Opinion: Inside Malaysia’s fast-growing Halal beauty market

  • Malaysia wants to be global halal hub
  • Two-thirds of world’s Muslim population in Asia-Pacific

KUALA LUMPUR: The word halal is most commonly associated with food and drink. But in Malaysia demand for halal-certified products across all sectors — including personal care — is growing.

The southeast Asian country wants to be a global halal hub and, in 2017, the local halal industry contributed approximately 7.5 percent to Malaysia’s gross domestic product.

“Malaysia once again leads the Global Islamic Economy Indicator for the fifth year in a row,” Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in his opening address at World Halal Week last April. “This impressive lead reflects a robust Islamic economy ecosystem, with Malaysia enjoying a substantial lead in Islamic finance and halal food.”

The ecosystem includes banks to provide Islamic finance, the Health Ministry and the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to set the halal certification standard, and trade agencies such as Matrade to handle the business and marketing side.

Halal cosmetics must be free from alcohol, blood and parts or substances from animals that have not been slaughtered according to Islamic practices.

SimplySiti, founded by singer Siti Nurhaliza, offers cosmetic, fragrance and skincare products that are halal-certified.

Mainstream firms have also jumped on the halal bandwagon, such as Clara International, Johnson & Johnson, Silky Girl and Wipro Unza. Sunsilk claims it is the first haircare line in Malaysia for hijab-wearing women.

Accessibility has also improved, with products available in supermarkets and drugstore chains, as well as through online marketplaces such as PrettySuci and Aladdin Street.

Some products even claim to be ablution-friendly, meaning water can penetrate the product to reach the skin and cleanse it.

But some firms have yet to break into the market and not all Muslim consumers are aware of the availability and diversity of halal beauty and personal care products.

“I do not really check for the halal label because in Malaysia I assumed everything is halal,” 30-year-old Abir Abdul Rahman told Arab News, adding that most of her friends did not actively check for the halal label when purchasing makeup or skincare items.

Siti Nurul Hidayah Ishak, a 33-year-old lawyer, said she supported the idea of halal beauty products but did not know which ones were certified.

“I do not particularly pay attention whether a product is certified halal or not. Nonetheless, I check the labels to ensure there are no non-halal ingredients in the products I purchase,” she told Arab News.

Two-thirds of the global Muslim population is in the Asia-Pacific region. The Muslim population is young and has good socio-economic prospects according to Pew Research.

Thomson Reuters estimates that Muslim consumers will account for $73 billion worth of spending on cosmetics by 2019, or 8.2 percent of the global expenditure.

In Malaysia, the total trade volume for personal care and cosmetics products was about $2.24 billion in 2015. Half of the demand was met by imports.

Some Muslim consumers in Malaysia were skeptical about the boom in halal-certified beauty products.

Mohani Niza, 31, said she was more concerned about her products being vegetarian or cruelty free.

“I have no grievance against halal beauty products,” she told Arab News. “But my suspicion is that the halal beauty industry is a marketing gimmick. It plays on the ignorance and insecurities of some Muslims who may be led to be believe that whatever product that doesn’t have the halal label is automatically haram.”