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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 12    Issue 5   01 - 15 August 2017

The Growing Global Salience of Halal Food

Professor A. R. MOMIN

The Islamic faith represents not just a system of beliefs and rituals but also a comprehensive blueprint for individual and collective life. Islamic principles and values encompass all aspects of life, including the means of livelihood, marriage and family, food and dress, inter-personal relationships and manners and etiquette.

Islamic law draws a distinction between two types of food: Halal or permissible, and Haram or forbidden. Haram food items include pork and pork-derived products, animals that are not slaughtered according to Islamic ritual and alcoholic beverages and other intoxicating substances. Muslims around the world strictly follow the injunctions of Islamic Shariah in respect of their dietary practices.

According to JWT, a well-known American advertising agency, food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. In recent years there has come about a greater awareness and demand for Halal food among Muslims, particularly among those living in Western countries. The easy availability of halal food products in most cities, the entry of global food companies in the halal food business, global tourism and international halal food festivals in Malaysia, Dubai and other countries have made halal food a conspicuous feature of Muslim culture in large parts of the world. Today Halal food is a high growth industry.

According to State of the Global Islamic Economy, 2016-17, brought out by ThomsonReuters, the global spending on Halal food and beverages in 2015 is estimated to be $1.17 trillion, with revenues from Halal Certified Food and Beverage products estimated at $415 billion. Expenditure on Halal food worldwide accounts for over 17% of global food expenditure of 7 trillion. The Halal food industry has registered a market growth of 3.4%, higher than the global market growth of 3.3%. The Halal food sector is projected to grow to $2.537 trillion by 2019, up from 795 billion in 2014. By 2019, the Halal food sector will account for 21.2% of global food expenditure.

The top 10 Muslim consumer food expenditure markets are Indonesia ($154.9 billion), Turkey ($115.5 billion), Pakistan ($106.3 billion), Egypt ($77.5 billion), Bangladesh ($68.5 billion), Iran ($59.0 billion), Saudi Arabia ($47.9 billion), Nigeria ($41.2 billion), Russia ($37.0 billion) and India ($34.8 billion). Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, India, UAE and Switzerland are among the major producers and exporters of Halal food products. Brazil, New Zealand and India are the top three meat exporters to Muslim and Arab countries. Turkey is set to become a leading Halal exporter to the OIC countries. Turkish meat and live animal exports increased from $215 million in 2010 to $686 million in 2014. Pakistan increased its export of Halal food to OIC markets from $81 million in 2009 to $219 million in 2014.

The leading vendors in the global Halal food market are Al Islami Foods (based in Dubai), Brazil-based BRF, Switzerland-based Nestle, QL Foods (based in Malaysia) and US-based Saffron Road Food.

In many food products, non-Halal ingredients are used. These include pork-derived gelatin, pepsin (derived from pork) in cheese and carmine (derived from insects) as a colorant in several food items. Around the world, there are an estimated 300 manufacturers who use Halal ingredients in food products.

Danang Halal, based in Malaysia, is a public company with over 21,000 Halal products from 4,000 sellers across Southeast Asia. Zilzar, based in Malaysia, has 30,000 products listed online.

Al Islami Foods, the leading Halal food brand in the Middle East, has established a foothold in France by launching its Al Farooj Fresh brand. In 2016 Al Islami Foods opened an office in Brazil. Brunei Halal is a Halal food brand owned the government of Brunei. The company has established operations in the UK, securing distribution through leading retailer Tesco's.

Across the US and the UK, there are now several Halal organic meat suppliers, including Crescent Foods, a US-based chicken and meat supplier, Euro Quality Lambs, a UK-based lamb supplier serving Europe, the UK-based Halal Exotic meats and US-based Honest Chops. Saffron Road is a US-based processed food manufacturer with revenues exceeding $ 40 million.

In many cities around the world, premium Halal restaurant chains are emerging to cater to the growing Muslim demand for Halal food. Paramount Fine Foods, based in Canada, has established over 30 Halal restaurants. The UK-based La Sophia is a highly popular Halal restaurant in London that offers a combination of Mediterranean cuisine and Palestinian ingredients.

