Although the Jewish population in the U.S. is less than 6 million, according to theHalal Journal(July 27, 2006), the kosher industry has developed significantly more than 86,000 kosher-certified products. In comparison, the Muslim population is approximately 8 million, yet the number of halal-certified products is only about 1,000. It is thought that the reason for this is that kosher conveys a sense of quality and hygiene in the awareness of the American consumer, resulting in a cross-over in sales to the mainstream.

Sixteen percent of the kosher market in the U.S., according to some sources, is also made up of Muslim consumers, as there is a common understanding among the Muslim population of the similarities between halal and kosher. However, the majority of Muslim consumers currently buying kosher say they would buy halal exclusively, if it were made more available in mainstream markets.

The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), a leading halal food certification organization, has a halal-certification program that is recognized around the world. Therefore, if product manufacturers attain this halal certificate, it can open up markets in Europe, North and South America, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the rest of the Middle East. As 25% of the world population is Muslim, it represents a potentially very lucrative segment of the marketplace (see chart).

As reported by theHalal Journal, it is becoming common practice for companies who are refurbishing their manufacturing plants or updating recipes to attain kosher certification, because it is easy to do and also increases the number of potential markets. It may be wise for these same manufacturers to consider the costs and benefits of attaining halal certification at the same time, in order to increase not only their domestic market, but also their international exports. Muhammad Chaudry, Ph.D., president of IFANCA, says, “IFANCA has bilateral relations with other industry groups, such as the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Exports of dairy ingredients have increased tremendously over the past few years.”

In the Arabic language, halal means lawful or permitted, whereasharammeans forbidden or prohibited. Something that is considered questionable ismashbooh. Those foods consideredharamare swine/pork and all its byproducts or derivatives; animals not slaughtered according to the Islamic requirements; alcohol and other intoxicants; carnivorous animals and birds of prey; blood and blood byproducts; and foods that are cross-contaminated withharamproducts. Those that are consideredmashboohare food products and ingredients such as gelatin, enzymes, emulsifiers, etc. They must be evaluated before they can be accepted.

The process for attaining halal certification is the submission of an application; an audit of the production facility; the company provides any necessary documentation on products and manufacturing (such as spec. sheets, flow charts, etc.); an agreement is signed; and the halal certificate is issued for either one year (“all the time”) production or just for batch production. The “crescent M” halal symbol on product labels is also overseen by IFANCA. 

--Kerry Hughes, Contributing Editor

For more information:
Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA)
Dr. Muhammad Chaudry • 847-993-0034, ext.203