2013: Year of Halal Food

2013 seems to be the year of halal food. There are multiple halal food themed events happening across North America.

This summer, California's Halal Food & Eid Festival (www.HalalFest.com) debuts, co-sponsored by ILLUME and Zabihah.com. The event will take place in the main parking lot of NewPark Mall in Newark, Calif. on Saturday August 17. 

Our neighbors up north in Canada are having a Toronto Halal Food Festival on June 1 and 2. With almost a half million Muslims living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), its expected to be a very large event.

We got a chance to chat with Salima Jivraj of Halalfoodie.ca, one of the main organizers of the Toronto Halal Food Festival.

How did the idea for a Halal Food Festival in Toronto come about?

Two years ago I started a website called http://halalfoodie.ca, which was intended to spotlight halal restaurants around the Greater Toronto Area through reviews that give a more in-depth view of the establishment from how the interior looks to where they purchase their meat. I realized that there was a huge need for this type of information and wanted to do something more to not only highlight halal food in Toronto, but also act as a marketing vehicle for halal businesses in general as there was no platform available other than static magazines or directories.

Back at the end of 2012, I came across a Sameer’s Eats event in New Jersey and thought – Toronto NEEDS this type of event! Events are definitely in demand as people in general are very much reliant on social media and interactivity. Marketing needs to be engaging now. My background is in print marketing, but will be the first to acknowledge that social and interactive media is the best way to reach and engage with an audience.

Who are the main organizers of the festival and what connection to Halal Food if any do they have?

Our Team consists of six core members: myself, Faizal Kagdi, Oroosh Shiehk, Zubair Kagdi, Arshad Qureshi and Khalid Patel. We all have our own various specialties and set of strengths but our one common trait is our love for food.

Faizal Kagdi, the president of our organization is our driver and is spearheading the organization but we all bring in strengths from our own respected fields of experience.

We aim to be the “people’s voice”. We’re not so much what about following the industry or global trends, but bringing it close to home and give a single voice to the Canadian Muslim Consumer.

What kind of impact do you think this Festival will have on the Muslim community in Canada? And also to the greater Canadian population ?

Toronto Muslims are savvy eaters. With our diverse population, we have an eclectic mix of halal options that are very unique compared to other cities in North America where halal food is limited to South Asian or Middle Eastern. But I don’t think people here understand how blessed we are, or really grasp our unique offering.

So to showcase a large grouping of the halal food market, we hope to open eyes and inspire big things to happen and put Canada on the map with the global halal food industry. Toronto represents a large percentage of the Canadian Muslim population – 47% of Muslims in Canada live in the Greater Toronto Area, so we feel that we can speak for the Canadian consumer when it comes to the halal food market.