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  • The sweet (halal) smell of success

    This week I’m looking at the rise of halal perfume, and why for many Muslims, it is such an important and beloved part of their faith and culture.

    If you wander down to the mosque on a Friday afternoon, in time for Friday prayers, you might notice that there was a pleasant smell in the air. This is because Muslims are highly recommended to wear perfume before attending their weekly Friday prayers. For Muslims – men and women – perfume is one of the pleasures of faith. And if perfume is halal, then all the better.

    In our research looking at brands as part of the Noor Brand Index was clear that Muslims consumers rate the importance of halal most high in products that have a close connection with their bodies. Food and beverage, unsurprisingly, must be halal. Aft er all, what you put in your body is of utmost significance.

    Physical, everyday usage makes halal non-negotiable.  The closer a category is to the human body, and the more regular its consumption, the more it must be completely Shariah-compliant.  This is particularly evident for food brands, followed closely by beverage and personal care brands.  The food category is one in which Shariah-compliant standards are the most developed, through the practice of halal, which clearly prescribes how a food product must be sourced and handled at all manufacturing stages.

    Next in line is bodycare.  Islam places huge importance on personal grooming and physical cleanliness. For example, each time a Muslim prays during the day, they must ensure that they have performed the ‘wudhu’ which is a form of washing of the face, arms and feet. Muslims are encouraged to use perfume so that they smell pleasant when out in company. But more on perfume in a moment…

    Halal products for grooming are on the rise. Take for example the increase in ‘halal’ cosmetics, which uses no alcohol and no animal ingredients. These products respect and reassure the consumer that what touches their body will be of the halal standards that they aspire to.

    There is also the understanding that a brand can show in the needs of Muslims in their personal care. Recently we looked at this advert and product positioning by Sunsilk shampoo which was the first ever shampoo targeted at women who cover their hair. It seems unlikely for a shampoo commercial to feature no hair, but this is exactly what Sunsilk does – and with great success, because it engages in a dialogue with its consumers about the reality of their lives.

    So now lets go back to perfume, and it should come as no surprise then that perfume is also of huge importance to Muslims. This is partly due to its religious significance. The Prophet Muhammad was said never to have refused perfume when it was given to him. He would say it was one of the things that a believer truly loves. Perfume’s significance also lies in its cultural association with Muslim lands. Oman for example is home of the frankincense tree, and the sale of the perfume that derives from it was one of the reason’s its great seafaring nation became so rich.

    Per capita consumption of perfume is among the highest in the world, Saudi Arabia alone accounting for over US$800 million last year, according to a Euromonitor report.

    Perfume is part of beautification for both men and women, and a highly prized commodity. However, its intimacy with the body, and the fact it is highly recommended for Muslims to wear it, mean that their is often a high consciousness of whether its ingredients are halal or not. The prime villain is the alcohol content. Traditional perfumes are oil rather than alcohol based and their is a rise in their popularity. 

    So whilst perfume in general is extremely popular, halal ingredients are important too. Companies such as Atelier des Parfums have realised this. They set up manufacturing plant in Malaysia in order to address this issue. With nearly a quarter of the world’s population being Muslim, the market for halal-conscious perfume wearers is huge. What if all the big perfume brands were to produce their perfumes in a halal verison too? That could well leave them smelling of roses…

    You can read more of Shelina Janmohamed’s Insider’s View here on our blog

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