Opinion: Bright future for Halal personal care

Personal Care magazine

With a worldwide recession looming, the Halal sector is one of the few industries bucking the trend fueled by savvy consumers increasingly demanding purity of ingredients in their personal care products.

Not only is the Halal sector not affected by the recession, it has followed its own growth path, with the Institute for Personal Care Science of Australia valuing the global Halal Cosmetics market at a staggering $13 billion and growing. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are inspecting ingredients with a keen eye and making buying decisions based on purity of the products they use on their skin. Consumers across the spectrum read labels for ingredients and have become increasingly smart about what goes into their skin care, shampoo, toothpaste, hair dyes and cosmetics. By the same token, there is little difference in the Halal sector, where consumers want products which take both health and religious compliance into consideration and therefore are certified as Halal. The case for organic has been made. Today the growing demand for Halal products is following suit.

Definition of Halal
Essentially Halal is an Arabic term that means ‘permissible’ or ‘lawful’ under Islamic law. It is a term synonymous and increasingly used with another Arabic word, ‘Tayyib’, meaning wholesome, pure and clean. It is applied to many facets of a Muslim’s life such as food, drink, personal care and lifestyle. In Islam there are articles that are clearly prohibited or ‘Haram’ – the opposite of Halal. These include pork and all pork-related products, alcohol; carnivorous animals; birds of prey; and any food contaminated with any of these products, to name a few. Halal is core to the 1.6 billion Muslim consumers, both reassuring them and permitting them to use products and services in accordance to their lifestyle choices. And it is clearly a pivotal issue in the main preferences Muslims make in personal care products.

Halal and personal care

With regard to the growing Halal personal care industry, the Muslim consumer is not only buying Halal certified products for personal and religious reasons, but finds the Halal brand conscientious and ethical. It is important to remember that Muslim consumers are driven by the same need to look good and feel good about their bodies, so it is only natural that companies in the personal care industries should take the opportunities to offer products that meet their needs. We only have to look at the figures and surveys carried out to realise this booming sector.

Thirty years ago, Nestlé decided that they would begin catering for Muslims by offering Halal food. Today they are the world’s biggest Halal food manufacturer, with over $3 billion in annual sales just for their Halal operations. Who will be the next Nestlé, but for the personal care industry? Notably, the Halal cosmetics and personal care industry is seen to be the next big emerging sector for the Halal industry after food and Islamic finance. The global Halal cosmetics market is an estimated $13 bn of which the Middle East market size of personal care products is valued at $560 m. According to the largest international trade fair for beauty products, Beauty World Middle East, the market for beauty and grooming products in the region is growing by an estimated 12% annually, with Saudi Arabia leading the way. Boasting the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) largest economy, Saudi Arabia accounts for the bulk of the regional market, with total sales of $1.1 bn – $292.3 m in cosmetics and $821 m in fragrance – in 2011, according to market research company, Euromonitor. Euromonitor also found that the UAE spend on cosmetics and toiletries in the region exceeded that of France by 38% and the US by 6%. By 2014, the region’s personal care product sales sector could increase by 15.1% to reach annual sales of $1.88 bn, with sales of $578.5 m in cosmetics and $1.3 bn in fragrance. This apetite for Halal personal care products and cosmetics is also mirrored by an increased consumer awareness to match.

According to a survey conducted by KasehDia Consulting, a research and communications company, 57% of Muslim consumers surveyed in South-East Asian countries opted to choose Halal certified products if available. It is this consumer hunger that companies like European Halal Services Limited (EHS) – a Halal certification body specialising in cosmetics, personal care, pharmaceuticals and food ingredients – has taken the plunge with. If you want your products to be certified as Halal, you need a third party Muslim accreditation, through a Halal certification body. Nyra Mahmood, managing director for EHS said: “We have witnessed the opportunities for mainstream companies in a sector which has shown exponential growth over the last few years. “Our job is not only to connect the brand with the consumer, but to bring a better understanding of the Muslim demographic, which today makes up over 20% of the world’s population. In layman’s terms this is good economics.” Halal certification of personal care products is not the same as certifying Halal meat. It is not the simple issue of if a lipstick is ‘pork-free’ it is classed as Halal. The certification process focuses on actives and all other excipients in formulations, such as emulsifiers, preservatives, colourings and foaming agents. The Halal certification also looks at process plants, packaging, handling and manufacturing issues.

