There has been a shift in the halal food sector over the last few decades. What was once a marginalised and little-understood sector has now become increasingly popular. There are several drivers for this. Increased demand from a growing Muslim population in the UK certainly plays a large part. However, increased understanding of halal and what it actually means for the foods that carry the label among non-Muslims has also been a factor.
Let’s wind the clock back 50 years. Groups of Muslims have been arriving in the United Kingdom as far back as the 1800s, but it is only in the last century or so that the country has seen consistent growth in the Muslim population.
The situation 50 years ago was markedly different to what it is today. While the UK’s Muslim population was still noteworthy during this period, it was not accounted for by mainstream society in the same ways. Supermarkets did not stock halal foods and UK Muslims generally had to locate or found specialty stores to ensure they could buy halal foods in the first place.
On a general level, understanding of the tenets of halal was not widespread outside of the Muslim population of the time.
As society has advanced and people have learned more about those around them, the halal economy in the UK has boomed. It is now worth over £1 billion per year and you can find halal products in mainstream supermarkets all over the UK.
There are many reasons for this. One cannot discount the influence of the internet, at least in its capacity as a learning tool, as people now have more access to information about halal than they have ever had before. You could read this article on a smartphone, for example, which is something that would not have been possible 50 years ago.
A more informed society is a more inclusive one. Mainstream outlets are thus more open to stocking halal products. Combine that with a larger Muslim population in the UK and a growing section of non-Muslims who have started consuming halal products and you have the foundation for continued growth of the entire sector.
This is not to say that halal is without its challenges, even in the modern era. There are some who still do not understand halal methods and the benefits that come from them. As such, there is a small, yet still noteworthy, contingent of people in the United Kingdom who still oppose the growth of the halal economy. Some areas of the media do not help with this, often employing scare tactics when reporting on the growth of halal.
Continued growth relies not only on catering to increasing demand but also in helping to foster understanding of what halal really is. In the coming years, it is likely that the halal economy will continue growing, especially as more people learn about the benefits of halal foods. Acceptance into the mainstream of UK society is key to this, but that is a challenge that halal foods, and the halal economy as a whole, has risen to for over half a century.