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Abdul Munim Sheikh| President and CEO | Al Safa Foods Canada Ltd.

Al Safa Foods: Catering to Overlooked Proportion

Apprehended by Globalization, society is consolidated by distinct types of people. Each person crafts a different approach to proceed with their life, backed by their beliefs. In fact, everyone is playing an active role in making a way forward and establishing a method of living in a place that is not measured up to them.

An adequate amount of people are inclined toward similar social settings. Still, when they are variegated, it becomes amenable to make them feel inclusive because they are then beheld as contingent.

When they couldn’t find a solution for aid provision for their community, Al Safa Foods took it upon itself to serve the community and provide it with a rich experience that follows their beliefs.

Al Safa Foods brings delectable taste and culinary experience built around the fine values and trust of the Muslim population. It is one of the most successful and fastest-growing brands of Halal and Ethnic products in North America.

To get an abstract of their business approach and success progression, Insights Success took an exclusive interview with Al Safa Foods President and CEO Abdul Munim Sheikh.

What was the initial idea behind the inception of Alsafa Foods?

Since acquiring Alsafa in 2014, the organization has grown five times in size with a stronghold focus on access to Halal food. Compared to predominately Muslim societies, not many halal foods are currently present in the market. Our goal has been to introduce affordable and high-quality halal products. Heavy expansions into Canada’s West Coast and an intense urgency to integrate into the USA market have enabled Alsafa to hold the largest market share in the industry.

What are the primary objectives and philosophy of Alsafa Foods?

Alsafa Foods is the largest North American Halal Food Brand – our objective is to empower Muslims to make time for their dreams by offering halal, guilt-free convenience foods. Based out of Mississauga, Canada, we’ve been serving Muslims for over 25 years.

Primary objectives include the accomplishment for Muslims to feel more inclusive in North American communities by enjoying the exact lifestyles without guilt or compromise concerning dietary restrictions. With Alsafa, Muslims can uphold religious values to feel included in North American lifestyles. Our mission is to close the gap between what mainstream supermarkets offer and what Muslims have been looking for all these years.

What are your top-notch offerings that have a strong foothold in the F&B sector?

Alsafa is focused on the Halal Frozen Meat category. Within this, we have introduced different segments such as Middle Eastern, South Asian, Caribbean, and North American cuisines. Our ability to cater to various demographics by offering a variety of Halal convenience foods that appease one’s curiosity about traditionally non-halal foods is another reason for our accelerated growth.

Our strong brand presence is largely due to the premium quality we provide. Alsafa straightforwardly accommodates all Muslims by offering only Certified Zabiha by Hand, Hand-Slaughtered Halal products. Therefore, uncompromising faith to cater to the needs of all Muslims.

What differentiates us from our predecessors and our competitors is our strategy to target mainstream outlets (Walmart, Sobeys, Loblaws, Shoprite, etc.) and ethnic retail outlets – small businesses and independent grocers. As a result, we’ve seen significant improvement in profit margins leading to our aggressive growth. In the beginning, Alsafa was just a vision; now, the focus on innovation has conveyed lucrative efforts of this vision, and the results of the vision come to fruition.

What are the roadblocks that Alsafa Foods faced in the ever-changing landscape of the business world?

More recently, during the pandemic and post-pandemic, the supply chain presented our biggest challenge, as we see fluctuations in commodity prices. Nevertheless, our team’s sharp nature has demonstrated to partners our vigilance and confidence to overcome any situation. Furthermore, improving lead times while being dynamic in our efficiencies has provided important customer feedback. Our service continues to be better than our competition.

Being process-oriented and understanding said processes inspires development and evolution regularly. Fortunately, our uncompromising growth to combat hurdles has pushed Alsafa to become the biggest player in market share once again in the Halal Meat industry.

How are Alsafa Foods adapting to market orientation?

Our biggest reliance is within the organization to adapt to market orientation in several ways. Familiarity with both standardization and customization of products/services helps provide customers with tailor-made solutions that fit their needs perfectly.

Specific to the food industry and for our product line, we are always looking to improve the nutritional values; and continuously enhance international standards to improve our packaging, marketing, and approach to customers.

