Malaysia: British fare goes halal

Tasty treat: Victoria Crest’s Chicken Mushroom and Leek Pie.

ACCORDING to the International Trade and Industry Ministry, the globalhalal industry is worth approximately US$2tril (RM6.3tril) and the number is expected to grow as the emerging industry continues to attract non-Muslims with its hygienic and contamination-free principles of food production.

Dubbed the fastest growing global business across the globe, the halal industry is an emerging segment in Malaysia’s manufacturing sector and its growth represented approximately 6% of Malaysia’s total exports, which amounted to RM550bil last year.

With such figures, it is not surprising that Victoria Crest Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company that specialises in the production of high-qualityhalal meat products, emerged due to a lack of quality halal European meat products available on the market.

Rugby mates Fuad Abdullah, Denis Rawlins and Iskandar Paul Igor, the founders of Victoria Crest, enjoy traditional English pies and quality sausages on a regular basis.

Fuad, a Malaysian who grew up in the UK, saw great potential in premium halal meat in the form of pies and sausages in Malaysia.

After years of discussing the idea, Fuad, Rawlins and Paul Igor formulated the business model and in 2009, Victoria Crest was born.

“We saw endless possibilities for British products such as the chicken and mushroom pie in Malaysia but it had to be halal,” said Fuad, who currently heads Victoria Crest as its chairman.

However, getting the business off the ground wasn’t as easy as the trio had hoped. They were eligible for grants, but when the cash injection did not come through, Fuad, Rawlins, and Igor had to fork out approximately RM1mil from their own pockets to kickstart operations.

“One of the partners owned a factory lot at Glenmarie and that helped reduce the start-up cost. The initial investment covered our factory renovation, which was built to European specifications for equipment and raw materials,” said Fuad, a former banker.

International standard: Fuad says the company’s factory is built to European specifications.

Victoria Crest rolled out their first line of products mid-2010 and the initial strategy was to target hotels.

During the early days, Victoria Crest had four sausage flavours; two flavoured chicken pies and two types of burgers.

“After six painful months of visiting hoteliers and pitching our products to them, it was not working and we had to revise our business model,” Fuad explained. The trio brought forward their plans for retail sales.

“Epicure Malaysia was the turning point for us. We showcased our products at the exhibition and there were many queries from visitors as they loved our sausages. They wanted to know where they could buy it. At that time, we were not available in any hypermarkets or grocery stores, but we told them they could get it from a friend’s shop on Jalan Ampang,” Fuad said with a chuckle.

The trio immediately drove to Jalan Ampang and placed their products at their friend’s store.

Not long after that Victoria Crest experienced a growth spurt.

Today, their products are available at all major hypermarkets in major cities. “We are currently available in 30 outlets across the peninsula but we are also studying the market in Sabah and Sarawak. We do see potential there, but we need to be well-prepared before we make our move,” said Fuad.

Victoria Crest currently has eight sausage flavours for retail sales and one for commercial clients and four chicken pie flavours.

Their processing plant in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, is processing half-a-tonne of meat a day and has the capacity to process up to one tonne a day.

All Victoria Crest recipes are original and feature traditional favourites such as the Chicken Basic Banger and uniquely Malaysian flavours like the popular Chicken Dynamite Chilli Sausage.

Their meat products are made from 100% chicken breast meat and 100% prime cuts of imported beef and lamb.

Victoria Crest does not use off-cuts or mechanically removed meat, so customers know they are consuming top-quality meat when biting into a Victoria Crest sausage or savouring it meat pies. Consequently, they are able to reduce salt content and forgo the use of nitrites, a type of preservative, in their products. Their sausages are between 93% and 98% fat-free.

Victoria Crest also plans to tap into the Middle Eastern and Asean market, which is in line with Malaysia Trade External Development Corp’s goal to promote the growth of the halal industry intensively.

According to published reports, Matrade chief executive officer Dr Wong Lai Sum was quoted as saying that Malaysia plans to have 47 to 50 companies supplying halal food to the Middle East in the near future compared with only 30 companies 10 years ago.

“We would like to work with partners from the Middle East, China, India and the Asean region rather than exporting,” Fuad explained.

“Meat products have stringent export regulations and it would be easier if we partnered a local manufacturer to make our products within that country,” he added.

According to Fuad, sausages are their best-sellers as they contributes 70% of their income while burgers and pies contribute 15% each.

He added that they did not have a competitor in the premium halal meat segment. Their product prices range between RM12 and RM30.

In addition to Jakim’s halal certification Victoria Crest also has HACCP, GMP and ISO 22000:2005 accreditation.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed recently said entrepreneurs need to grab the opportunities in the halal industry, which has huge potential in the global market.

Malaysia’s exports in the sector have gone up from RM23.1bil in 2010 to RM35.4bil as of last year with the Government putting in place various measures including raising the halal integrity level, building the capacities of companies as well as promoting the Halal Malaysia brand.