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Saturday, 10 November 2007

Brunei-Australia Plan For World's First International Halal Brand

MELBOURNE, Nov 9 (Bernama) -- The world's first international halal brand, which is expected to be launched by the middle of next year, is being developed by the Brunei government with the involvement of Australian food producers.

Brian Norwood, chairman of Elders International Australia Ltd, the company that is co-ordinating the project in Australia, told Bernama the brand would be carried by only those products that are "unquestionably genuine halal".

Norwood said Muslim religious leaders were concerned that a rising proportion of food described as halal -- especially produced by major international food companies -- may not be genuinely halal.

"There are a number of countries in which food is produced and certified by appropriate authorities as halal. With a number of different certifying countries and different certifying authorities within those countries, there is some confusion about what is truly halal product," he said.

Norwood said the Brunei government officials believed these developments would provide an opportunity for the country to introduce a real halal brand into the international food market.

"They say Brunei is accepted among Muslims as being one of the leading true observers of the faith.

"Therefore they believe a Brunei halal food brand will be accepted by Muslims as being unquestionably genuine halal," he said.

Norwood said halal was no longer a niche market.

"Within 10 years it will represent the required food and beverage for one-third of the world's population.

"Major international food companies -- Nestle, McDonald's and Kraft -- recognise this and all have an increasing number of halal products.

"Retail chains, such as UK's largest, Tesco, increasingly stock halal products," he said.

Norwood said world halal food market was estimated to be worth A$700 billion (A$1=RM3.07) a year, and had the potential to become the largest market segment in the world.

However, he said, it was still not being serviced by any dedicated global brands.

He said the demand for a halal brand is not confined to food -- its applications included pharmaceuticals and cosmetics -- nor to Muslims.

"Apart from the obvious attraction to the Muslims, halal-branded products will also appeal to non-Muslims," he said.

Norwood said the Brunei government's move represented an unprecedented opportunity for Australian businesses to gain access to a growing global market through halal food production as well as packaging, transport, storage, freight consolidation and investment advice.

"What's being offered to them is a new market opportunity and, what's more, it's going to be part of a very large programme that's going to be financed by somebody else," he said.

Elders, which is co-ordinating the project in Australia, is now waiting for the Brunei Government to develop the brand and packaging, along with a set of guidelines that producers will need to follow in order to be accredited.

This is expected to be in place by February, which should allow time for the range to be ready for an international halal food expo in Brunei next August.

In the meantime, Norwood is keen to recruit Australian producers to join the project.

Norwood said the opportunities were significant.

"Halal will certainly become one of the largest food segments in the world, if not the largest. For this reason, any company in the international food industry should look seriously at the halal sector.

"A food company choosing to ignore this segment should do so only after careful consideration," he said.

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