U.S. Companies Urged to Tap Into $170 Billion Muslim Consumer Market

By Brittany Hutson for The Atlanta Post

U.S. companies are loosing out by neglecting a rather attractive and overlooked consumer: American Muslims.

There is an estimate number of six to eight million Muslims in this country that possess an annual spending power between $170 and $200 billion. It is believed that two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000. Miles Young, chief executive officer of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, an international advertising, marketing and public relations agency, said in a speech at this past December’s second annual American Muslim Consumer Conference that Muslims are the best-educated religious group in America and over 40% have bachelors’ degrees. Clearly, this is a consumer that companies cannot afford to not attract.

According to the Associated Press, corporations in Europe have long been catering to Muslim communities there. Nestle has about 20 factories with halal-certified production lines and advertises to Western Muslims through its marketing campaign called “Taste of Home.”

So why is it that companies in Europe have been able to successfully attract and retain the interest of their Muslim consumers?

Part of it has to do with Muslims in Europe having lived there for multiple generations, said Ponn Sabra, founder and owner of the online blog community for American Muslim Moms, AmericanMuslimMom.com.  Also, “European Muslims are extremely strong in faith, very vocal, [and] much more confident in their practice of our faith than the majority of Muslims living in America.”

It also helps that Muslims in Europe are not stereotyped like Muslims in America, added Sabra. It’s only been recent that businesses in the U.S. have started to tap into the Muslim consumer market. McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have entered the halal arena and last August, Whole Foods began selling its first nationally distributed halal food product—frozen Indian entrees called Saffron Road. But because there is still intensified anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country, this is causing companies to worry that they will be attacked for going after this consumer.

But Muslims do not necessarily want companies to be their advocates against opposition, more so as they would appreciate that companies get to understand their values. Mohammed Abdullah, director of the 2009 Conference, said in a press release, “Muslims want to be acknowledged in mainstream media. You don’t need to change your product of show Muslims in your ads. Instead, consider advertising in a Muslim media outlet. Say Eid Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem during the holidays. The Muslim community will respond. When we see an ad we like we send it to our friends and share it with each other,” he said.

Of course, the worldwide market for Islamically permitted goods, also known as halal, is the best option for companies interested in attracting the American Muslim. The industry includes foods and seasoning that omit alcohol, pork products, cosmetics, finance and clothing. According to Young, the global halal market is worth $2.1 trillion dollars and it is growing at $500 billion dollars a year.

Muslims as entrepreneurs shouldn’t be underestimated either. For example, Tariq Farid developed and launched one of today’s successful and international companies in the floral industry that many know and love as Edible Arrangements.

“The American Muslim Consumer is extremely loyal, wealthy, educated and well-connected on and offline,” said Sabra. “Companies who jump at the opportunity have the potential for life-long happy customers who willfully recommend their products and services.”

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