Halal chocolate: cocoa cravings cross cultures

This article first appeared on my Times of India guest blog. As you can imagine, I leapt upon the chance to combine the two themes that consume me entirely – Indian food and chocolate – much in the manner I would were a box of The Chocolatier’s water ganache truffles concerned…

The Chocolatier truffles

Indian-inspired chocolate is a bit of a burgeoning British industry. Over the past few years, fusion flavours have been fuelling foodies of Caucasian, Asian, and any other persuasion. We Brits love to munch mukhwas –sprinkled milk chocolate from the East India Company, or eat twice as many of The Chocolatier’s spiced truffles as we really should because we know they’re fat-free.

Lately, we’ve been breaking bits off bars infused with the Duke of Delhi’s chevdo – along with his trademark ‘zing of British spirit’ — letting Indie Ices’ chocolate kulfi reduce us to melted puddles of joy; and enjoying eccentric English combos like salt and vinegar, gin and tonic, and cream tea in truffles by The London Chocolate Company – a brand founded by Jay Rawal of Brindian confectioners, Devnaa.

And now chocolate companies are hunting the so called ‘brown pound’, harmonising Halal values with the wide-reaching appeal of the sublime substance that seems to know no cultural bounds. Refreshingly, Ummah Foods’ products are to be sold with the strapline ‘Quintessentially British Halal Chocolate’, showing just how accepted a part of the country’s culture the Islamic lifestyle has become.

The brand first launched a full decade ago, deemed ‘ChocHalal’ by the Daily Mirror. But the success of the world’s biggest Halal Food Festival in London earlier this year indicated a rebrand for the range would be well-received; gobbled up by the tidal wave of so-called ‘Haloodies’ who ate, drank, and made so merry at the event – collectively spending £1 billion annually fuelling their appetite for Halal edibles.

Ummah Foods’ redesigned logo proudly flags up the fusion from first glance, incorporating artwork by British Muslim Mukhtar Saunders into a classic red, white and blue Union Jack to create a harmonious whole that indicates how Islam has become an integrated part of the wider British identity; deeply ingrained into our collective consciousness.

Ummah Foods ChocHalal

It’s evident that the ideas that inform ‘Brand Britain’ are not what they were. Our country is deliciously diverse, forcing major companies to scramble to ensure their wares better reflect the continually-changing consumer climate. And it’s equally clear that the emerging and expanding opportunities for Shariah-compliant or Halal products are endless.

The long-running recession has been the making of many an ‘edible entrepreneur’ – and, indeed, it’s often these start-ups food enterprises that boast the best understanding of the ever-shifting notions of ‘Britishness’. These are the guys at ground-level, their hands-on customer dealings meaning they’re better-placed to rapidly respond to needs and wants than their big-business counterparts.

It seems that hedonistic ‘Haloodies’ are very willing to spend that ‘brown pound’ on the beautiful brown stuff. ‘The Chocolatier’ Aneesh Popat sold his entire stock of luxury choc at the Halal Food Festival, and Ummah Foods’ founder Khalid Sharif is equally optimistic for his revamped range, whose appeal he feels extends to more than the Muslim market.

Ummah’s main man reckons that “British Muslims are proud of both their British and Muslim heritage”, and believes it’s high time that all Brits reclaim the national flag from the extremism exemplified by militant members of any of her numerous communities. A committed love of chocolate is undoubtedly a great uniting force – and Khalid’s company has, perhaps, a tasty little role to play in helping to unite Great Britain.

Sharif should profit with his product. 2013’s World Islamic Economic Forum revealed that Britain’s Islamic market – that so-called ‘brown pound’- has huge potential when it comes to job creation and much-needed economic growth. But besides economics, it also offers growing scope for increased culinary creativity and cross-cultural chocolate appreciation. It’s a pretty delicious prospect.


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