The fast-growing, worldwide Muslim population is driving the growth of the halal sector, with its food and beverages market alone projected to be worth USD 1.9 trillion globally by 2021. Other halal industries are expected to follow suit where by 2021, Muslim spending is estimated to be valued at the following: outbound travel (USD 243 billion); modest clothing and apparel (USD 368 billion); pharmaceuticals and cosmetics products (USD 213 billion); and media and recreation (USD 262 billion).
This strong trend is also in part attributed to how Islamic values are increasingly shaping the daily lifestyle and business practices of Muslims and thus, influencing their consumption behaviour. As such, any effort to address halal consumer confidence must start with the identification of their key concerns.
Biggest challenge: Standardisation
The availability of halal food has always been a priority to Muslims and this is reflected in the sector being the biggest in terms of revenue within the halal industry. In 2015, Muslim consumers worldwide spent an estimated USD 415 billion on halal food and beverages.
The biggest challenge facing the global halal food industry today is the lack of standardisation across different halal markets. Contrasting information on halal certifications and a lack of consensus in best practices have left consumers nervous, questioning whether the halal products they consume are indeed halal. This fear has also been exacerbated by food scandals worldwide regarding tainted meat, confectionery and food flavouring.
While countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have in place a well-established halal certification process, things are not as straightforward elsewhere, especially in Muslim-minority countries.
The complexity is seen in the UK where there is no single halal authentication agency.
There are five halal certification authorities there and on divisive issues like pre-stunned versus unstunned meat and the recitation of the shahadah before slaughter, each agency has its own interpretations. The Halal Monitoring Committee considers pre-stunning an offence against Islamic law, while the progressive Halal Food Authority permits stunning as long as the animal is still alive at the time of slaughter.
In Japan too, no set regulations exist to issue halal certificates for its products and facilities. For exports to Islamic countries, the Japan Muslim Association will issue halal certificates upon request after a stringent review; while exports to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, are overseen by the halal agencies of the respective countries. For its own domestic market, endorsements are issued by the association after the examination of the manufacturer’s products, services and facilities.
Gaining consumer confidence
The absence of a common denominator in terms of certifications and best practices also raised pertinent questions in sectors which overlap with the halal food sector like travel, and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics products. Regulatory inconsistencies within the industry and the lack of an internationally-recognised labelling system make it difficult for consumers to make informed choices.
To establish halal consumer confidence, the industry must tackle the challenge of standardisation head on. It needs to adopt a more transparent and unified approach to certification issuance and best practices, and there needs to be a consensus within the industry on what halal-compliant actually stands for.
State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17. Thompson Reuters & Dinar Standard.
Japan’s halal industry gathers pace but experts say there’s more to do, Sep 2017. The Japan Times.
Pork in Cadbury’s: Malaysian chocolate recalled after DNA traces found, May 2014. The Guardian.
Halal food: A market waiting to be tapped into, Sep 2013. The Guardian.
Pork-tainted food recalled in Indonesia, Jan 2001. The Japan Times.