Brazil: Brazil conducts unprecedented survey on halal consumers

SAO PAULO: An unprecedented survey on the needs of consumers of halal products carried out by a group of Brazilian organizations showed that 80 percent of them would like more information concerning all the stages of production, and over 90 percent take into account social responsibility and sustainability when they decide what to buy in grocery shops.

The study was conducted in September by Brazilian research company H2R Insights & Trends at the request of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce — known by the Portuguese acronym CCAB — and halal certifier Fambras Halal. Its results were presented in October during a forum on halal markets in Sao Paulo.

The research team surveyed 1,023 people aged 18 or older, 71 percent of them living in Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Malaysia — and the rest from South Africa, France, the UK and Germany.

“Our effort was to define a group of respondents who could represent the global reality of halal trade,” said Alessandra Frisso, a partner at H2R and a CCAB director.

“In the multicultural nations that we selected, there are sizable Muslim communities which are served by specialized shops.”

Ninety-five percent of the interviewees said they look for a halal certification seal on products’ packaging when they shop. More than 60 percent believe it ensures that it is a high-quality, fresh product.

Sixty percent of them believe that a halal certification demonstrates that a product has a reliable origin and was produced according to hygiene standards.

For many of those surveyed, halal certifications and the environmental, social and governance agenda are connected.

Eighty percent of them said they pay attention to companies’ adherence to ESG principles, and 42 percent prefer to buy products that provide ESG information.

“Halal processes are much older than the ESG agenda. They include not only concerns with the way food is prepared, but also with social and environmental aspects. The convergence is huge,” Frisso said.

She added that respondents want to have immediate digital access to as much information as possible regarding the products they buy.

“Most halal food production is outside the Muslim world. Reliable information has to reach Muslim consumers along with the products,” Frisso said.

Blockchain-based solutions may be ideal to ensure products’ traceability, and adequate documentation and availability of information.

QR codes on packaging can lead the consumer to the platform on which all necessary data is provided. “That could qualify Brazilian products in the eyes of Muslim consumers,” Frisso said.

The attention Brazilians pay to Muslim consumers is not casual. The South American country is the world’s biggest halal poultry and beef exporter.

Other food and beverage products from Brazil have also reached the Islamic world, along with cosmetics.

Ali Zoghbi, vice president of Fambras Halal, told Arab News that his organization has been working over the past five years on a digital platform to ensure halal products’ traceability.

“We developed it in partnership with CCAB. The idea is to document every phase of production, from the birth of an animal to the food it eats, and also transportation and slaughter,” he said.

Not only will all documents and certificates be immediately available, but also videos showing each process.

“At the beginning of 2024, we’ll conclude work on a digital platform that gathers all products’ documentation, something that makes analysis easier and quicker by customs agents and other authorities,” Zoghbi said. The consumers’ platform will also be launched next year.

Zoghbi said Brazilian exporters already have their own systems of traceability, especially food and beverage producers. The idea is that the new platform will absorb their data and make it available to consumers.

“That will improve Brazilian products’ appeal to Muslim buyers. We’ll try to work with the government and make that system mandatory for all exporters,” he said.

Ali Saifi, CEO of Cdial Halal, another major halal certifier in Brazil, told Arab News that traceability is a key requirement in global markets.

“Several countries aren’t only concerned with themes like animal welfare, but also with the religious aspect when it comes to imported goods,” he said.

Halal certifications are becoming a widely respected instrument to ensure quality, and nowadays even countries such as Japan prefer to import halal beef, he added.

“Many companies in Brazil can already offer more information and improve their communication with Muslim consumers. It’s important to take that step,” Saifi said.

The Brazilian Muslim community, estimated at 1 million people, does not have access to a well-structured halal market network despite the nation’s central role in the international halal trade, he added. “Most communities have to create their own systems of distribution. It’s a paradox,” Saifi said.

The expansion of halal certifications in non-Muslim countries may help Muslims in Brazil and other nations in the future.

“The halal system offers important solutions for mankind. It’s not only for Muslims, it’s universal,” Zoghbi said.