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Monday, 21 September 2009

Germany's Halal Market Unleashes Opportunities For Malaysian Suppliers

FRANKFURT, Sept 19 (Bernama) -- With the growing Muslim population in Germany, there is also a growing demand for products that are halal certified.

This propensity also spells opportunities for Malaysian suppliers of halal products; indeed, the Malaysian halal food industry, which has done pioneering work in this food segment, stands a good chance of not only penetrating but also asserting itself in a niche market for which competition is not, yet, as intense as in other segments.

Nonetheless, Malaysian suppliers, with the possible support of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) which has an office in Frankfurt, could crack open a market that can generate good business in the long run.

The added advantage is that the size of the market is likely to increase as more and more German consumers are exposed to halal products which were, at one time, confined to the Muslim population in the country.

Indeed, German and European suppliers are increasingly flooding the German market with halal products, as is evident, for example, with the proliferating stocks of halal products that are visible in the shelves of German supermarkets.

"Only a few years back, it was very rare, if at all, to see halal products in a German supermarket. There was some misconception about the term halal that was nebulously associated with religious fanaticism.

"However, that misconception is gradually being replaced by a healthy sense of appreciation as many supermarkets are trying to court Muslims with halal products," says Armin Bollig, a consumer behaviour researcher who lives near Frankfurt.

With over three million Muslims - and the trend shows further growth in demographics - German food manufacturers are discovering an attractive market by offering products that conform to the sentiments of Germany's fastest growing minority.

"This little section you see in the main shopping hall of this supermarket will convey to you the change that is taking place in the behaviour pattern of the German consumer who is today willing to accept food practices which were once frowned upon," maintains Bollig as he walks through a Frankfurt supermarket that also caters to Turks and other Muslims.

The three million Muslim consumers in Germany may still be a small market but it portends to grow fast as more and more of the local consumers also join this following of consumers.

German consumers are now relishing the doner rolls - the pita bread rolled around pieces of meat and vegetables and spiced with a hot red chilly sauce or white garlic sauce.

But many German and European suppliers are catering their halal products not only for the consumers in Germany and other neighbouring European countries but also for their export markets in the Muslim world.

Some of the halal-conform products being manufactured include chocolates, soups, biscuits and what have you.

The food company Nestle, for example, has created some 75 halal certified units within its global chain of companies. Indeed, the Swiss company earns more profits with its halal products than with its range of organic products which are, incidentally, enjoying popularity amongst Western consumers.

France's retail chain Casino even introduced last year an Internet site called Wassila exclusively dedicated to halal products.

Britain's Boots has launched a range of so-called halal baby foods in 30 of its retail stores.

After all, some of the German halal suppliers argued, Malaysia also has halal burgers served by McDonald's which has with this novel approach been able to increase its sales by 30 percent in a short span of time.

However, many German suppliers are faced with a tricky question as to how they should conform to the rituals under which halal food products are prepared.

For Muslims, for example, animals or birds would have to be slaughtered without the use of any anesthesia, a required that is strictly prohibited under German law.

But German suppliers have learnt to circumvent the problem by importing halal-conforming meat from their overseas suppliers.

There is also the added problem of certification of halal-conforming units.

There is no officially recognised body in Germany authorised to issue halal certificate.

The result is that there is an outgrowth of uncontrolled halal units which are certified by imams who can do so only in an unofficial capacity.

There have also been some cases of forged or falsely issued certificates in the past.

Nevertheless, the halal trade is here to stay.

The World Halal Forum reckons that the worldwide sales of halal products in the current year would touch some 634 billion euros, up from 580 billion euros in 2005.

The world's biggest food exhibition, ANUGA, which will run in Cologne from October 10 to 14, will also focus on halal products this year, with a third of the 6,000 exhibitors showcasing a large variety of halal foods. Malaysia is also being represented by a contingent of food-manufacturing companies, many of whom are supplying halal products.

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