Specific ingredients
With an increasing global demand for Halal personal care products, and the complexity of ingredients used in these products, it would be naive for a company to assume that if it’s simply ‘pig free’ then it’s Halal. The complex nature of what ingredients are considered Halal is a matter of continuous evolution, especially with new scientific innovations and novel applications. Organisations like the International Halal Integrity (IHI) Alliance, a non-profit NGO, is working tirelessly to harmonise global Halal standards, through debate, scientific findings and examining the uses of different components. One of the main ingredients that come under the auspice of ‘Haram’ or forbidden in Halal certified personal care is alcohol. Even large brand names are scrutinising the use of alcohol in skin care, due to negative consumer perceptions. However, the skills of a trained chemist working in the Halal certification arena can discern which ingredients containing alcohol in the name, are truly ‘Haram’ and can provide details on the complexity of the field. For instance, benzyl alcohol is Halal because it is naturally produced in many plants and is commonly found in fruits and teas. Essential oils including jasmine and hyacinth also contain benzyl alcohol. In personal care formulations it is used as a bacteria killing agent, producing no intoxication and hence is classed as Halal, despite containing the word ‘alcohol’ in its name. Other alcohols like stearyl, cetearyl, myristyl, behenyl and cetyl alcohols are emulsifiers found in many personal care products, tend to be white, waxy solids, incapable of causing any intoxication, and despite the name ‘alcohol’ are permissible and Halal. Glyceryl stearate is another common emulsifier made by reacting glycerine with stearic acid – again both can be of animal or vegetable origin. However with most of these types of alcohols, there is no way of knowing where they originate – from plant or animal – unless you do a traceability check or laboratory analysis.

Traceability is core. It is vital to work back through the supply chain to check the provenance of any given product to be able to certify it as Halal. It is prudent to mention the confusion over the term ‘alcohol’ – widely used in personal care products, though it is viewed differently by scientists and the general public. Our everyday beers, wines or spirits contain alcohol. To the layman, alcohol is just that, alcohol, but to a scientist it is ‘ethanol’, and ‘alcohol’ encompasses a whole range of different properties, especially in the personal care sector. Simple alcohols, like ethanol, have a general chemical formula of CnH2n+1OH, where n equals any number from 1 upwards. If n=1, the compound is CH3OH – methanol or methyl alcohol. In the case of ‘layman’s alcohol’ (ethanol), n=2 and the formula is C2H5OH. This group of chemicals, also known as ‘aliphatic alcohols’ tend to cause intoxication when ingested. Hence as a general rule under Islamic rulings for Halal certifications, aliphatic alcohols are prohibited and therefore classed as Haram. But this is a very contentious issue, and Muslim scholars and Halal certification bodies have varying rulings on the level of ethanol that is ‘allowable’.

Certification process
Companies wanting to be Halal certified must go through the certification process, which encompasses a number of steps. In essence EHS has a straightforward guide on product approval for Halal certification. To simplify things for companies a basic five step procedure starting with ‘Application’, ‘Assessment’ has been established – determining whether a company meets the ‘Halal Criteria’, which simply put as an example is, if a lipstick has pork-related ingredients or aliphatic alcohols, it does not meet our ‘Halal Criteria’. A zero tolerance policy on alcohol allows clients to obtain universal acceptability of their product across consumer markets. Thirdly, an audit is conducted which includes an inspection and evaluation of manufacturing sites, company processes and procedures. This leads onto ‘Recommendations’– any nonconformance issues will be highlighted in the report, and when these have been remedied, the company in question receives the Halal Certification. Also, an independent UK government laboratory is working with EHS to develop a methodology for testing the final product for traces of aliphatic alcohols and porcine proteins. Ultimately, the objective is two-fold; to help companies connect to this ever growing market through high-quality Halal certified products and give ample choice and value this new, robust savvy consumer base.

Research by advertising and marketing giant, Ogilvy & Mather, has shown that the ‘new’ Muslim consumer is a “critically important segment for marketers.” With the Halal industry worth over $2 trillion and growing by $500 bn annually, Ogilvy Noor – the Islamic Branding arm of Ogilvy & Mather – in partnership with market researcher, TNS, found that Muslim youth accounts for 11% of the world’s population and this demographic is fast becoming “technology-savvy, innovation-loving, globally-travelled and well-educated.” In Europe alone the spending power of the Muslim population is close to $100 bn and in terms of Halal certified personal care, Muslims want to see brands addressing modern beauty with faith and ethics. The fact that Halal certification also engages in scientific advancement, providing modernity to the Halal process, gives consumers added confidence in brands. The future of this industry looks more and more viable, with companies and business-related organisations looking to a sector which promises big returns and has a consumer base demanding better products and services.

Dr Mah Hussain-Gambles MBE is a pioneer in the Halal certification and standard-setting sector. Having developed the West’s first Halal organic skin care range, Saaf Pure Skincare, she also authored the ‘Modern Compendium of Halal Cosmetics’ for Malaysia’s Halal Development Corporation (HDC) – a government-affiliated body, developing the Halal industry in Malaysia.