In The Name Of God The Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

Credibility still the key issue for $500 billion Halal industry

by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Filed under: Featured,Halal,Lifestyle |


The race is on to establish powerful international ‘halal brands’. The stakes are high: by some estimates, the global market for halal products is worth $500bn a year.

But it’s a market strewn with confusion, as separate Muslim countries try to establish recognised standards and producers from outside the Muslim world also hurry to enter the market. That leaves many Muslim consumers crying out for reliable brands that will help them guide their choices.

First, for the uninitiated, what is halal? In its broadest sense, it applies to anything that is “permitted” or “lawful”and covers everything from food to finance to logistics. In a narrower sense, it covers anything made from animal products, especially food, personal care products and pharmaceuticals.

Certification in these industries can be especially tricky. That makes it all the more important for marketers to establish credible brands that give Muslim consumers the assurance and confidence they crave. As halal brands proliferate, those that can establish instant recognition and credibility will gain a larger mind share and pocket share among Muslim consumers. As in any industry, brands that establish first mover credentials are likely to win.

For now, the race to establish recognised brands is being conducted at country level. Brunei Darussalam sees the ‘Brunei Halal Brand’ as a means of diversifying its economy away from oil. It focuses primarily on food and offers small and medium sized enterprises an umbrella brand under which they can reach an international audience.

As part of that effort it plans to open a UK facility in Birmingham, a city with a large Muslim population. It also wants to strengthen its Islamic association in the minds of Muslims, with a tourism initiative titled “Brunei Islamic Experience.” The aim is to net a share of the blossoming halal tourism market, which requires halal certified hotels and restaurants.

Singapore is also vying to create value with its Singapore Halal Brand. The minister for Muslim affairs spoke recently about how a quintupling of halal-certified restaurants has boosted tourism. Given that two of Singapore’s biggest markets for tourists are Malaysia and Indonesia, the increase in halal food availability is a clear win.

Similarly, Malaysia’s JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development) wants to establish itself as a global standard, supported by the Halal Industry Development Corporation, set up by the government.

Governments outside the Muslim world are also joining in. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has identified halal as an emerging global trend that holds promise for the country’s food and beverage and cosmetics industries. The government in the Philippines – a predominantly Roman Catholic country with a Muslim minority – recently issued halal guidelines. Even Carrefour in France has brought a range of halal products to market – though French retailars have been rather coy on the subject.

We must take Muslim nations at their word when they say they are developing Muslim brands with a view to the welfare of their Muslim citizens. But to achieve that aim, internationally-recognised standards will be important, by delivering clarity and ease of deciphering the various halal brands.

None of this means there is not room in the market for many brands. But there are tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid if a brand is to enjoy success.

Even where standards are shared, brands of course will vary. This is where differentiation is important. Brands can exhibit different values and can excel tremendously through communications and engagement with target consumers. For brands that want to win loyalty, standards are the technical backbone, the must-have qualities. But for the brand to engage with consumers, it must be a friend and support the consumer’s Muslim lifestyle.

The most important quality for a consumer halal brand is to offer clear, simple and credible information on what makes the product halal and who has certified it. With modern manufacturing techniques involving a myriad of ingredients and processes, and inputs from multiple sources, it can be hard for a lay customer to know definitively whether a product is halal.

From our own research across Muslim markets, we found that Muslim consumers yearn for brands to help them identify products to support their chosen lifestyles. The halal brand they select becomes a byword for the level of piety that suits them and represents who they are.

Brands must explain their halal credentials, of which one aspect is a clear and credible logo. But a halal brand is much more than a logo. It must stand for values that are important to the Muslim consumer: purity, integrity, transparency and wholesomeness, to name a few. For tech savvy futurists who are the most influential among Muslim consumers, putting clear information on the web is crucial. Equally important is that retail staff should be primed on the halal logo used and the certifier.

For products other than food and beverages, an explanation of what it means to be halal and how the product achieves it is even more important. In the halal cosmetics industry, this means no alcohols and no animal-derivative ingredients. There is also a growing trend towards ethical and organic production, as well as use of traditional, local ingredients.

What national brands must avoid is conveying a sense of competitiveness or bickering. While standards may vary, there is nothing more off-putting for Muslim consumers than what they see as the un-Islamic behaviour of putting another brand down or causing confusion. Above all, brands must exude credibility.

The last point is particularly crucial for halal brands from non-Muslim countries. Muslim consumers will ask: under what authority is this product deemed halal? Our research found that Muslim consumers are not averse to such brands. Whether they are of Muslim origin or not, along with halal credentials, what consumers want is quality, care and clarity.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei are mooting unified halal standards. Such moves should be supported – the more products that carry a global halal brand, the more familiar and accepted it will be among consumers.

But unification is not easy. Participants must see the value in going through the process. In Brunei, for example, restaurateurs said the process was too complicated. Certification must be rolled out with positive buy-in, or it risks alienate those providing goods and services. Hotel owners in Malaysia faced exactly this issue.

