WHS: Balancing opportunities and risk in the halal food and travel sector

download-150x98The Business Forum plenary discussion at the World Halal Summit 2015 (WHS 2015) this morning discussed the risk factors and consumer misperceptions faced by Halal food suppliers in the modern market.

Habib M’Nasria, Director of Quality Control at McDonald’s International spoke about the lengths in which a major player in the fast food market such as McDonald’s go to ensuring the integrity of their Halal products. This includes strict monitoring of supply chain processes to ensure integrity of Halal certified food products. “Our products are Halal and that is a fact,” he said.

For some, Islamophobia defines the European public’s perception on Halal.

“Negative image of Muslims have led to a perception that buying Halal products are a way of condoning animal cruelty and the Islamisation of Europe,” said Koen Praetere, Founder of Halal Consultancy firm Halal Balancing. More has to be done to educate consumers that wholesomeness and quality are the guiding philosophies of Halal.Consumers also often assume that Halal meat production often only focussed on the method of slaughter. However the concept of Halal encompasses so much more, including responsible animal husbandry, animal welfare, hygiene and other universal good practices before and after the actual slaughtering act.

These practices are meant to deliver quality products, which will meet the religious obligations of Muslim consumers. “Halal products will also benefit non-Muslim consumers who will be purchasing a wholesome, sustainable and responsibly produced product,” added Koen.Meanwhile, the second plenary discussion of the morning discussed the Muslim-friendly travel sector, and the huge opportunities it presents. Among the panellists were Fazal Bahardeen, CEO of CrescentRating and Safdar Khan, Group Country Manager of MasterCard Asia Pacific.

Fazal Bahardeen said that at present the 90 per cent of Muslims travel on business and leisure, and the Muslim travel market is currently worth about US$140 billion a year. By 2020, it is estimated to be worth in excess of US$200 billion.

“This present tremendous opportunities to players in various travel related industries, who see the commercial value of increasing Muslim travellers,” Fazal adds.

Among these companies include the global company MasterCard. Safdar Khan said that MasterCard is now actively branching into Muslim friendly card instruments such as debit cards designed specifically for Hajj pilgrims.

“Islamic banking is now a key focus area for MasterCard,” said Safdar during the forum.

It is worth noting that as Muslims cross borders more frequently and interact with other cultures and norms, their worldviews become more varied. A case in point is the F&B industry where demand for Halal food is not necessarily driven by ethnic foods such curry and kebabs, which are synonymous with Halal fare.

“Worldly and affluent Muslim travellers are now keen to sample things like steaks and European cuisine for example” says Jumaatun Azmi, Managing Director of KesehDia Sdn. Bhd who moderated the discussion.