Photo supplied by Halal Fresh

Halal Industry

Booming meal kit deliveries in UK amid COVID-19 lockdowns also drive up demand for halal service

The UK has many meal kit services delivering pre-portioned ingredients to customers who use them to make home-cooked meals but so far, there is only one halal-focused non-subscription service.

The idea for Halal Fresh came to Saima Duhare in 2016 but it wasn’t until July 2017 that she formally registered it as a company. “I started to notice the landscape of the millennials, they lacked cooking skills or people weren’t being adventurous with their home-cooked meals,” said Duhare, who eventually started delivering her meal kits and recipes in London in April 2019.

“I wanted to bring back the joy and encouragement  of cooking with a twist to which I wanted to extend to my community by offering Halal Fresh to experiment with different cuisines and use ingredients which we wouldn’t normally think of using such as black rice, quinoa or bulgur wheat, and the benefit of having a varied healthy balanced meal each evening.”

Halal Fresh competes with halal meal kit companies such as Khuraaki, which is subscription-based, as well as services that provide halal options. The most popular meal kit companies in the UK include Gousto, Hello Fresh, and Mindful Chef, all of which do not provide full halal options.

Halal is a huge selling factor, according to Duhare, adding that she’s observed the rapid growth of the sector in the UK in the last five years. 

Overlapping with the growing halal market, meal kits also generate serious money for companies, and the COVID-19 lockdowns in the first half of the year drove a surge in sales. The estimated spend in 2017 in the UK’s subscription meal kit market was £583 million and it was expected to grow to £1 to £1.5 billion by 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has in all likelihood accelerated this projection.

Duhare said Halal Fresh was “extremely busy” over the lockdown period and she is optimistic the company will be able to grow post-pandemic.

“From my customer experience and market research, we cook between 3-4 meals a week from home, so the idea of convenience, fresh, pre-portioned ingredients that can give you different healthy meals every evening without the stress of deciding what to eat, is a huge plus," Duhare said.

“Even if life goes back to normal that doesn’t render people won’t cook at home. If anything, COVID has taught us to be mindful, healthier, and be conscious consumers.”

Other meal kit companies reported similar surges. Gousto told local press in July it would be accelerating its expansion plans after massive growth in online sales. It stopped taking new customers in March and went on to deliver five million meals in June compared to around half that number in January.

Duhare did not reveal Halal Fresh’s vital stats with regards customer base, only saying that it is a “loyal” one made up of professionals from different backgrounds, and aged 28 to 55.

A small business compared to the likes of Gousto, Duhare runs Halal Fresh full-time in addition to holding a full-time job. Her biggest costs are the kitchen, and the chef and head recipe developer Carole Hector who studied the accredited Three Term Diploma in Food and Wine at Leiths in London, and graduated with a distinction.

Duhare currently oversees the procurement process for ingredients and said she only uses halal-certified products, including meats that are sourced from HMC-certified British companies.

“I needed to get everything right, from operations through to logistics, recipes, ingredients, the team, the whole matrix, as every component is critical for a functioning business like this,” said Duhare.

“It’s a mechanical food beast, imagine each recipe has between 12-14 ingredients. So if you’ve ordered three recipes that’s easily 42 different ingredients, so you have to consider all factors to get it precise from packing through to delivery to get it right.”

Halal Fresh delivers to customers in London on Sunday, setting them up for a week of home-cooked meals. The capital city has a sizeable Muslim population, making up around 12.4% of the 9 million residents.

With the booming meal kit sector, Duhare said Halal Fresh is looking to expand to serve customers outside London.

“I’ve had delivery and operational challenges. Comes with the territory, so we are learning every day from it, how to improve and become better at it. It’s a learning curve which continually evolves.”

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