LONDON - UK entrepreneur Abul Rob is relaunching and pivoting HalalEat following the dissolution of his latest venture Pronto Eat in January.
HalalEat started in 2015 and three years later was acquired by investor Mian Ali. Pronto Eat was then formed, using the technlogy framework from HalalEat, while the two companies continued to trade independently of one another. Pronto Eat was struck off the companies register on January 2 after it suspended operations in November.
Now, Abul Rob wants to transform UK’s first halal takeaway-on-demand platform to become a producer of premium halal ready meals and snacks. The company plans to begin early marketing on the eve of Ramadan and will look to fully launch around Eid Al Adha later this year.
“Whilst we will produce well-known food like samosas and kebabs we will produce readymade microwave meals as well as meals that can be eaten hot or cold,” Rob told Salaam Gateway.
HalalEat will offer a diverse range of products such as ready-to-eat meals for time-poor millennials who are looking for nutritious but quick meals that can be made in 10 to 15 minutes, according to Rob.
“We aim to address the profile of the Muslim consumer tastes by having a range of cuisines like North African and Lebanese. The current halal offering only really caters to the South Asians.”
The new HalalEat will go up against only a few suppliers in its segment, including retail major M&S that in October launched its own-brand halal-certified prepared meals.
Abul Rob is able to relaunch HalalEat as although Mian Ali acquired the operating company and the licence to use its name, the HalalEat trademark was still owned by the holding company of which Rob owned 100%.
Rob said Mian’s investments into Pronto Eat changed some of the original terms of investment into HalalEat but he declined to provide details due to confidentiality. Mian Ali will have no involvement in HalalEat’s new relaunch, according to Rob.
FRESH FINANCIAL BACKING
The refreshed HalalEat brings on board a new investor, Shelim Hussain, whose portfolio includes Euro Foods, an international manufacturer and distributor of frozen and fresh foods. Euro Foods serves restaurants, catering and specialist supermarket sectors and it has a total of six depots around the UK.
Hussain said he hopes HalalEat dominates the halal market in UK and Europe.
“I would like to see him [Abul Rob] make a £1 million profit as soon as possible,” said the Euro Foods CEO.
He said he does not plan to bring other investors on board. “[There is] no need [for other investors], I have all the infrastructure to do this and support [Rob],” he said.
“My group sales in UK is over £100 million and Bangladesh over $40 million, we are investing $100 million in Bangladesh over next 5-7 years, we don’t need any other investors for this project for Abul.”
In addition, HalalEat will also not accumulate debt but instead it will be funded by supplier credit, and cash generated from sales, according to Hussain.
With financial support from Hussain, Rob says the financial forecast for HalalEat is to break even within two years. He forecasts his monthly costs to be around £30,000 to £35,000.
Rob notes that there has been in a shift in consumers’ eating habits and preferences particularly in growing areas like vegan.
“Halal is still there, and vegan has emerged. However, while vegan is primarily plant based/derived, there contains some alcohol or flavouring in products, some of which are haram. So not all vegan food is always truly halal,” he explained.
All of HalalEat’s meat-based products will be sourced and produced in the UK. Non-meat products will be produced in Bangladesh but meet UK food standards and regulations, assures Rob.
“We aim to provide a wide array of halal foods. Above all we aim to have premium ingredients and ensure quality meat.”
To ensure this quality, Rob conceded that HalalEat’s products may be slightly more expensive than existing product offerings.
“Our price point will be slightly higher than what is already out there,” said Rob. “For example, if a packet of samosas cost £2.99, we may offer £3.50 to ensure quality is met.”
He argues that Muslim consumers are looking for quality products.
“At present they [the consumers] are being underserved. Everything is about price point. They want anything that is cheap. You don’t have anything that is premium.”
As part of the brand’s identity and product offering, the company aims to be tayyeb as well as halal.
Rob said that staff treatment and welfare remains important and ensures that all workers in Bangladesh will be paid a fair living wage.
“ESG is a big concern for us,” he said. “We aim to reduce plastic packaging and are looking at ways of reducing our carbon footprint. Corporate governance as well as caring for the environment is increasingly becoming important for the younger Muslim community.”
But Rob said that whilst sustainability and ESG factors are important, HalalEat is a commercial business and needs to make a profit.
Nevertheless, he said that sustainability will be a key part of HalalEat’s messaging.
“We are trying to build a sustainable business for my son’s generation and the next generation after that. This is not an overnight thing. This is not a singular effort but collective. Our messaging aims to push this across.”
SUPPLY CHAIN CHALLENGES
Despite the huge pivot and financial support, the exact timing of HalalEat has been a challenge, notes Rob.
“We wanted to launch before Ramadan,” he said. “However due to unforeseen logistical issues relating to the coronavirus this is likely to be delayed. Nonetheless, you have to deal with challenges as a business.”
Instead, HalalEat will start marketing activities on the eve of Ramadan, said Rob. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin around April 23.
“We will attend events such as the Halal Food Festival in London. This will allow us to see what consumers are thinking,” said Rob. “In addition we will be holding focus groups to ensure we are getting the message across to consumers.”
He said they will aim to launch around Eid Al Adha if packaging and logistical issues can be solved before Ramadan.
“We are not in a rush. If the product isn’t launched we may realign our financial targets,” he said.
HalalEat will launch with a limited number of products across convenience stores in London. As the product line increases, Rob hopes to expand this to the big five supermarkets.
Other challenges include the scalability of products on the shelves in one go. But Rob says that he will be able to utilise Shelim Hussain’s logistical and distribution networks. As a result, he hopes to expand across the UK.
“I am confident that I can overcome challenges as I have the budget and investor so I have no excuses. I have the resources,” he said.
(Reporting by Hassan Jivraj; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim firstname.lastname@example.org)
*Corrections were made in the headline, teaser, Paras 1 and 2 to reflect that HalalEat and Pronto Eat always operated as separate companies, and not that Pronto Eat was formed from HalalEat as a company.
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