IFANCA brings Halal industry leaders together in Chicago

You can often tell more about a conference by who is in the audience, as opposed to who is on the stage. Walking in to the conference room and seeing delegates from Cargill, Wrigley, Coca Cola, Abbott Nutrition, Griffith Laboratories and the US Dairy Export Council spoke volumes about what is happening in the Halal Industry in the USA.

Certification agencies from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Trinidad all presented their audit and certification procedures in a competent but predictable manner, but the real interest, for Halal Focus at any rate, was the content that came from the industry presenters.

What is clear is that the stakeholders in mainstream industry in the USA, with interest and investment in the Halal sector are really starting to engage with the subject in a deep and creative way.

This was not a large event – there were about 60 delegates in total – but the spectrum of industry representation was impressive. Meat, dairy, ingredients, vitamins, health supplements, yeast, flavourings, chewing gum, baked goods, infant formulas, soft drinks and vaccines were all represented at a respectfully senior level, sending a clear message that corporate America is going Halal.

Not all at once, and not with a lot of shouting, but step by step, and with a considerable amount of homework under their belts, some of the biggest names in the US food and related sectors have got their Halal consumer squarely in their sights.

At 25% of the world’s population, certainly no one wants to miss out on placing their products in front of the Muslims consumers. What is more, many corporations are going Halal, even if they are not putting the logo on the product, to ensure that their products have the widest possible appeal, and to remove any potential obstacle to market entry.

These major corporations, with all the resources at their disposal, are now starting to think deeply about this market, and to apply their creative skills and managerial expertise to the Halal sector. This is not only evident in the way they are marketing their products, but – more significantly – in their comments and reflections on the best way for the audit, certification and accreditation process should be run.

Halal certification is a work-in-progress worldwide, and it is now being increasingly subjected to the evolutionary forces of the free market. As Halal goes increasingly mainstream, it inevitably needs to fit into the procedures of 21st century business practices.

Perhaps the most telling contribution was from Mark Overland, Corporate Certification Manager, from Cargill Inc., who called for separate and independent entities for standards, auditing, accreditation and certificate issuance for Halal, in line with the current best practices in the food industry.

This has been a talking point – often a hot one – among Halal industry players and certification agencies, and to hear it stated in a coherent manner was certainly refreshing.

The main take-away from this event, for us, was that the American contribution to the Halal industry over the next few years is likely to be very significant, and will have profound repercussions on the global market.

The introduction of American know-how and creative thinking into the Halal market may well be a new threshold in the emergence of Halal as a new global market paradigm.