The National Halal Group wants to give halal meat as significant a presence in the multiple retailers as it has in Muslim-run independent stores. Chloe Smith reports

Muhammed Yaqoob has big plans for his company. The National Halal Food Group already operates 10 halal butchery concessions in Asda stores and two in Tesco and its chief executive (pictured above with the company's brand ambassador of two years, Jermaine Jackson) believes there is capacity to support 50 such concessions within three years.

Yaqoob's vision is to create a major supermarket brand that Muslims all over the UK know and trust. Long term, there's even potential to turn National Halal into an international brand, he believes.

If he can pull it off, he will have revolutionised the £250m UK halal market. Currently split between the £10m-turnover National Halal, its pan-European rival Tahira, several supermarket tertiary brands and an estimated 3,500 high-street independents, it is highly fragmented.

It is also characterised by diverse shopper habits, older generations tending to shop at Muslim-run independents and younger people at the supermarkets - a market Yaqoob feels is under-serviced. "The target audience is really the third generation, the professionals," he says, adding that as this generation starts to have children, National Halal will move away from counter service and sell pre-packed lines in supermarkets like any other brand.

The company has come a long way since his father spotted a gap in the market for halal meat back in the 1950s. In 1995, the company opened its first shop under the National Halal name. Aiming to emulate the Dewhurst chain of butchers, National Halal had seven shops at its peak, but scaled this back to two as it started to target the supermarkets more aggressively.

Both Tesco and Asda are planning to increase the number of in-store concessions and Yaqoob reveals he is also in talks with Sainsbury's and Morrisons. The key to building a successful national and perhaps one day international brand, he says, is a strict adherence to standards. "We are trying to change the industry. "We are a transparent business Muslims can trust."

This transparency, he hopes, will also help Westerners understand that although National Halal does not stun animals before slaughter, its animal welfare standards are high.

"On the one hand we adhere to UK food legislation and simultaneously we adhere to the Koran," he says. "When we look at animal welfare, you have to ask: are they fed? Are they watered? Are they rested? Then when you come to slaughter can you ensure one animal is not slaughtered in the eyes of another? That the person carrying out the slaughtering is a qualified Muslim? This is what National Halal prides itself on. It is an open book policy if customers want to see behind the scenes."

Ultimately, Yaqoob is hoping the likes of Morrisons and Sainsbury's will accept his arguments as he works to make the brand a household name, which is where Jackson comes in. "Jermaine will be talking about the benefits of halal," says Yaqoob. And with a big name on board, he's certainly stealing a march in the PR stakes.