Saturday, April 17, 2010

Halal for All

In a year that has seen contentious debates over French national identity and religion--much of it swirling around the French-Muslim community--it's nice to finally read some positive developments in French-Muslim relations.

The Deutsche Welle reports today that the French food industry is finally reaching out the previously unexplored French Muslim market. (Only took them 50 years or so). According to the article, French supermarkets including Casino, France's second-largest supermarket chain, will start carrying halal food and perhaps even the newest product on the market, Night Orient, a non-alcoholic sparkling wine.

Previously, "mainstream brands didn't want to be associates with halal because it was considered low-brow and because French Muslims had little money and unenviable social positions," suggests Antoine Bonnel, the founder of an annual halal trade show in Paris. "So the global image was a cheap image."

While it's debatable whether their social position has changed much, the visibility of this community certainly has grown in recent years as has its buying power. As Abbas Bendali, the head of Solis, a market research firm that specializes in ethnic niches points out, "Five and a half billion euros are going to be spent on these kinds of products this year in France. There are five million potential customers. This is a real consumer segment."

So the next time I'm in Paris and I get a craving for mock ham or halal pate, I'll head for the nearest Casino or Franprix. The non-alcoholic wine though is another story.

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