Around 15 to 20 companies complete the halal certification process in B&H every year and some 9,000 products have been certified with food exports to over 30 countries.
Novi Sad, Serbia: Halal food producers from Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H) are increasing their competitiveness in European regional and worldwide food markets. The country, which has 3.2 million inhabitants – more than half of whom are Muslims – established the Agency for Halal Quality Certification in 2006, founded and fully owned by the Islamic Community of Bosnia & Herzegovina Islamic Community and registered with the B&H Justice Ministry.
Agency director Damir Alihodžić said that the reaction of consumers to certified halal products in B&H has been very positive. According to a survey by Sarajevo-based marketing firm Global Market Solutions, 75% of Bosnians felt products should always be labelled halal, 23.3% believed halal labels should be optional and only 1.7% said they would not buy halal-labelled products, according to Alihodžić.
He said some Muslim consumers were happy with pork-free labels, rather than strictly halal ones. In his view only highly religious Bosnian Muslims absolutely refrain from eating pork. Some Muslim consumers use his agency to get information about product ingredients.
Halal has become synonymous with healthy food, said Alihodžić, and thus a significant number of halal consumers may not be Muslim. "Consumers have growing confidence in halal products," he told Salaam Gateway.
Around 15 to 20 new companies complete the halal certification process in Bosnia every year, said Alihodžić, noting that according to the agency's data, 29 companies received a halal certificate in 2019, 19 in 2020 and 20 in 2021. A total of 133 companies have received halal certification since its establishment. Meanwhile there is a constant increase in the number of B&H halal-certified products, amounting to over 9,000, Alihodžić added. But there are no statistics on the value of the Bosnian halal market, he said.
President of the B&H Halal Industry Association and the export director of AS Holding Corporation, Vedad Halilović, said there has been a widening of certified halal companies, from food manufacturers to hotels, restaurants, cosmetics and pharmaceutical producers. The B&H halal tourism sector has also expanded following an increase in halal certification of hotels and restaurants, he said. Examples include Sarajevo’s Sinija Rajlovac and Cordoba Café, Pino Nature Trebević hotel in Sarajevo and Hotel Bigeste in Ljubuški.
There has been an increase in Muslim tourists to this scenic and mountainous country, mostly from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and western Europe, although there is no accurate data on tourism arrivals by nationality, Halilović said. He explained that his agency was working with B&H halal-certified hotels and restaurants, helping them communicate with travel organisations overseas and with marketing to “overcome all obstacles in their path," he told Salaam Gateway.
The AS Holding Corporation is currently the country’s leading halal group, comprising nine export companies, of which seven are in the food manufacturing division: AC Food, Klas and Sprind in Sarajevo; AS Jelah and Oaza in Tešanj; Solana in Tuzla; and Vispak in Visoko. Products made and sold by these companies include coffee, flour, noodles, confectionery, soups, salt and spices. This food division currently exports to 33 countries on five continents including Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia.
"We recorded the best export results in Croatia, the USA, Germany and the Scandinavian region. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exports did decline, as did products made largely for the Horeca sector,” said Halilović. But as the pandemic ebbs, AS Holding hopes sales will recover. Halal certified brands selling well overseas include Zlatna Džezva coffee, Tuzlanska salt, Zlatni puder flour, Tops biscuits, and Kent wafers. Halal-certified Maza hazelnut spread, frozen food lines Sprind and bottled water Oaza also sell well at home and abroad. A premium confectionery brand, Mak Zara, is this year being launched into foreign markets, said Halilović.
European markets are top targets for B&H halal quality food products, he said, with Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Austria, Germany, Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan being the largest markets. Halilović said B&H food quality was aided by its fertile agricultural land, absence of industrial pollution and the fact its cuisine is a fusion of western and eastern influences.
Top Bosnian food exporters with halal certificates include Mlijekoprodukt, from Kozarska Dubica, which sells a wide range of dairy products, and Perutnina Ptuj, from Breza and Srbac, which sells chicken products. As for AS Holding, the group has worked hard during the COVID-19 era to “ensure that distributors do not run out of our products, especially basic ones such as flour, salt, pasta, soups, and spreads.” He said the group and other Bosnian food exporters will continue to target new and existing markets. While neighbouring Adriatic countries – such as Croatia and Montenegro – remain a priority, markets in central Europe, North America and North Africa will receive additional attention from AS Holding companies. "A lot has been done in the past, but there is certainly room for improvement with both the quality and the quantity of production," said Halilović.
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