Profitable future for halal industry

This may come as a surprise to some, but the multi-billion dollar halal industry is not just about food. There are many consumer goods from cosmetics to healthcare products that all fall under the banner. While the customs behind halal meat are well known, the production of other products is less obvious. For example, some types of gelatine – found in many cosmetics and medicines – cannot be used by Muslims. And with the global Muslim population expected to rise to two billion by 2025, demand for halal products is set to soar. The global halal market is currently estimated to be worth $580 billion (Dh2.13 trillion) and is set to grow by seven per cent a year, according to Asia Inc. The halal food market alone is worth $30 million (Dh110bn) to the top five food producers, of which Nestle is the biggest with annual sales in excess of $3bn (Dh11bn). A spokesperson for the US-based company says: « The Middle East market is growing every year and as such it is becoming more important to us. We are also getting non-Muslim clients too as the halal principle continues to give confidence to consumers. » As a result of the growing industry, the second annual Halal World Expo (HWE) will be taking place in the UAE. Spread over three days from November 11 to 13 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the HWE, which is being organised by IIR, will bring producers from around the world together to showcase their products as well as provide a venue to discuss such issues as standardisation of the industry. Exhibition Director Christine Weaver says: « It will give national industry leaders the chance to work together with professionals from Malaysia, South Africa, Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, which have halal compliance systems in place. « It is often taken for granted that processed food and products available in supermarkets of an Islamic country like the UAE are fully halal compliant unless stated as being for ‘non Muslim’ consumption or use. » There will be a number of producers from Saudi Arabia and Brazil, the latter of which is one of the world’s biggest exporters of meat. The UAE, on the other hand, is the second largest importer behind Saudi Arabia and channels Dh550m worth of merchandise throughout the region every year. Local company Al Semman Farm will be selling its fresh and frozen quail eggs at the HWE and is using the event as a springboard for future growth. A company spokesperson says: « The expo gives us the opportunity to show our products and proves there is global focus to a growing demand for halal products worldwide. « With the dense concentration of Muslim consumers in the Middle East, there is huge potential for the halal industry to produce and distribute high quality, regulation certified products throughout the region. » But it is not just local companies that are keen to pass the message of halal to the rest of the world. Midamar Corporation is travelling from the United States to sell its meat products, with an emphasis on attracting restaurants and hotels. Its Director, Jalel Aossey, says it is an important event to help them convince people in this region that despite their products coming from North America, they are no less authentic than if they were produced locally. « It is a known fact that importers and consumers in the GCC region have significant doubt as to the true integrity of US-imported goods really being halal. But the Middle East market is our most strategically important region of the world, » he says. Is halal better then non-halal? For certain. « Halal is not only for our food but encompasses all aspects of our daily life and when one chooses to follow a halal lifestyle the world as they say is yours. » Weaver agrees: « Halal is a healthy option because the animals should be naturally reared, so it’s not just about how they are killed, but what they are fed too. » There is standardisation of the industry in some parts of the world, including Thailand, but Weaver believes there needs to be more awareness of halal products. « There is always the opportunity to educate. As we are surrounded by it in this part of the world we are unconsciously aware but in Europe that’s not always the case. « But as the Muslim population increases, so too will awareness of the halal industry, » she says. Although less widespread, the halal cosmetics industry is worth an estimated Dh2.06bn worldwide, and Weaver says young Muslim women are becoming more conscious of the cosmetics they use. Muslims also need to be careful with medicines as some pills are coated in gelatine made from pork products, while some cough mixtures contain alcohol. This also applies to perfumes, as many Western-made ones are made using alcohol. In light of this, some international brands have introduced halal products including toothpaste by Colgate-Palmolive and mascara and eye shadows by Australian firm Almaas. Meanwhile, a new section to this year’s HWE is the Islamic finance pavilion, which is an ever-growing market. « We have introduced the finance section because of demand not just in the Middle East but also elsewhere, » says Weaver. According to recent data, Shariah compliant banking is growing by 35 per cent a year, while Islamic finance products are valued in excess of $400bn a year, with Dow Jones launching an Islamic Market Family Index in 1999. « The Middle East market is important and products need to appeal to it as companies want business from here, » adds Weaver. Aimee Greaves