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Missing the boat, Part I

Missing the boat, Part I

Countries around the world are scrambling to jump on board the hugely lucrative halal sector, except, that is, Arab countries, Part I.

June 11, 2009 8:07 by

“Can you afford not to?” With this question, consulting firm AT Kearney opened its report, Addressing the Muslim Market, published last May. The question was pitched at global manufacturers and suppliers on the still-unrealised potential of halal products. But it might just as well have been reserved for Arab companies, most of which are surprisingly indifferent to the money that can be made from Shari’ah-compliant commodities.

The figures speak for themselves: the $2.1 trillion halal industry (says AT Kearney) could cater to over 1.8 billion consumers worldwide, Islam being the world’s fastest-growing religion. While Islamic finance is expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2010, according to Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain, the global halal food business is already worth more than half as much: some $580 billion annually. According to the Canadian government’s Agri Food Trade Service, halal could account for 20 per cent of world food trade by 2025.

Demand is strong and growing, particularly in countries with an important Muslim minority: according to a benchmark study by advertising agency JWT last year, Muslim-Americans have a disposable income of about $170 billion, but 44 percent feel that the available food products don’t meet their needs, so they buy kosher goods instead, spending $16 billion a year, which accounts for 20 percent of the growth of this ethnic niche. The American halal certification agency, Islamic Services of America, estimates that halal foods will continue to grow at a rate of 25-30 percent over the next five-seven years in the US.

“We envision the aisles in the supermarket dedicated to halal foods, in much the same way as kosher and other ethnic foods do today,” said Ann Mack, director of JWT’s trend-spotting unit.

Similarly, the halal market in Europe is worth $16 billion, with France (where halal foie gras is now available) alone representing $4 billion.

Bridging the markets. Halal is a potentially lucrative business, and it has long ago branched far beyond foods; eco-tourism, logistics, pharmaceuticals, software development and personal care products are among the many sectors that are being explored, and with good reason.

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1 Comment

  1. Omar Abedin on June 14, 2009 10:05 am

    It is important to make a distinction between “Halal” and “Zabiha” when it comes to food products.
    “Halal” connotes certain foods that have been decreed as OK for Muslims to consume, through the writ of the Quran. (This is as opposed to “haraam”, which term is used to describe foods that are absolutely NOT permitted for Muslims – e.g. pork, alcohol, etc.).
    “Zabiha” on the other hand is the prescribed method of preparing meats that may otherwise be halal e.g. mutton, beef etc. The techniques of “Zabiha” are described in the Hadith, the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The problem arises when many in the Middle East region (who subscribe only to the Quran, and not the Hadith) see no difference between the two. Technically, a beef burger sold by a chain in NY is “Halal” (provided it has no pork etc.) because it is made with beef which has been declared “halal” in the Quran. However, it is definitely not “Zabiha”, because the animal was not slaughtered in the prescribed manner i.e. slaughtered in the name of God, allowed to bleed out, etc. This is an important distinction – for details on what constitutes “Zabiha”, please contact a qualified practitioner in your area.


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