February 1/Middle East and Africa Food and Drinks Insights -- G. Willi-Food International Ltd has announced that it is in advanced negotiations to acquire a majority stake in Baladi Ltd., a private Israeli company and a large kosher and halal meat processor. Although the financial terms of the deal where not disclosed, it is known that G. Willi is looking to buy 51% of the company to capitalize on the rising demand for kosher and halal foods. Israel is a country of 7.1 million people, 5.4 million of whom are Jewish, with the remaining 1.7 million of the population primarily Muslim. However, it is not only within the country itself that demand is growing, but also in Europe and the greater Middle East region. With G. Willi looking to expand its international operations, such an acquisition is a good fit with the company's business plan.

The global halal market is estimated to be worth $150 billion annually, and is experiencing rapid growth, with its value forecast to reach $500 billion by 2010. As the spending power of Middle Eastern Muslims grows, halal has become an increasingly important industry. Population and disposable income figures are growing throughout the Middle East region, while at the same time, the global Muslim population is expanding, particularly in wealthy European countries, and in many of these countries, the number of Muslims observing halal practices is also rising. In fact, Europe's Muslim population has grown by more than 140% over the past decade to reach 25 million, creating major export opportunities for halal producers. Interestingly, most distributors of halal foods are not from Muslim countries. This is due to the immature food and drink production market in most of the Middle East, while many international producers have started to recognise the potential of the market, and are investing accordingly.

From the December 17, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash