As the cosmetics industry continues to perform strongly in the Gulf, it’s curious that halal products have not risen in conjunction with the wider beauty market.
On the whole, citizens of the GCC take their appearance seriously with Arab women in particular not shy from spending their money and time on perfecting their immaculate looks.
Logically, one would assume halal products would be flying off the shelves; stores in the region would be sold out of products. But it’s not the case.
The interest in halal products is there, according to Ashley Batten, a research analyst at Euromonitor International, but the market is yet to respond.
“Muslim women in the UAE are increasingly interested in using halal cosmetics. General awareness of cosmetics ingredients and their health effects has increased in the last few years and more women are realising that their commonly used cosmetics may contain animal products that are not halal,” Batten explains.
“However, the UAE halal-certified cosmetics market is currently very small and heavily fragmented; no major multinational cosmetics company offers halal-certified products.”
A big reason for this is the non-existence of a local halal certification body. While certification procedures for the food and beverage market are well established in the Gulf, there is no such process for personal care products.
This is due to change in 2016 when the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology is expected to launch worldwide halal standards for fragrances and cosmetics.
But until then, the few halal products that make it into the GCC market are likely to be from Europe or North America and certified by regulatory bodies in those countries.
So do the local cosmetics companies think they’re missing a trick?
Not according to Jim Ragsdale, brand director at giant Saudi cosmetics company Mikyajy, “At the moment we honestly have not found that halal products are something that is of primary importance to our customers,” he said.
“The brand is developed primarily for Arabic women but what those women are looking for are high performance make up products first and foremost, more than specifically halal products.
“We’re looking into it [halal cosmetics], but at this point we feel it is a relatively small market that’s actively seeking out these products.”
Instead, the brand director says women of the Gulf are more concerned with products that match the quality of names more commonly found in the aspirational cities of Paris, Milan and London.
“What customers mostly want from us, and what we’re giving them, is the quality they can expect from European production,” he said. As a result, while Mikyajy’s products are developed in Dubai, the majority of production takes place on the continent.
Even with no halal focus though, the brand’s European-tinged products, bearing that certain je ne sais quoi, are reaping big rewards for the Saudi business.
Mikyajy – which in Arabic means ‘my makeup’ – is a cosmetics giant in the GCC. Existing for 14 years with over 230 stores across more than 50 cities, Ragsdale reports 20 per cent sales growth last year – the business saw 30 per cent growth the year before – spurred on by 40 new store openings.
Earlier this year it launched its e-commerce website, which has performed well so far, and is planning to revamp all its stores with a new brand concept.
It also recently employed Lebanese singer Myriam Fares as its brand ambassador – a move reserved for businesses with expansion fixed firmly on the minds of its shareholders.
So has the time come for Mikyajy to look further afield?
“Outside the GCC, we’re beginning to look at other markets, moving in concentric circles around the Gulf and other Arab parts of the world; North Africa and Levant countries,” said Ragsdale.
“But I don’t think we’ve finished expanding in the GCC yet. We are one of the most prominent brands but I still don’t think we have tapped into all the resources the region has to offer. We have very aggressive growth plans in countries across the Gulf.”
By 2016 we will know if those growth plans include halal-certified products.