Above all, the consumer taste pallet is ever evolving, especially its uniqueness considering age and generation. Immigrants coming from across the globe create great fusions when it comes to taste. Taking this and interoperating it to create flavors commercially is where we bring authentic tastes in a convenient approach. Alsafa is favorable as a brand for everyone; we repeatedly study the evolution of taste as we try to keep up with it.

Numerous partners can attest to Alsafa’s professionalism and focus on addressing the customer’s needs, primarily by setting new standards within the industry with honest transactions. We are covering more than 6,000 outlets with over 10 mainstream banners listening across Canada, in addition to having 25 distribution partners across North America. With mainstream outlets, our customers truly appreciate the authenticity and knowledge of the community. Many of them rely on our team to design their Halal programs in-store. This strength empowered our brand to hold a strong footprint in mainstream and independent markets. Alsafa adheres to a few principles that are simple and very sacred. We are very process oriented. Each member in every department has the freedom to exercise their knowledge.

Essential data collection and analysis findings enable us to make vital decisions to stay ahead of the curve. Typically, market research very is fragmented for independent grocers. Having no trackability can be challenging, but the discovery in small businesses helps validate potential, which is imperative to our development. Using technology to our advantage wherever possible is one of the reasons we have a very agile team.

Together, we have never stopped challenging our previous knowledge. We are perpetually unsatisfied and are fueled by ambition. Adversely with respect to industry benchmarks, we are benchmarking based on our potential. There are many processes contrary to industry standards in which we go above and beyond to serve our customers better.

Having a small team with big dreams presents obstacles as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. However, our willingness to expand towards taking on new ventures has furthered our growth – together; we feel capable and confident to take on challenges. We have pivoted ourselves to face USA markets by gradually screening our production, which has led to increased productivity. Broadening our horizon by turning to international procurement and leveraging global sourcing has helped mitigate potential risks.

What is your stance on implementing innovative technologies?

Alsafa’s growth can be significantly attributed to embracing innovative technologies. We have kept technology as a major principle to differentiate ourselves from our competition. We started with 20 products in our portfolio and have since grown it 4x more to over 80 products with the objective of adding more. We have purposefully leveraged technology in every step of our processes and utilized this as an enabler to aid in the way we achieve sales.

In what traditions is your company contributing to the communities?

Alsafa donates 1% of our revenue to education and has gradually increased donations since, as we believe education is the foundation on which hardships can be solved. We partnered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to broaden our initiatives. This endeavor was made possible by Alsafa’s compassion for helping others and united belief amongst employees for enabling equal opportunity. Philanthropic efforts are especially dear to my heart, being a beneficiary as an immigrant. Giving similar opportunities is the beauty of North America, and the reason for its flourishing growth and prosperity as positive change starts in our backyard.

How does Alsafa Foods promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?

As CEO and a leader within the organization, my goal is to establish a positive environment for my team to have the space and opportunity to apply their experiences and facilitate their creativity alongside business practices. Retention levels of employees are very high at Alsafa – the team who are talented and excel at what they do but also bring high-level proficiencies to aid in our accomplishments. We pride ourselves on being a very talent-driven organization by encouraging trials of new ventures and, most importantly, by learning from our mistakes. Alsafa’s open door policy and flexibility to customize work schedules have supported the team throughout their personal and professional régimes. Our culture breathes initiative, giving our team the capability to go above and beyond their roles.

What is the next chapter for Al Safa Foods in the ever-evolving F&B sector?

We can foresee Alsafa’s uncompromising progression will endure given the demand for Halal products. Alsafa is well equipped to provide and fulfill the expectations of consumers. Our continued growth trajectory is likely to service more regions in North America and beyond, expanding into the European and South American markets in the future. Our primary goal is to become more efficient and serve our customers across the globe.

Alsafa operates with deliberate intentions with proven success to become an industry leader in providing Halal convenience foods in North America. Guiding us into the future will constantly be our strongholds of innovation and technology, aiding the principle that our profits come secondary to our customers.

We remain committed to providing the best quality halal products that will bring the community closer together as we share their values and beliefs. As purchasers in the food industry evolve, Alsafa will continue to adapt and provide the highest level of service to the Muslim community and all consumers alike.