Malaysia: Halal gelatine, the missing dimension in the halal market

What makes the bubbles in your mug of teh tarik stay afloat and connected to each other? Or makes your children’s jelly wobbly but remain intact? Or your biscuits, cakes or chocolates firm and steady even when left exposed?

The answer is gelatine.

There is gelatine in condensed milk which is commonly used in making teh tarik.

Gelatine is used in jelly, biscuits, cakes, chocolates and many other food products.

Gelatine can also be turned into a form of collagen, and is an ingredient in the drips used in hospital, as well as in tablets and capsules.

Collagen is also used in cosmetics and in anti-ageing solutions.

This highly effective binding agent is able to hold tiny little skin cells together and transform human skin into several layers of firm surface, eliminating wrinkles.

The use of gelatine and its downstream products in the F&B sector, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, has pushed the demand for this tiny “jelly beans” or small-sized long rounded noodles.

Gelatine products had a worldwide market value of US$2.6 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at about 6.6% per annum.

Two major raw materials for gelatine production are derived from cattle and pig bones, or a mixture of both, although fish bones and animal skins are also used.

So are all the gelatine products halal?

From the Muslim perspective, only about 7% of the gelatine supplied worldwide is halal.

On a recent trip to China, I had the opportunity to visit one of the largest halal gelatine factories that produces gelatine (and other downstream products) from bovines only, and without pig bones.

This factory started in 2003 and has been importing cattle bones (or dry bone chips, also known as Dbc) mainly from Australia and New Zealand.

Recently they have been replaced by Dbc from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The partners behind this factory are Chinese Muslims.

They saw an opportunity to venture into the halal gelatine market using a fairly standard Chinese technology that has been used to manufacture non-halal gelatine.

The technical aspects have been upgraded over the years and the entire process, from water treatment to packaging, is done in a halal manner.

Today, the factory is fully automated and computerised with only 480 workers in a 30-acre plot alongside the Hwang Ho River.

It has the capacity to produce about 6,000 metric tonnes of food and pharmaceutical-grade gelatine annually, as well as some other medical and pharmaceutical products.

Two other products are also produced from the processed wastes; fish feed, derived from the separation of calcium and phosphate from Dbc, and fertiliser, a by-product generated from the residue process and waste water treatment.

I believe a completely new halal gelatine plant is underway in Melaka with technical assistance from the Chinese counterpart.

The Ministry of Entrepreneur Development is gearing towards making this halal plant as its core component to drive the halal food and pharmaceutical industry forward.

This new strategy, as contained in the new National Entrepreneurship Policy (NEP) will hopefully take the food and pharmaceutical sector to another level altogether.

Without a home-grown, halal gelatine plant, Muslim leaders have very little to shout about as far as halal food certification and pharmaceutical products are concerned.

Discussion on halal food certification, for instance, would be useless, unless everyone knows the source of all the ingredients used.

The absence of a halal gelatine plant does not favour the halal industry; the food and pharmaceutical sectors cannot develop.

A halal gelatine plant in Melaka will improve food production as well as investment in the pharmaceutical industry.

There are endless opportunities in the downstream sector of gelatine production.

It benefits healthcare entrepreneurs and attracts foreign manufacturers.

There will be innovation in healthcare and beauty products in the same manner that South Korea has developed, but minus the halal element.

The global collagen market, especially for regenerative medicine and other beauty products, is projected to reach more than US$700 million by 2022, when the Melaka plant is up and running.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.