But as the country pursues the growing trillion-dollar market in Halal Food, Pharmaceuticals and other products, it must be able be to compete for the attention of discerning younger Muslim customers that puts value in the overall quality of a product in addition to its important Halal certification.
Reaching International Recognition
Brunei’s Halal certification has a reputation on its strictness which had brought in much international attention.
In June, Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Meynardo Montealegre said that officials from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos recently met with Brunei authorities to discuss areas of cooperation.
“There is potential when you consider Mindanao in the southern Philippines, which is a dynamic region where most Filipino Muslims are residing. Investment to and from this area will also help boost economic development in Brunei,” he told The Brunei Times.
In September, the Thai government and producers of halal goods are eager to learn more about Brunei’s rules and regulations for halal certification, said Thailand’s ambassador to Brunei, Chirdchu Raktabutr.
After a successful Thai halal products fair, the ambassador shared that Brunei has a much coveted halal standard with strict regulations that can help to make sure goods produced in Thailand will be accepted as halal globally.
He expressed hopes for the governments of Thailand and Brunei to collaborate more in terms of penetrating the global halal market.
Most recently in December, the Chinese Province Yunnan is open to collaborating with Brunei in the area of Halal certification, which could help streamline the province’s exports to Muslim markets.
Ma Kaixian, deputy chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Yunnan Provincial Committee, said that the province will take into consideration the possibility of using Brunei’s halal certification system to boost its food exports in markets such as the Middle East.
“We think that Brunei’s standards for halal certification are quite strict and aligned with Islamic teachings,” he told The Brunei Times.
Inbound Foreign Direct Investments
In October, Brunei’s Halal industry took a step forwards as a memorandum of understanding between local food company AZ Food (B) Sdn Bhd, Tunisia-based Catering and International Trading and the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) was signed to establish the construction of a $90 million Halal Food Manufacturing Plant by the fourth quarter of 2017.
It will reportedly be situated on a 4.48 hectare site in the Salambigar Industrial Park and creates 206 new jobs, generate more export revenues, transfer technology and skills to locals and create business opportunities for small and medium businesses.
The facility will prepare ready-made halal meals using locally-sourced raw materials, manufacture packaging materials and assemble vending machines that will be used to distribute the packaged meals.
“The packaged food, which would have a shelf life of 24 months, is intended to be exported to markets in ASEAN and beyond, where it will be distributed through vending machines and retail stores,” said the BEDB.
Meanwhile, another foreign investor into the Brunei Halal Food sector said that plans were on track to soon begin manufacturing of ready-to-eat Halal meals from Brunei.
CEO of Sahtaain Food Fz LCC Adeel Ali Khan, a Dubai-based manufacturer said that the company is working very closely with BEDB.
He believes more foreign food and beverage companies will invest in Brunei, noting good government incentives.
Enticing a more discerning set of buyers.
But as Brunei gears up its production facilities into the Halal food market, it must understand the demands of new, younger Muslim consumers who look beyond just the certification.
In May, Mustafa Adil, the then Head of Research and Product development for Islamic finance at global intelligence firm Thomson Reuters spoke to The Brunei Times after presenting their research at the International Food and Biotechnology Conference held in Brunei, saying that businesses have to compete on quality.
“In the previous decade or two, just by having a halal sticker (certification) on a product would guarantee you a certain customer segment,” he said.
“This was no longer the case, and new Muslim consumers are now more demanding of products and services offered compared to the previous generation.”
Mustafa said today’s generation wants to have the principles behind the certification “which is good food, clean and socially conscious that they do not want products depriving local producing population of economic opportunity that are not socially fair in their development or are not sustainable”.
“They want their core values in the creation of these halal products and brands and that these values are very significant in their economic decision making,” he added.