The takeaway message is that credibility and clarity are the fundamental pillars of any global halal brand. Muslim consumers see halal brands as their allies in building their Islamic lifestyle. Halal brands must keep this trust in mind and ensure that their products and communications express how this trust is valued, and how the brand helps to safeguard its consumers’ well-being.

Rashedah Kaveh-Ahangari
Rashedah Kaveh-Ahangari 5pts

Something as simple as the way something is advertised on TV affects the way I see a 'halal' classification. As an example there used to be an ad for Nandos where a pole dancer said something about being a working woman and still feeding her kids healthy for (something along those lines) anyway the ad was highly disturbing to me and I feel the companies morals and advertising standards are not halal, therefore whether the food is or isn't at particular outlets means nothing to me. To me being certified shouldn't mean the food was slaughtered correctly, I don't want my children to think pole dancing is gala because its associated with that product, so I don't purchase it.

Serena Dumsa-Neil
Serena Dumsa-Neil 5pts

Sadly, those animals that are slaughtered for any purpose... Halal or otherwise ... Are often NOT slaughtered in a humane and pain free way ... Something that I believe contravenes the philosophy and ideals of The Prophet. How can this then be seen to be Halal. 5pts

In Australia, even Halal Gelatin is questionable. Go to the AFIC website and see the minority fiqh position they take to justify the use of non Halal slaughtered cow skins being used to make gelatine. 5pts

The AFIC website in the accrediatation section USED to say (it now has no info on this issue) "Gelatine produced from beef skins and/or bones is halal". Will need to find out what their current position is InshAllah. 5pts

PLEASE make sure all the food you eat is Halal because your dua is not accepted for 40 days if you have non Halal food in your body.

Faried van Wyk
Faried van Wyk 5pts

South Africa has been having a problem with doubtful certification by the august body Muslim Judicial Council, which is populated by aalims. If we can't trust our aalims, who can we trust ?

Mrs-Munjlee Naseem Cawley
Mrs-Munjlee Naseem Cawley 5pts

Here in the UK, we have to be extra vigilant. Not only has everyone jumped on the 'halal' logo bandwaggon, meaning that we have to chech, double check and then keep checking every so often before we buy from a particular outlet or purchase a particular product but UK and EU regulations mean that even the V for vegetarian products are not completely trustworthy; any indirect additive of 0.2% or less animal content (such as emulsifyers, colours, preservatives, softeners, etc) can be passed with an official and completely legal 'V' stamp. For those of us who don't want ANY non-halal entering our system, it does make choices a bit more limited, but it is not impossible, AlHamdulilLaah. AlLaah gives us something to struggle over and something to strive for so we shouldn't complain - just be very careful and don't let pressure or laziness dictate what you consume.

Cheebz Shah
Cheebz Shah 5pts

Couple of issues. 1. Its not regulated in any country, ie you dont have a govt body that strictly governs if they are following halal. 2. Most muslims in muslim country in my oppinion are not aware of badic requirments for meat to be halal. 3. Because there is no one official body internationally that has the authority to classify if its halal or not, any "islamic" organisation can provide "halal authenticity" certification (they get paid well). In my experiance it is the muslims who are culprit, not western organisation. If a muslim claims something to be halal, then we shouldnt need to judge it as hes liable for if its not halal.

Naz Akhtar
Naz Akhtar 5pts

Are we not culpable at all then? Allah ta'ala blessed us with brains to use in deciphering right from wrong. If a Muslim claims something to be halal and u are still doubtful then should u not at least do a basic background check?

Naz Akhtar
Naz Akhtar 5pts

Also beware of "SHEEZAN COMPANY" Its a Qadiyani Ahmadiyya company. I'm sure no one in their right mind would want to help propagate that deviant group.

JohnBoy 5pts

What irritates me as a non-Muslim is that halal meat is being sold unlabelled in France. There was a disturbing report on the French TV documentary "Envoyé Spécial" last night pointing out that many supermarkets and butchers in France are selling Halal meat to unsuspecting French consumers. Is that right? Personally, I'm against Halal (for a whole series of reasons) and would prefer to avoid it just as many of you reading this prefer to avoid non-Halal products. Surely it works both ways doesn't it? What do you think? Should non-Muslims have Hala foisted upon them?

Naz Akhtar
Naz Akhtar 5pts

I have an issue with Subways outlets and others that claim to be halal.
Can we really trust them? I asked in a few branches and or different replies from the workers each time. One claimed all their meat is imported from a warehouse in Dublin, another occasion the guy said it was flown over from America, based on these wavering statements I avoid ..

Roula Assal
Roula Assal 5pts

I've heard some Halal certification can be brought from certain accreditors! Can anyone confirm this???

C Nailah Davis
C Nailah Davis 5pts

lol Ali, are you in Saudi? I read they received some halal pork once. The meat was produced and packaged in Brazil

Ali Chaudhry
Ali Chaudhry 5pts

Pork pies once got certified halal in my city LOL...

C Nailah Davis
C Nailah Davis 5pts

I agree with Osman. Halal, Organic, Fair Trade, etc. are marketing techniques. There are not enough farmers in the US to produce halal meat, and let's not forget the US plants more genetically modified plants than any other name.

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