HalalEat, based in the UK, has acquired 280 restaurant signups across major UK cities. The company has also launched outlets in Melbourne, Australia and registered domains across Europe as well as in South Africa. Halalonclick, based in Singapore, has acquired 18 restaurant signups. HalalEda.me, based in Russia, currently offers Halal food options from over 60 restaurants in 21 cities across the Russian Federation.

Thailand's government has set aside $5.1 billion to support the Halal food industry through grants and certification subsidies. Korea established the Korean Institute of Halal Industry in 2014. China is also emerging as a key player in the Halal food sector.

Some creative innovations in the Halal food sector have added to the growing popularity of Halal food. Fair Foods, based in Switzerland, recently launched the Ramadan Energy Bar. The bar, made from low fat, caffeine-free chocolate and a complex carbohydrate formula, is designed to provide energy lasting for up to 9 hours during the holy month of Ramadan. It is primarily sold in the UK and US.

There has recently been a significant rise in Halal online meat takeout and delivery platforms, particularly in non-Muslim countries which have a sizable Muslim population. The well-known Halal online outlets include the UK-based HalalEat, Halalonclick in Singapore and the Russian-based HalalEda.me.

There has been a noticeable increase in private equity investments in the Halal food segment in the past few years. ESP Capital and Kingsley Capital Partners invested $30 million in Janan Meat, a leading UK-based Halal lamb and mutton supplier. Abroad Capital and Texas Pacific Group invested $ 400 million in Saudi-Arabia-based fast food chain Kudu.

Since halal food is not available in some parts of the US and Canada, many Muslims turn to kosher. In the US an estimated 16% of sales in the $100 million kosher industry come from Muslim customers. In Australia/Oceania, the halal food market grew by 33.3 per cent between 2009 and 2010 and is currently estimated at over $1.6 billion.

The growing worldwide demand for halal food has prompted global food giants like McDonalds as well as supermarket chains in Europe and North America to enter the halal food segment. Britain's biggest supermarket chains such as Tesco's, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Somerfield have separate shelves for halal food products. Tesco launched halal products in 2004 and distributes halal chocolates in six of its stores in London. British pharmacy retailer Boots sells halal baby food. Nestle earns more from halal products than it does from organic food. Rotterdam Port, one of the worlds largest ports, has built a huge warehouse of halal products and is set to become the halal gateway to Europe. The Port of Rotterdam was officially designated as halal at the World Islamic Economic Forum.

In April 2007, when McDonalds opened its first European restaurant with halal burgers and chicken nuggets on the menu in Southall in west London, sales rose dramatically. Halal chicken nuggets introduced by McDonalds in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab populations in the US, are immensely popular with local Muslims. Wal-Mart now stocks halal food products in its US stores. Two of McDonalds restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney offer halal meals. Global fast food giants such as Dominos Pizza, Pizza Hut, KFC and Subway are using halal meat in their products. KFC launched a halal-only menu in eight of its London outlets in 2009. All McDonalds restaurants in Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and India are halal certified. In the UK, hundreds of outlets serving halal fried chicken, such as Chicken Cottage, have sprung up in recent years. Los Angeles has a Chinese Islamic restaurant and a Thai Islamic restaurant where only halal food is served. The Muslim population in France is around 6 million, the largest in Europe. French supermarkets such as Casino and Carrefour have launched a wide range of halal foods. A restaurant called McHalal has been serving halal burgers for years outside the French city of Lyon. A newly-opened fast-food restaurant in Paris called Clichy-sous-Bois offers Beurger King Muslim halal hamburgers and fries. The value of the halal food market in France was estimated at 17.6 billion in 2010. A Pakistani Muslim has opened a string of halal chicken sandwich stands in Britain and France. Solis, a Paris-based research organization, reckons that the Muslims of France will soon consume around 4.5 billion worth of halal foods each year. About one-quarter of this belongs to the category of fast food.

Switzerland is the largest producer of processed halal food in the world with annual sales of $3.5 billion. Swiss companies which produce halal food make sure that their products are tested, regularly checked and certified by Islamic experts. Nestle, the worlds largest food corporation with $94 billion in sales in 2007, adheres to halal food requirements in 75 of its 480 factories worldwide. For the past two years Nestle has eliminated pork, alcohol and blood from its production process in seven of its European factories, including a sausage plant in France, a Nescafe plant in Germany and a powdered milk plant in Spain. The Nestle factory at Wangen bei Olten produces more than 41,000 tonnes of freshly made dough a year, of which a substantial amount is of the halal variety. Most of the halal puff pastry is sold to France, home to Europes largest Muslim population.

