Canada: Bonté Foods receives Halal certification

New Brunswick Business Journal

By Kris McDavid

The population of practising Muslims in Canada is growing rapidly, and the demand for foods prepared in accordance with Islamic law is on the rise as a result.

Halal is a sort of Islamic stamp of approval for food consumption, literally translating from Arabic to mean “legal,” or permissible to eat as outlined within the Koran, the holy book of Islam.

Dieppe-based Bonté Foods are looking to capitalize on that growing demand, as they received certification earlier this week to produce some of its signature products throughout Canada that will be certified Halal.

Mike Whittaker, CEO of Bonté Foods, said the company will be offering Halal donair and gyros meats in loaf and cone formats.

“We get quite a demand from many of our Muslim customers, saying ‘do you do this in Halal’; it’s a little bit of a niche market in Atlantic Canada but in western Canada it’s certainly quite popular, and it’s also quite popular in the U.S.,” Whittaker said.

“We’re attending a trade show in Miami next week, so we can now hang the Halal symbol on our booth, so I expect there will probably be some interest from large American companies in that product.”

To Whittaker, the initiative makes good business sense, noting that although producing certified Halal products is a calculated gamble, he thinks it’s one that will certainly pay dividends in the end.

According to the latest census, the Canadian Muslim population grew by over 200,000 between 2001 and 2006, registering in at well over 800,000 nationwide today.

When the raw meat product arrives at the Bonté facility it has already been certified Halal.

From there it’s up to the company to ensure the rigorous process remains in place, by keeping the meat segregated from all non-Halal products throughout the processing process.

“We’ll buy the raw meat products from Halal certified companies, so when the product comes in they’re actually stamped – in essence it’s the exact same product (we’d normally produce), it’s just handled in a manner that’s suitable for Halal.”

Whittaker said a small production run of Halal products has already rolled out of the Dieppe facility, with Bonté Foods ramping up its production in the coming days and weeks.

He said the vast majority of Bonté’s Halal foods will be shipped to restaurants in western Canada, but notes that the potential is there for the company to introduce the new product to grocery chains as well.

“It’s a very under-developed market segment; I think the Muslim community would like to see a lot more variety in Halal products,” Whittaker said.

“There has to be a very strong trust and respectful approach to it – it’s a very important responsibility, and when Muslims consume a Halal product they need to have confidence that when they see that sticker, it has been handled properly.”

Bonté Foods Limited sells its products across Canada. The product list has grown to include donair meat products, pepperoni, salami, gyros, pita bread, bagels, donair and pizza sauce, and soups made in the company’s federally inspected Dieppe plant.

Bonté products can be found in every retail grocery chain in Canada. The company employs roughly 150 people.