Mention halal food and immediately many people think of meat, but the term applies to all foods that the Muslim world prepares to eat, including fruit and vegetables. And, according to experts, it’s an area of the processed market that is not being fully catered for
There is a great deal of ignorance surrounding halal food, with many non-Muslims associating the term solely with the process by which animals are slaughtered for the Islamic meat trade.
However, halal covers all the foods that Muslims are permitted to eat as opposed to haraam, foods that are not allowed, the most common one being pork.
Although fresh fruit and vegetables are automatically halal, it’s the processing that could render them haraam, and therefore producers are encouraged to go through a certification system to ensure they can be correctly sold to the Muslim consumer.
According to Charlie Jenkins, brand manager for the halal certified confectionery company Goody Good Stuff, the UK halal market is worth £700m, with Muslims making up 5% of the population. By 2030 it is predicted that Muslims will make up 8% of the population.
In a 2013 report into the Islamic market released by the growth strategy company DinarStandard, called the State of the Global Islamic Economy, globally Muslim consumer expenditure is expected to grow to a US$2.47-trillion (£1.6 trillion) market by 2018.
In a presentation to the International Food and Agricultural Congress, DinarStandard managing director Rafi-uddin Shikoh pointed out that there were massive opportunities for the UK food and drink sector, which he stated was under served, with quality quite low.
Tony Er, international marketing manager at DagangHalal, a global halal sourcing company, agrees that the UK food and drink sector, especially in processed fruit and vegetables, is not making the most of the opportunities that its Muslim population offers.
“There is no need to buy in special equipment to apply halal certification. It is mainly to comply with Syariah [Sharia] Law, which focuses on the process to produce the products,” he says.
Er adds that there are a lot of certification bodies around the world but only 73 of them are recognised by the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (JAKIM), the most recognised halal certification body in the world. The UK’s Halal Food Authority is one of them, and says the annual certification fee is variable and ranges from £1,500 to £2,250 per annum.
Although the Goody Good Stuff company produces confection, it says it would encourage fruit and vegetable processors to look into certification, which it adds is very straightforward.
Jenkins says: “Our certification takes place in Europe, in line with the location of our manufacturing facility. The local body checks the facility and product to certify that the final product is free from alcohol, pork and prepared in a certain manner according to the Qu’ran. Our halal certification has opened up our distribution channels and visibility to the Muslim consumer.
“We would recommend that other food companies consider halal certification. We have found that following the route of certification is a rewarding process, and is essential for winning the trust of your consumer.
“Additionally, Goody Good Stuff products are certified Kosher, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten and GMO free. There is an emerging market for permissible and inclusive products in FMCG, and free from and world food foods are fast growing trends.”
While meat is the most high profile certified product, according to Er, 70% of all New Zealand lamb in UK supermarkets is from halal abattoirs, and the number of halal abattoirs in the UK is now 88, accounting for a quarter of the country’s 352 slaughterhouses, there is a growing number of vegetarian Muslims.
There are several Muslim vegetarian/vegan bloggers in the UK, and there is a Vegetarian Muslim Society. Alongside Muslim communities wanting convenient halal pre-packed fruit and vegetables, the State of the Global Islamic Economy report also points out the growing interest among the general public for food that has been through a though some form of certification process to show it has been produced in an ethical way.
Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Islamic Marketing, Dr Jonathan Wilson, who also lectures at the University of Greenwich Business School, says that previously, consumers in Muslim majority countries held the opinion that halal ingredient branding was of little need.
He adds: “But in the wake of recent food and pharma scandals, increasing numbers of Muslims and non-Muslims are seeking reassurance through an additional layer of certification and quality control – alongside other trends such as organic and Fair Trade.”
And supermarket Waitrose in its predictions for 2015 food trends says that the consumers are falling in love with Middle Eastern food, and this year we’ll be seeing more specific cuisines, such as Persia, being prepared at home.
“The food in Persia is a hybrid, encompassing the flavour, tastes and influences of Turkey, the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean and the Middle East,” says a Waitrose spokesman.
“With its freshness and vibrancy, Persian food is all about small plates enjoyed in an informal dining setting, with ingredients like fresh green herbs, pomegranate, apricots, dried limes and saffron.”
Adding halal certification to ingredients can only help to make it more appealing to consumers. As the market for authenticated foods shows no sign of slowing down, offering a fruit salad or Mediterranean mix of pre-packed vegetables that has been halal certified opens up sales to not only the UK’s Muslim shoppers but also consumers concerned with where their food has come from.