Halal is big business. With the rise in spending power of the global Muslim middle class, the halal sector is projected to be a USD 3 trillion market by 2021.
Malaysia has long been a producer of halal food where in 2016 alone, the country shipped RM42.2 billion worth of halal products overseas with China, Singapore, the US and Japan being the top four destinations – and note that none of which are Muslim-majority countries.
The halal industry in Malaysia also has another advantage: It has a long-established reputation in stringent halal certification which dates back to the 1960s. As such, Malaysia plays an important role in knowledge transfer of halal goods production.
Malaysia came out tops in the recent Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) Score, ahead of 14 other countries who are players in the global halal industry. This speaks volumes about Malaysia’s halal ecosystem and how advanced the country is in terms of halal certification practices.
To put this into perspective: When Korean food giant CJ CheilJedang was looking to earn halal certification for its products to be marketed in the Southeast Asian market, they turned to Malaysia for certification. Japan too has long been in partnership with Malaysia with countless big-name Japanese food manufacturers like Kewpie and Edoya setting up production plants and regional distribution hubs here.
In 2015, American confectionery giant Hershey opened its single largest investment in Asia, an RM816 million factory in Malaysia. The globally-recognised Malaysian halal certification was stated as an advantage as it will allow the marketability of Hershey’s products in 25 markets in the region.
Where the jobs are
While food manufacturing plays a huge role in the halal narrative, other halal sectors are also expanding. Malaysia is a strong player in fields like Islamic banking, travel, and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics; and within the halal ecosystem, most of these fields go hand in hand. The halal food and halal travel industry are interlinked, and the growing halal medical tourism industry incorporates the food, travel and pharmaceutical sectors.
Job creations are noticeable in two ways: One, with the influx of manufacturing in halal food, cosmetics, medicine, and such, in Malaysia for both local and regional export market; and two, the demand by sectors to meet halal compliance in Muslim-minority countries.
With worldwide recognition as a global leader in developing the halal industry, Malaysia is an investor’s dream because of its well-educated workforce and strong supply chain infrastructure. Malaysia’s expertise in the forms of training programmes and consultation services is much sought-after by foreign organisations looking to market their products and services to Muslims.
As more Muslim-minority nations become more aware of and accommodating to Muslims’ dietary and unique needs, Malaysia is set to capitalise on this global shift. Malaysia is in a position to expand and export its halal know-hows, and this translates to career opportunities for well-trained professionals with strong understanding of the contemporary halal sector.
There is a huge demand in many sectors aiming for halal compliance, especially in Muslim-minority countries. Take for example Japan, which is set to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and has set a target to attract 40 million annual inbound visitors by then. The country expects a fair share of this to be Muslim tourists and has launched an enthusiastic drive in creating a more Muslim-friendly environment like introducing more halal eateries, Muslim-friendly tours and prayer rooms in airports and malls.
What this means is that there are substantial job opportunities for qualified training providers and regulators who can ensure that proper halal best practices are in place across these and many other different sectors. It is a scenario where job mobility not only exists intra-sectors—a halal professional is at home in a chicken farm, vaccine plant or a travel lodge—but also exists in a borderless world.
State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016/17. Thompson Reuters & Dinar Standard.
Learning to embrace the halal industry, Feb 2016. The Japan Times.
Hershey marks biggest outlay in Asia with $250m Malaysia plant, Oct 2013. confectionerynews.com
Food makers rush to secure halal certification, May 2013. The Korea Times.
Malaysia seeks to export its halal credentials to China, Dec 2011. The New York Times.