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Halal Industry

Halal companies shine at Gulfood as they gear up to expand in Muslim markets

From non-alcoholic ale to halal Scotch lamb, the broad range of halal food and beverage products showcased at this year’s Gulfood reflects the growing importance of Muslim markets for global firms.

The latest edition of Gulfood concluded two weeks ago but the energy is still high as halal food producers capitalize on the interest generated at the Dubai trade show.

Some of the biggest names in the industry were present, including Saudi Arabian poultry producer Tanmiah, Brazilian food processor BRF, and UAE-based food and beverage heavyweight Agthia Group. 

Many smaller players were also present, such as Australia’s Green Grass Exports, which showcased the country’s halal goat meat, and Spanish family-run Costa Brava Mediterranean Foods, which participated with its halal lamb and beef meat products.

Innovative beverages

Gulfood 2024 was the largest in the trade show’s history, having grown from 65 exhibitors in its inaugural event in 1987 to more than 5,500 in its 29th edition.

The latest edition saw the introduction of innovative halal beverages. Dubai-based Midtown Factory, for example, launched its non-alcoholic craft Arabian ale Majlis, made and brewed in the UAE.

“We showcased exquisite products from the Majlis range - Majlis Original, Majlis Gluten-Free and Majlis Stout. Visitors to the exhibition were among the first to taste these new additions alongside our original ale,” the company said in a social media post.

The response was “phenomenal”, it added, with industry representatives from the Gulf region, Europe, and Canada expressing interest in collaborations. 

“We're discussing various partnership formats, including exporting our finished product and potentially setting up manufacturing facilities in partner countries.”

Belgium-based malt beverage manufacturer Martens Brewery also promoted its Belgian non-alcoholic and halal malt beverages in different flavours to Muslim consumers.

UK focus on halal lamb products

A highlight of this year’s Gulfood was the addition of halal Scotch lamb.

The product was introduced by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), a government body that promotes Scottish red meat, and Woodhead Brothers. The latter became the first Scottish lamb processor to receive accreditation to supply to the Middle East market in December 2023, according to QMS. 

“Having sampled our products in early November, buyers in Dubai were delighted with the quality and flavour our range had to offer. As of today, we will mainly be supplying products into high-end food service, the leisure and tourist markets, and look forward to growing trade with other nations,” Scott Bradley, trading manager at Woodhead Brothers, said in November.

With the sheep meat production levels of the six Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) fulfilling only 66% of their consumption, QMS estimates the new market could have significant worth to the Scottish sheep industry. 

The UK Pavilion also featured grass-fed halal-certified lamb products from British food processer ABP UK. “We met a lot of new buyers from across the region and beyond and renewed our relationship with existing ones,” said Adil Khan, the company’s commercial consultant and founder of UAE-based trade specialist Crown Houze Events. 

Strong participation from Latin America

Meanwhile, Brazil, the world's largest exporter of halal meat, accounting for almost 28% of global halal exports, sent its biggest-ever delegation to Gulfood 2024.

As many as 117 companies across six pavilions, including three dedicated to animal protein, took part.

With the UAE ranked the 13th largest buyer of Brazilian agribusiness products, there was a waiting list of companies wanting to participate in this year’s Gulfood, according to the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil), which is responsible for the delegation at Gulfood.

“Gulfood is a strategic event for the Brazilian poultry industry. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat, and nearly half of its shipments are halal products, making our sector the largest exporter of poultry products to Islamic nations,” Ricardo Santin, president of the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein, told Arab News.

By the end of the trade show, Brazilian companies had closed business deals worth an estimated $4.5 billion, according to Apex-Brasil, surpassing the agency’s projections of $3 billion.

Furthermore, Abu Dhabi Food Hub - a trading and logistics hub - and the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding during Gulfood to strengthen food trade from Brazil to the UAE and the region.

Under the agreement, which is part of the Halal do Brasil initiative, Abu Dhabi Food hub will be enabling Brazilian businesses to tap into the region’s booming halal market. 

Argentinian halal-certified beef also took centre stage at Gulfood, with the Argentine Beef Promotion Institute (IPCVA) bringing together 13 meat-exporting companies at its pavilion. 

The exhibitors saw interest from buyers from many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and UAE. As such, IPCVA expects to see exports with halal certification grow in the coming months. 

Mariano Durán, foreign trade executive at Compañía Bernal, one of Argentina’s largest beef processing companies and an exhibitor at Gulfood, noted that in 2022, Muslim consumer expenditure on food represented 12% of global food expenditure. 

Given the size of the halal food market, most of Argentina’s meat-exporting companies attended the trade show in Dubai, with their sights set on expanding to markets such as the Middle East and Asia, as well as the Muslim market that is not geographically limited to these regions.
Halal certifiers play crucial role

With more companies seeking halal certification to access Muslim markets, Brazil’s two biggest halal certifiers, the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (FAMBRAS) and CDIAL Halal, ensured their presence at Gulfood.

The certifiers focused on expanding halal business opportunities for companies to help place more of their products on international shelves, especially in Muslim markets.

During the trade show, FAMBRAS’ certifying team met with executives from the Brazilian beef exporters association (ABIEC), which is responsible for 98% of the country's beef traded in international markets, and the national association of poultry production and exports in Brazil (ABPA), among others.

Meanwhile, CDIAL Halal helped facilitate meetings between companies such as Brazilian egg specialists Netto Alimentos, and high-level representatives from various organizations, including the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s Halal Products Development Company.

Asian countries highlight their halal potential

The Philippines and Taiwan - two non-Muslim majority countries - both put the spotlight on their halal offerings at Gulfood. 

For example, Taiwan Pavilion’s 15 exhibitors promoted foods and beverages that were all halal certified. Some of them had done business in the region for years, while others, such as Mayushan Foods Co., a producer of rice bran and roasted wheat flour, were looking to break into the Middle East market.

The pavilion was set up by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Kaohsiung City Farmers' Association, with Wu Yo-ting, a specialist with Dakwah Halal Foundation Taiwan, heading TAITRA’s delegation. 

Dakwah, established by Taiwan’s government in 2017 and entrusted to TAITRA, reflects the East Asian country’s strategic approach to serving the halal market. The foundation aims to assist Taiwanese manufacturers in producing halal-certified foods that can be marketed to the vast Muslim communities.

The Philippines, on the other hand, continued to solidify its position in the competitive halal marketplace, with 25 companies showcasing their halal-certified food products at the trade show.

Miguel Kyan Aman, CEO of Miguilitos Ice Cream, which was among the exhibitors, told the Filipino Times that they were pushing to become the number one soft-serve ice-cream in the Philippines. “It’s halal and vegan, with plans to expand into the Middle East.”

Despite a predominantly Catholic population, the Philippines aims to expand its domestic halal industry.

In January 2024, the country’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) introduced a four-year plan for the development of the halal industry with a goal to attract 230 billion pesos in investments and create 120,000 jobs by 2028.

This comes after the Philippines generated over 50 million pesos in export sales following its participation in Gulfood 2023, according to DTI.

Overall, products with halal certification had a much greater sales potential at Gulfood, Linas Klimavicius, director of the Lithuanian Trade Office, said.

“The UAE presents a great potential as an export market for many categories; however, aligning with the right partner will make all the difference in one’s ability to scale and to do so quickly,” he noted.

“Dubai can and should be used as a trampoline to reach the rest of the GCC states.”