Just as kosher food found a following beyond its Jewish market, Islamic halal products are seeking to reach non-Muslim mainstream American consumers, according to two reports.
The New York Times (June 13) reports on the successful efforts of Adnan A. Durrani to market his Saffron Road halal frozen food entries to the popular store chain Whole Foods. Durrani first launched his product at Whole Foods during the controversy about building a Muslim center on ground zero in New York in 2010, which led to blog attacks on the stores for running a Ramadan promotion of Saffron Road products. Durrani publicly defended his company in the media and deployed his own team of bloggers, including a rabbi.
The free publicity caused Saffron Road’s sales to shoot up by 200 percent that Ramadan. More recently, Durrani has been able to draw non-Muslims to his products by using the “kosher model” of serving yet transcending a communal constituency.
Sue Fishkoff, author of the book Kosher Nation, says that “What it takes for an ethno-religious food to cross over into the mainstream…is a perception that this food has something of value that other food does not”— in other words, convincing consumers that halal food is purer and of higher quality because it has been produced under religious supervision, even if that religion still lacks mainstream acceptance.
Another article in the New York Times (June 15) reports on a similar venture by New York City halal street food sellers to take their business nationwide. Halal Guys is one of the longest-running and best known street cart foods in New York. Now the owners plan to turn Halal Guys into a fast food chain, starting restaurants in Los Angeles, along the East Coast, across Canada and the Middle East.
Asked if he is concerned about the franchise’s association with Islam in some parts of the U.S., Halal Guy’s chief marketer said that by the time the restaurants reach Chattanooga, “there will be so much good buzz, they will be excited to try it.”