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Ramadan highlights the growing market for halal goods

Ramadan begins tonight, and the month-long Islamic religious observance doesn’t end until the evening of Saturday, Aug. 18.

The holy period of fasting, prayer, meditation and other acts of faith is a momentous one for the world’s Muslims — and it also might have economic effects on companies and consumers in your area.  And as you can see by this Valparaiso University map, Muslims as a Percentage of All Residents 2000, many communities nationwide are home to a noteable number of Islamic adherants.

Ramadan dates

Vendors in Egypt have been known to sell dates in Ramadan named after celebrities and popular football players but this year they will rename them after public figures. Photo: Reuters

With many activities off-limits after sunrise, Ramadan has profound effects on how business is conducted in mostly-Arabic countries, as this Daily Finance article notes.  It would be interesting to contact your area’s companies that do business overseas about how their business practices change, if at all, during Ramadan.  And how do those that employ Muslim workers address the employees’ religious practices if, for example, the workers request shift changes, extended vacation or have other needs related to the ritual?

Don’t overlook social media for more ideas, such as @RamadanTips on Twitter.  And at the hashtag #Ramadan I found @saffronroadfood, a halal (religiously compliant) food maker offering a $1 coupon download for the goods it sells via Whole Foods markets; the feed was also touting Ramadan food prep tips.  And of course, there’s an app for that — Ramadan apps that help observers with fasting, prayers, locating mosques and other aspects of the holy month are smartphone-ready.  You might check with local apps developers about any new ones they’re working on for the Islamic community.

If you haven’t spotlighted your area’s Islamic business community lately, profiling owners and entrepreneurs in light of how they keep a business going with many prohibitions on their daytime activities might make an informative angle.  It’s a demographic often overlooked by financial writers, though growing in many areas.  According to this PewForum.org report on the global Muslim population, it is expected to grow by 35 percent in the next 20 years, with the number of Muslims in the Americas to rise from 5.2 million to nearly 11 million.  That’s a substantial group of consumers and business owners.

And as another Pew report indicates, the Muslims in the United States, about 60 percent of whom are immigrants, tend to be younger than the American population on average – meaning the group likely is untapped ground for marketers.  Indeed, the AP reported last year that Muslims are seen as a new consumer niche in the United States; the 4th Annual American Muslim Consumer Conference is scheduled for Nov. 17 in New Jersey.

And the interest in serving Islamic patrons goes beyond neighborhood shops to multinational corporations. This Time report says the market for halal products — those that comply with Islamic law — has exploded, including food, cosmetics, banking and financial services and fashion.  There even are hotels that cater to Muslim travelers, replacing alcoholic beverages in minibars with soft drinks and providing sex-segregated swimming facilities.  Even vitamin and drug makers, the article says, are producing items free of prohibited animal products and other forbidden items.  With such a vast swath of companies becoming cognizant of this new market, it’s worth reaching out to corporations in your area about how they may be adapting peroducts and services for their Muslim consumers.

One last thought: The extreme heat across much of the nation may exacerbate the effects of the Ramadan fast, which includes not only food but beverages.  You might check with health systems in the area about any concerns they have for fasters’ well-being, or plans to treat any anticipated cases of dehydration.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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