By Alicia Buller
Walli Datoo, co-founder of Halalnivore, says business has never been better as Muslims surf online for quality meat
England’s three million-strong Muslim population flocked to order online halal meat during the country’s three-month lockdown period.
That’s according to Walli Datoo, co-founder of Halalnivore, the UK’s first self-styled ‘gourmet meat club’. The online premium halal meat store serves up high-end steaks, homemade sausages and pre-marinated chicken, along with bespoke recipes and meat rubs, for discerning meat consumers who prefer a higher-end online service experience compared to the traditional halal butcher trip.
“During lockdown, business went absolutely crazy,” said London-based Datoo, who put in emergency measures to be able to scale up by around 40 percent on the firm’s usual business demand during that period.
Halalnivore, which began as a gourmet subscription service and meat club in 2016, morphed into a straightforward e-commerce food delivery site last year, said Datoo.
“We now sell direct to the consumer – as and when they want – and it’s a better model,” he added. “The lockdown surge has validated our business model.”
British Muslims have long lamented the lack of choices when it comes to high quality halal meat.
But in recent years, London’s halal foodies have been treated to an explosion of higher end meat eateries and suppliers. Founded in 2016 by three friends who gave up their day jobs, Halalnivore is the latest in a string of premium additions to the capital’s Muslim-friendly food scene.
“We are still quite lean with six employees, but we are also leveraging temporary staff when needed. Staffing was the biggest challenge when meeting the higher demand in lockdown,” said Datoo.
“For two weeks we were struggling to cope – particularly as many of our consumable suppliers closed down or were producing less – but we were able to put measures in place within two weeks.”
There are currently one million Muslims in London and the overall value of the UK halal food market is £700 million ($921m), according to the Muslim Council of Britain.
According to Datoo, young and upwardly-mobile Muslim consumers are demanding higher quality meat and higher customer service levels than can be found at the local side street butcher.
“The neighbourhood halal butcher is still the traditional way to buy meat but consumers are becoming more choosy,” he said.
The entrepreneur says that the age group comprising 25- to 45- year-old professional British Muslims is where the company finds its “sweet spot”.
“It’s the age where people are particularly busy and find that their time is valuable, as well as deeming the quality of the consumer experience important,” he said.
“If you go into a butcher it’s not the best consumer environment – it’s a very basic in-and-out experience and you do it out of necessity.”
Halalnivore, which ships all meat over the UK from Scotland to Penzance, is directly benefitting from maturing halal tastes and an unprecedented pandemic-fuelled e-commerce boom, said the co-founder.
“Consumption and purchasing is changing. The more people buy online, the more they realise how convenient it is and how much time they free up. It is definitely a growth model and it’s here to stay.”
The co-founder's current focus is fending off the increasing competition from new food start-ups and the creeping entry of mainstream supermarkets into the online halal retail space.
“Supermarkets are going to start getting in on the act soon enough – there is a lot of up-and-coming companies that are using the same model as us now,” he said.
“About four years ago we were pioneers of the direct-to-consumer halal model, the competition is considerable today but it’s still a large market.”