France: Growing halal market

France: Growing halal market

During the month of Ramadan, drinking, eating and smoking are prohibited, but it's still possible to go shopping.  The big names in distribution have understood they can profit from this annual period of fasting by offering more halal products.  In recent years Ramadan had become a high point for sales of these products in supermarkets.  Auchan, for example, doesn't hesitate to give ten or even fifteen times as much shelf area for selling halal food.

According to a recent study by the Solis agency, which specializes in 'ethnic marketing', the halal market (in France) is valued at close to 4 billion euro for 2009, and is estimated to grow at annual rate of 15%.  According to Solis, 93% of North Africans and 55% of sub-Saharan Africans buy halal products.

While the supermarkets diversity their offering: soups, ravioli, pizzas, baked dishes, precooked meals.  The large retailers established their own brands: Reghalal for Carrefour, Wassila for Casino.  Stéphane Renaud of 'products of the world' of Auchan says that there's a potential for 10-20% Muslim customers in their shops and these products represent a promising market.

Muslim consumers are more inclined to buy at supermarkets offering halal, and the supermarkets have significantly expanded their product offerings over the past five years.  Auchan, Leclerc, Super U and Casino have special halal shelf area during the Ramadan period, but also during the rest of the year.  At Carrefour they explain that Ramadan is an important commercial opportunity.  The company has been offering halal products for the past decade, but it recently developed its own brand, Reghalal, which offers turkey cuts and poultry sausages, and which is sold at its low-cost Ed stores.

Supermarket giant Casino offers more than 400 halal products, 3-4% of the total offerings.  In August they launched their own brand (Wasilla) in order to compete with traditional manufacturers.  The Systeme U stores, the smaller chain, also entered new territory over the past three years.

Spokesperson Thierry Desouches says that it's a small sum of the total, but that in certain stores, for example in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and the Parisian suburbs, it's a growing market.  and progressing consumers.

Halal supermarkets arrived in the 80s.  But the products were initially kept only to certain stories in areas with large Muslim populations. Today, thanks to sophisticated techniques of consumer profiling, particularly through loyalty cards, stores can effectively know the habits of consumers in different place and times. 

Jean-Daniel Hertzog of Isla Délice, one of the main producers and distributors of halal products in France, says that all the distributors realized the importance of the Muslim consumer, also beyond Ramadan.

Philippe Moati of the Center of Research for the Study and Observation of Living Condition (CREDOC) says that distribution now increasingly targets niche consumers.  It adapts to the heterogeneity of consumers, and Muslims are targeted just like consumers of bio-products.  Though halal foods are not a recent phenomenon, the staging of these products in stores during Ramadan is new.

For these stores the objective is not to pass by a business opportunity.  Georges Chétochine, a consultant, says that in certain areas the Muslim population represents 30% of the clientele and products specific to Muslims can reach a turnover of 6-7%.  Distributors try to seduce people who until now turned mostly to traditional shops.  According to a study by Solis, most of the halal consumers (95%) still prefer grocery stores and butcher shops over the big supermarkets (43%).

Since Islam remains a sensitive topic, distributors advance cautiously.  Chétochine says that in a secular country like France, they do not want to offend the non-Muslim consumers.  They therefore use as neutral a language as possible - "Flavors of the Orients' or the 'spice route' instead of talking explicitly about Ramadan.

Fateh Kimouche, who in 2006 founded the site, the portal for Muslim consumers, says that while retailers dream of conquering the Muslim clientele, they are not ready to accept the consequences of their choice.  Distributors keep to cliches, and talk about the 'Orient' and a thousand and one nights, in order to avoid speaking about Ramadan.  Kimouche says that Ramadan is entering the French lifestyle, but it is still far from commonplace.

Source: Europe1, Le Monde (French), h/t Al Kanz

See also:
* France: Shakeup in halal market
* France: Report on halal industry
* Netherlands: More halal on the shelves

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