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France: ‘Halal champagne’ falls a little flat

| 31/12/2010 | 1 Reply

PARIS // After the halal burger and halal foie gras became a hit with Muslims living in western countries, it is now the turn of champagne – or something vaguely like it – to try.

Trumpeted by its manufacturer as one more way that Muslims can integrate into European society, especially during the holiday season, the drink has been widely derided as a misguided and ultimately demeaning attempt to imitate non-Muslim habits.

“I do hear that,” said Rashid Gacem, one of the partners in Night Orient, which is being marketed as a halal-certified, zero per cent alcohol “festive drink”.

At a tasting in a suburban shopping mall on a snowy Paris afternoon, he passionately disagreed with his critics: “Muslims in Europe wear western clothes, buy western products and have western friends. What makes our halal drink different from that”?

Orient Drinks SPRL, the Belgian manufacturer of Night Orient, is using the Christmas and New Year holiday season for a promotional push for the first time after being launched in 2009. It is also targeting Arab and Muslim countries, including the UAE.

Standing next to a stack of champagne look-alike bottles, with shiny foil tops and gold and blue labels, Mr Gacem and his wife, Nadia, tried to interest Parisian pre-Christmas shoppers in a sip. It showed the difficulty of steering a course between the glamour of champagne and the non-alcoholic safety of fruit juice.

In March, Night Orient was the recipient of the first European halal certificate issued by the Brussels Chamber of Commerce.

But when it comes to an imitation champagne, many Muslim shoppers reacted with disbelief to the halal claim.

“What? Champagne without alcohol? That cannot be,” said one Muslim woman in her 20s who refused to give her name. On tasting it after being reassured she pulled a face. “Bitter,” was her judgment. Mrs Gacem was unfazed. “Mix it with cassis and you’ll have a kir royal, very chic and much sweeter,” she said.

According to Mr Gacem, many Muslims feel pressured to drink something festive on occasions that are traditionally marked with champagne in France, such as “weddings, births or New Year”. Rather than being singled out by drinking water or fruit juice, they could now fully participate with their non-Muslim friends and colleagues, he said.

The global halal food industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In France alone, with its approximately five million Muslims, research companies say it is worth more than US$50 billion (Dh183.5bn). Mr Gacem and his Belgian partner, Arnaud Jacquemin, hope to capitalise on the strong expected growth. “We in France are known for our food and drink. We should take advantage of that image,” Mr Gacem said.

The need to protect the image of French gastronomy is taken with upmost seriousness by France’s food and beverage boards, which can prove an obstacle, as Mr Gacem found out last year. Hesitant to speak about the subject, he acknowledged an earlier version of his product ran foul of the Comit√© Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, the champagne board that staunchly guards the drink’s image.

The board ruled that the drink, originally called Cham’alal, infringed too much on the champagne name and won a court order in January last year to stop it from being sold. Now, Mr Gacem carefully avoids the champagne comparison and even considers the ruling to have been a blessing in disguise. “The first drink was even more brut, much too bitter for most Muslims who like it sweeter. So we changed the taste.”

His partner, Mr Jacquemin, who is not a Muslim, maintains that Night Orient, now marketed in 12 countries, differs from other sparkling grape juice beverages because it uses a unique manufacturing process and comes much closer to the taste of alcoholic drinks. “We produce a very high-level product, both in the way it is packaged and in the way it tastes,” he said.

The appeal of the drink seems to be broader than just for Muslim customers. Christophe Montagne, the food and beverages manager for the Cora supermarket in the Paris suburb of Arceuil where the tasting took place, said he chose to carry Night Orient “because there is an increasing interest in world foods and drinks”. The supermarket is not in a predominantly Muslim area of town and many non-Muslims showed an interest.

“I stopped drinking 10 years ago,” explained Serge Clair, 52. “But for Christmas and New Year I like to join my friends and family in drinking something a bit festive, so I’ll try this,” he explained, putting a bottle into his shopping trolley.

During the tasting, many samplers expressed satisfaction. Others, like Mr Clair, were more dubious, saying “it is more for the fun than for the taste, let’s be honest. Because it does not taste very good.”