One of the most popular fast food items in Germany, as well as in Austria, is the doner kebab, first introduced by Turkish immigrants in Berlin in the early 1970s. There are nearly 15,500 doner kebab businesses across Germany, and the doner kebab business in the country is worth about 2.5 billion annually. It is estimated that there are over one thousand more doner kebab stands in Berlin than in Istanbul. Every day, more than 400 tonnes of doner kebab meat is produced in Germany. In most German cities, doner kebabs are more popular than hamburgers and sausages. The first ever doner kebab trade fair was held in Berlin in March 2010.

The Barlein-Denterlein family of Nuremberg in northern Bavaria in Germany has long been one of the biggest producers of doner kebab meat in the country. Though the members of the Barlein-Denterlein family live like other German families, relishing pork-made sausages and salami, they make sure that the animals are killed in their slaughterhouse in the town of Neustadt according to Islamic rituals. They employ Muslim butchers who say a short prayer before killing the animals with a sharp knife. Killing pigs is absolutely forbidden in their slaughterhouse. Nearly 95 per cent of the meat goes to doner kebab stands and Turkish supermarkets in Nuremberg and other German cities. Sausages (a mixture of minced pork and flavouring stuffed into a thin casing made from pigs intestine) are extremely popular in Germany (where they are known as wurst) as well as in other countries. A German butcher, Stefan Voelker, has invented a halal variety of sausage, known as bratwurst. This is made completely from halal veal and is stuffed into a casing made of sheeps intestine.

International halal food and trade festivals have significantly contributed to the growing popularity of halal food products. Since 2004 Malaysia has been organising the International Halal Showcase, the worlds largest international halal trade fair. The fair is regarded as the largest annual gathering of halal industry players in the effort to ease the sourcing and selling of global quality halal products and services. Global food giants such as Nestle, McDonalds, Rotterdam Post and Tesco were also invited to participate in the fair. In May 2006 the first World Halal Forum was organised in Kuala Lumpur. China held a four-day international halal food festival on September 10-13, 2008 in the Ningxia Autonomous Region. The 2nd Halal Expo 2008 was held in Dubai from November 24 to 26. It was designed to provide a gateway to the expanding global halal market and a networking platform which will bring together halal associations, halal certification agencies and suppliers and buyers of halal products. Modern information and communication technologies have facilitated interaction and networking among the producers, promoters and consumers of halal food. The popular youth portal TouTube has several videos on halal food products.

Germany is home to some 4 million Muslims. German companies are slowly waking up to the rising popularity of halal food. Cologne hosted an exhibition showcasing the food products of more than 800 halal food producers in June 2009. In Gehlenberg, a sleepy village in northern Germany, the Meemken family business house produces a wide range of halal sausages and supplies some 100 tonnes of salami and other types of sausages each week to food retailers in Germany and other European countries.

For much of its 26-year history, the Halal Guys has been known for its value-priced Middle Eastern fare, as well as the half-hour waits at its food carts in Midtown Manhattan. The Queens-based business is now venturing beyond New York City, working with franchisees to open brick-and-mortar Halal Guys restaurants across the U.S. and overseas. There are 12 franchised locations outside New York, including ones in Dallas, Milwaukee, San Jose, Calif., and the Philippines. The Halal Guys has sold development rights for about 340 additional locations in the U.S. and 50 in southeast Asia.

Ultimately, the privately held company wants to turn itself into a food brand with big-name recognition, perhaps similar to Chipotle Mexican Grill or Five Guys Burgers & Fries but with a New York vibe.

Halal Guys executives and franchisees said they are confident that it can-at least in East Brunswick, N.J., where a Halal Guys location that opened in the spring in a local strip mall has been drawing up to 800 customers a day.

"When we started, the line was around the building," said franchisee Khattab Abuattieh, a veteran restaurateur who plans to open other Halal Guys locations in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region as part of his territory.

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