In Dutch schools, halal frozen pizza baguette is the hot new thingFood
- 05 September 2017
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In less than a year since its launch, the Afiyet halal frozen pizza baguette has made its way to the frozen sections of ethnic grocery stores across the Netherlands, and it’s set to appear in Dutch school canteens as well. It has even crossed borders into Belgium and France and will soon be available in the UK and Germany too.
According to Dutch entrepreneur Sadullah Oz, the man behind the brand, the key word to his success is the “baguette” bit: “With regular pizzas, you don’t want to eat them for breakfast. But the pizza baguette is just bread with some cheese, sauce and sausage. You can eat it at any time of the day.”
Like most inspired ideas, Sadullah came up with the frozen pizza baguette to fulfill a personal need. “We observe halal, so we can’t eat just anything. Every time I wanted pizza, I would have to buy one from the frozen section [of the local supermarket], and add my own sauce and Turkish spicy sucuk sausage,” he said. He then realised that there was a gap in the market for pizza fans who observe halal.
Sadullah is a seasoned entrepreneur: he previously ran a company that delivered flowers internationally from the Netherlands and then started a company that produced those blank labels you use for your files or kitchen supplies. For him, launching a new product to cater to a relatively untapped market was a natural step.
In October 2016, he launched Afiyet, which means “bon appétit” in Turkish. His idea is simple: offer a good-quality, halal-certified version of a product that already exists in the market. In this case, it’s a baguette split open lengthwise and topped with three flavours: tomato and cheese, chicken, and the Turkish sucuk.
Sadullah is the only one making a halal version in the country at the moment. “And the reason for that is that the machinery to make this is a huge investment. We found an investor who gave us €5 million to cover the initial costs,” he said. Because of the huge potential of the halal market in Europe, the investor was convinced of his return on investment.
Once they had their machinery, they applied for and received their halal certification, which Sadullah said was not too difficult. “Our product is bread, sauce, cheese and meat. We had to ensure that the production process observed the rules of halal and then also ensure that our meat and cheese came from halal-certified sources.”
The Afiyet frozen pizza baguette was first launched in the Netherlands, where they are stocked at 450 grocery stores across the country. The halal pizza baguettes will also shortly be sold at 85 school canteens across the country, and Sadullah predicts they will do very well there.
Before they launched the product, Sadullah literally drove the length and breadth of the country to supermarkets with samples of his products and contact details. He found an list of halal grocers in the Netherlands online, but it was outdated; he would often arrive at an address and find that the place had gone out of business years ago. He had to drive 800 km a day. His efforts paid off; people tried his product and called him to say, “Yes, we would like to stock it.”
Their Belgian partners distribute to about 100 grocery stores and the French one to 800 supermarkets. Sadullah is in the process of working out the details for distribution in Germany and the UK later this year, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia early next year. And plans to rapidly expand are on the cards.
But is he worried that someone else will start a similar product and hijack his market? After all, it is such a simple idea. But Sadullah pointed out that the initial investment is steep, but more importantly, the quality Afiyet offers is high. “And by then, we should be an established and trusted brand name,” he said.