Category: Branding & Marketing, Europe, Food Manufacturing, France, Halal Integrity, Retail

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  1. Wednesday, 04 August 2010 20:55
    FACTS ABOUT NON ALCOHOLIC WINE OR BEER

    This information is provided for Muslims all over the world so that they understand how a non alcoholic wine or beer is made and available throughout the world including in Muslim countries. The following are the facts about alcohol free wine, beer, its manufacture methods and its possible impact on Islamic Sharia(I am not a Alim but I will provide information so that the Muftiyans can make their own fatwas).
    1. Fact number one, Alcohol free wine or beer is made from real wine or beer. Wines from grape, date, honey, wheat is Khamr and Khamr is Haram according to several ahadith.
    2. Questions for Muftiyans, do they think that every component of wine also Haram including water in wine even wine made from grape.
    The composition of wine is:
    Water 80-85%, Alcohol 10-20%, Acids 0.4 – 1%, Sugar 0.1%(because all sugar in grape is used to produce alcohol), Mineral Salts 0.2 to 0.4%, Coloring substances 0.01 to 0.5%,
    Aromatic substances 0.01 to 0.1%, Sulphites 10 to 200 Part Millions
    3. Manufacturing processes used in manufacture of alcohol free wine or beer:

    a. Alcohol free wine beverages is produced by using US patented process(4775538) where table wine is combined with demineralized water and poured into a centrifugal evaporator where alcohol is spin off to produce a alcohol free wine base. Then grape juice concentrate is added to alcohol free wine base to make alcohol free wine.

    b. Vacuum Distillation where real wine or real beer is exposed to vacuum. Where due to change in atmospheric pressure with low heat or no heat the alcohol is distilled off.
    c. Reverse Osmosis, a procedure used to clean impurities from drinking water. Most American homes has this unit under their kitchen sinks. The reverse Osmosis has filters with very minutes pores Through these pores filters only alcohol and water with volatile acids in wine or in beer is filtered out of wine or beer without heat. Then those volatile acid and water is put back to a mixture of syrupy mixture of sugar, flavor compounds on the other side of filter after distilling out the alcohol from alcohol and water acid mixture. This is also called dealcoholized wine or beer.

    d. Non alcoholic sparkling wine or beer is made with a secondary fermentation to produce a non alcoholic sparkling wine or beer with less than 0.5% alcohol. Then carbon dioxide is forced to make a carbonated non alcoholic beer.

    4. Another fact is that all the experts in this industry said that it is very difficult and very expensive to eliminate all alcohol from wine or beer. This is the reason Non Alcoholic beverages still contain some original alcohol from wine or beer. This leads to a US Federal Law about Non Alcoholic wine or beer which states that Non Alcoholic wine or beer can contain up to 0.5% “original alcohol of wine or beer by volume.”
    If you consider above breakdown of grape wine, the non alcoholic grape wine contains 5% to 10% original amount of wine in the Non Alcoholic grape wine based on 10% to 20% alcohol content in grape wine and if the Non Alcoholic grape wine contains maximum 0.5% original alcohol of wine or beer by volume according to US federal law.

    So based on this calculation a Muslim who decides to consume Non Alcoholic grape wine is consuming 5% to 10% of original grape wine in Non Alcoholic grape wine.
    5. Another fact is that many producers of Non Alcoholic wine and beer want to keep the same original flavors compounds in Non Alcoholic wine or beer because to match original flavor and taste of wine or beer. Sometimes they add 2-2.5% residual sugar content to match a completely dry alcoholic wine. Some companies advertized that their Non Alcoholic wine or beer contains same original abundant flavors of original wine and beer.

    It was reported in research that It takes about 10 nonalcoholic malt beverages to equal the alcohol in one American-style lager.

    MCG thinks every component of prohibited wine or Khamr is also Haram same as every part of pig is Haram. But some Muftiyans may have different opinion.
    The purpose of this scientific information is to provide facts about Non Alcoholic wine or beer to every Muslims so that they can make decision to consume or not to consume Non Alcoholic wine or beer. But Muslim

    Consumer Group consider Non Alcoholic wine or beer as Haram beverage and recommend Muslims not to consume them.

    This article is based on some available scientific literature and Allah knows better.

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