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A problem on the high-street: Brands don’t understand modern Muslim consumers

Food and drinks brands need to completely rethink their creative campaigns to engage with modern British Muslims, writes Arif Miah, Creative Strategy Director at mud orange.

Arif Miah, mud orange

Co-Founder & Creative Strategy Director

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Did you know the British Muslim population is larger than the population of Wales? There are over four million Muslims in the UK, over half of which are under 35 who see their British and Muslim identities going hand in hand, creating distinct British Muslim cultures which harmonises their British lifestyle and religious choices.  

But there’s a problem on the high-street: brands don’t actually understand their modern Muslim customers.

We’ve seen brands from fashion to financial services, supermarkets and restaurants significantly growing their Muslim engagement. But across the board, there’s been a massive disconnect as brands still approach these audiences through an outdated and stereotypical lens which fails to acknowledge the social and lifestyle progression of British Muslims today.

93% of the British Muslim population strongly identity as British and live a culturally cosmopolitan life. They’ve experienced accelerated career and education progression, which has resulted in a strong appetite for an enriched lifestyle, which brands are yet to properly cater to.

Ramadan is the most important moment for Muslims, but brands are yet to effectively activate around or even acknowledge it. It’s a whole month of feasting, parties and community, and is dubbed as the third biggest British occasion after Christmas and Easter. Whilst brands in every sector have a role to play during Ramadan, our latest research highlights specific marketing opportunities for supermarkets, restaurants and delivery services.

Modern British Muslims now expect better and more from the high-street and no longer want to opt for the lesser alternative.

Arif Miah

Supermarkets are out of touch

Supermarkets, such as Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, each year will address Ramadan. In Ramadan 2020, Tesco launched a Ramadan advert and Morrisons launched a food delivery box in association with Deliveroo, whilst most supermarkets, within close reach to Muslim communities, will generally have an aisle dedicated for the month. But the increased activity recently has only been a simplistic amplification of previous strategies which are out-of-date.

For example, from our research into British Muslim motivations, attitudes and behaviours towards Food & Drink, we found that 63% of British Muslims feel supermarkets are out of touch when it comes to stock, content and design, highlighting a huge gap between brand activity and consumer relevancy. Ramadan aisles are usually stocked with 20kg bags of rice, tonnes of chickpea tins and an endless supply of naan bread.

But times have moved on, and the modern Muslim consumer expects greater variety, nutritional value and convenience for iftars, the evening meal which marks the end of the fast. Supermarkets need to start strategising based on contemporary insights and build a presence across the whole month. There’s a huge opportunity to become an asset in making the lives of Muslim customers easier during the long days of fasting, as well as inspiring them with ways to make the festive moments even more special.

Delivery services, such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats & Just Eat also have a massive role to play in Ramadan. Our research shows that busier lifestyles along with cooking-fatigue results in 81% of British Muslims who work full-time ordering food in for iftar at least twice a week, and 84% saying they actively try and vary cuisines throughout the month. Whilst most of these delivery service apps have a halal filter, they’ve missed out on tapping into the different stages of Ramadan. From the spiritual high at the beginning, the natural fatigue during the middle, to the excitement as Eid, the day of celebration to mark the end of the month of Ramadan, approaches. 

Building a meaningful, lasting relationship

An emerging trend in British Muslim culture is the demand for premium non-alcoholic drinks as 65% of British Muslims now look for a suitable drink for their various social, work and family occasions. This has become especially important as more Muslim professionals who don’t drink alcohol find themselves in work-related drinking settings, and they no longer want to settle for the usual lemonade or Coke. And although they’ve increasingly opted for mocktails, kombuchas and the like, 83% feel that the taste, branding and experience of non-alcoholic drinks are far inferior to alcohol brands. They no longer want their drink of choice to be the sober option; it should suit the mood of the occasion and be desirable in its own right.

These gaps have generally been filled by Muslim start-ups, and they’ve taken it upon themselves to address their own needs. But modern British Muslims now expect better and more from the highstreet and no longer want to opt for the lesser alternative. We’ve found that when brands have actively tried, they’ve received a strong reception even when missing the mark, as British Muslims felt included and acknowledged.

The current lack of effective brand engagement with Muslim audiences presents a massive opportunity to craft an authentic role in British Muslim life through contemporary and data-backed insights to build a meaningful relationship that lasts.  

Guest Author

Arif Miah, mud orange

Co-Founder & Creative Strategy Director,

About

Arif is Co-Founder and Creative Strategy Director at the award-winning creative shop, mud orange. After making the transition from consultancy at EY, Arif went on to join Ogilvy and then later ODD, to work on some of the biggest brands in the country including Vodafone, Boots, and Tesco. Alongside his Creative Strategy, Arif has written three national reports, 'The Great British Ramadan' and 'Modest Fashion: The Industry's Best Kept Secret' and the now launched ‘Food & Drink for British Muslims’, to help brands understand and engage with the burgeoning Muslim consumer.