid’, Noman Khawaja, founder of Britain’s first premium halal convenience food brand, Haloodies says in our cover story [page 22].

Why? Because it’s no longer enough to attract a Muslim customer by a halal certified logo and lazy branding.

“Muslims want what non-Muslims have”, Khawaja says. “They see gourmet burgers on Instagram and they want it too. They want the same choices, whether it’s food, clothes, restaurants or technology.”

The bad news is the world is yet to give that to them. The good news is that Dubai can. How? Firstly by becoming an exporter rather than an importer of halal goods. Let us not make the same mistake with the halal sector as we did with the fashion sector, where we relied so heavily on imports instead of investing in our local talent and resources. Fashion may not have been Dubai’s specialty as it was Paris’ or New York’s, but halal fashion is. Dubai is, after all, a Muslim city with a population specialised in all things halal. More importantly, it is a modern and continuously developing Muslim city which is ranked among the world’s leading hubs for F&B, retail, cosmetics, entertainment and more – making it the perfect capital of the Islamic economy. Let’s take a quick look at the numbers: global Muslim spend on F&B is $1.3bn, clothing and apparel is $270bn, media and entertainment is $209bn, travel is $177bn, pharmaceuticals is $87bn and cosmetics is $61bn.

Muslims want what non-Muslims have. They see gourmet burgers on Instagram and they want it too. They want the same choices...

Now imagine if Dubai tapped into all of those sectors, but as an exporter.

With Expo2020 just around the corner, it has the chance to give Muslims what non-Muslims have, particularly as its population consists of over 200 nationalities with various ethnicities and background. How is that related? There is non-Muslim opportunity in the Muslim economy too, according to Professor Jonathan J A Wilson, branding expert and author of Halal Branding.

“Ultimately, halal branding should want to go mainstream, and if that’s the case, you can’t build siloed brands that are by Muslims for Muslims,” he says.

And what does Dubai do best? Build the world’s greatest brands by Muslims and non-Muslims for Muslims and non-Muslims. Emirates, Jumeirah, Emaar and more. There is no reason, then, that Dubai cannot build the world’s greatest halal brands for the world’s last great untapped economy. It just has to move fast enough, which happens to be another one of its specialties.

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