From halal meal boxes to modest menswear: Top UK Islamic economy trends for 2018

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Haute Elan expects growing interest in ‘modest’ male fashion. (Supplied)
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Romanna bint Abu Baker, founderof London Modest Fashion Week.(Supplied)
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Updated 30 December 2017

From halal meal boxes to modest menswear: Top UK Islamic economy trends for 2018

LONDON: Gone are the days where “halal” shopping referred only to a trip to the local butchers to ask for a special cut. Muslims across the world are increasingly product-savvy, seeking out the latest consumer products that also fit their religious beliefs, spelling a boom in the so-called Islamic economy.
The year ahead ushers in trends for modest garb for men and women, Barbies with mix-and-match abaya wardrobes, and from-scratch meal kits for those who want both a tasty, and halal, dinner.
As the international Muslim population grows, the Islamic economy is expected to grow from $1.24 trillion in 2016 to reach $1.93 trillion by 2022, according to the Thomson Reuters “State of the Global Islamic Economy” report.
In the UK, in particular, which is home to around 3 million Muslims — with 1 million in London alone — the Islamic community is fueling some innovative consumer trends. The UK capital is proving to be an engine of growth for the Islamic economy in the West, with fresh startups emerging every month to tap into growing demand.
Arab News spoke with some of the UK’s top Islamic economy entrepreneurs to find out about some of the hottest trends for 2018.

‘Modest fashion’ for guys
The overall modest fashion industry is thriving in the UK, evidenced by the success of homegrown brands such as Aab and Haute Elan. This trend was crystallized with the launch of London’s first Modest Fashion Week in February 2017, where modern Muslim women flocked to buy everything from modest office wear to sports hijabs.
The trend will dip into the male domain next year, predicted Romanna bint Abu Baker, founder of London Modest Fashion Week (LMFW) and owner of modest fashion boutique, Haute Elan.
“Modesty is no longer the realm of only women. LMFW 2018 will be the start of demonstrating that shift,” Abu Baker told Arab News. “The panels and collections we have on the runway will demonstrate the emergence of the aesthetically-conscious Muslim man. We have seen a surge in applications from men. What is male modesty? Longer shirts to cover the rear, longer shirts and sweats and accessories, including more contemporary styles of … head covering,” she said.

Halal meal kits
The last few years have seen the emergence of halal convenience foods in the UK for busy working Muslims. Walli Datoo, co-founder of Halalnivore, an online gourmet halal meat delivery service, predicts there is more growth in the market as the Muslim meat consumer opens up to different options available.
“We are planning to experiment with a hybrid model between what we already do and a service that similar to a ‘Hello Fresh’ or ‘Gousto’ meal box delivered with halal ingredients,” Datoo told Arab News. “We’ll also be working on our branded ‘supper club’ to help engage consumers.”
The food entrepreneur also predicts more innovation in the restaurant space “where halal-only offerings are trying to set themselves apart from the competition.”
“Casual dining places (burgers and wraps) will be getting really creative with their menus and moving away from the traditional kebab shop and plain burger offerings,” he said.
Noman Khawaja, co-founder of Haloodies, a UK premium food retailer that sells prepared halal meats says technology and social media will play a key part in driving demand for halal food in 2018. “Consumer behavior will also be of key interest to businesses,” Khawaja told Arab News.
Haloodies launched the UK’s first handheld, halal meat snack, ‘2Go’ in the UK in 2017 and Khawaja said the firm has more launches planned for 2018.

‘Hijarbies’ and Muslim dolls
Jessica Robinson, the founder of UK-based modest sports fashion firm Shorsa, predicts steady demand for her additional product line: Muslim dolls.
The company is currently selling Shorso Mini dolls, which come with a handmade abaya and matching hijab and retail for £19.99 ($27).
The firm also sells different modest outfits specifically made for Barbie dolls. The ‘Hijarbie’ handmade outfits come in casual styles and formal styles including ball gowns and wedding dresses with sleeves. “They’re close to selling out and we’re ordering more for next year,” said Robinson.

Halal hotel boom
The UK halal-friendly travel market is growing year-on-year. In recent years, VisitBritain, the UK’s national tourism agency, has been running campaigns to target tourists from the Middle East. According to its figures, the average length of stay and average spend for Gulf markets are higher than the worldwide average.
For example, the average Saudi visitor stays for 16 nights and spends £2,370 in the UK. This compares favorably with the overall average figures for international visitors at seven nights and £599 spend respectively.
“One of the big attractions for this market in London is its choice of world cuisine halal restaurants; our guests enjoy eating out and spending money in the various halal restaurants in London. Together with other factors, such as great museums, parks and shopping streets and malls, these are hugely important factors for halal-conscious travelers to travel to London,” said Ufuk Seçgin, chief marketing officer at UK-based global travel booking site
Seçgin predicts that more London hotels will offer basic halal-friendly services in 2018, such as the removal of alcoholic drinks from the minibar in the guest’s room, provision of prayer mats or halal food options on the hotel’s restaurant menus.

Mainstream at last
Haroon U B Latif, head of insights at research firm Dinar Standard, says he is “bullish” on the UK economy for 2018.
“The UK halal ecosystem will grow its international footprint and halal food will lead the charge at home — you’ll see halal becoming more available in mainstream outlets,” the analyst said.
Latif predicts there will be at least one “significant” private equity investment in a halal food company in 2018.

Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

Updated 24 March 2019

Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

  • The initiative will help Abu Dhabi reduce reliance on oil
  • Mubadala hopes to attract Chinese and Indian companies

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi will commit up to $272 million to support technology start-ups, it said on Sunday, in a dedicated hub as part of efforts to diversify its economy.

US tech giant Microsoft will be a strategic partner, providing technology and cloud services to the businesses that join the hub as the capital of the United Arab Emirates continues its push to reduce reliance on oil revenue.
Abu Dhabi derives about 50 percent of its real gross domestic product and about 90 percent of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, according to ratings agency S&P.
The emirate launched a $13.6 billion stimulus fund, Ghadan 21, in September last year to accelerate economic growth. Ghadan means tomorrow in Arabic. The new initiative, named Hub 71, is linked to Ghadan will also involve the launch of a $136 million fund to invest in start-ups, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Mubadala Ventures, the technology arm of Mubadala Investment Co.
The goal is to have 100 companies over the next three to five years, Ajami said. “The market opportunities in this region are immense,” he added.
Mubadala, with assets of $225 billion and a big investor in tech companies, will act as the driver of the hub, located in the emirate’s financial district.
Softbank will be active in the hub and support the expansion of companies in which it has invested, Ajami said, adding that Mubadala is also aiming to attract Chinese and Indian companies, among others.
Mubadala which has committed $15 billion to the Softbank Vision Fund, plans to launch a $400 million fund to invest in leading European technology companies.
Incentives mapped out by the government include housing, office space and health insurance as part of the $272 million commitment, Ajami said.
Abu Dhabi will also announce a new research and development initiative on Monday linked to the Ghadan 21 plan, according to an invitation sent to journalists.