Research by UCB lecturer shows how lack of halal branding leads to confusion

July 2016

New research by a UCB lecturer has revealed how the absence of clear halal packaging and logos is affecting the shopping and eating-out habits of Muslims in the UK.

Faiza Khan, a Marketing with Events Management lecturer, has co-authored two conference papers. The first investigated the ‘halalness’ of restaurants, and the second, which won plaudits at the recent Global Islamic Marketing Conference, explored the role of packaging in determining the ‘halalness’ of products. It compared the experiences of UK consumers with their counterparts in Malaysia.

Faiza, who moved to the UK from Malaysia in 2005, produced the papers with Dr Ghazala Khan, a senior lecturer at Monash University in Malaysia. The pair were inspired to work together after Dr Khan witnessed Faiza scouring labels in UK food shops to ensure the ingredients conformed to halal regulations. 

Faiza said: “This is something that would not happen in Malaysia because everything is so well labelled with the halal logo. After some investigation we realised there has been hardly any research into how, in the absence of a logo, a Muslim customer in the UK decides what to buy.”

Qualitative research revealed that UK shoppers were relying on ‘surrogate logos’ such as those denoting vegetarian or kosher food, symbols such as mosques or crescents, languages used in labelling or simply basing their purchase on the country of origin.

When eating out, respondents were deciding where to dine based on location, customers, staff, and  sometimes décor as well as the names of the restaurants.

Faiza added: “It’s a guessing game. When I arrived in Birmingham in 2005 there were hardly any places where you could be guaranteed halal food in the city centre. Today there are fried chicken outlets, noodle bars, and takeaways. There is still room for improvement and it’s going to take time, but there has been some development.”

Faiza said both papers explored a very under-researched area of consumer behaviour and marketing. She added: “There has recently been a realisation that we have a market of 1.6 billion Muslim customers, who are very diverse, and no one is studying them academically”. 

“In the past five to six years Islamic marketing has been growing – there are journals and conferences with a specific focus on it. But in the UK, the high street is only just beginning to take notice.”

Halal is Arabic for permissible. Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Quran.