According to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project from the Pew Research Center, there are currently more than 1.9 billion Muslims in the world, representing a little less than 25% of the global population. This number has grown steadily over the past 10 years, and the same survey estimates that by 2030, there will be more than 2.2 billion Muslims worldwide.
Even more impressive is the sheer financial power of this demographic. The State of the Global Islamic Economy 2019/20 Report by DinarStandard reports that Muslim spending in the areas of food, pharmaceuticals, and lifestyle made up a total of US$2.2 trillion in 2018, with estimates that this number will grow to US$3.2 trillion in 2024. The report also anticipates exponential growth in the halal food sector, with spending jumping from approximately US$1.37 trillion in 2018 to US$1.97 trillion in 2024. This means that by producing halal-certified products, a manufacturer can appeal to more consumers, especially in countries with predominantly Muslim populations.
Despite this exponential growth, the global economy is still struggling to catch up. There is a staggering lack of access to halal foods, whether that be on grocery store shelves or in college campus dining halls. In fact, in the joint National Campus Dining Services Survey by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) and the Muslim Students Association National, 64% of respondents reported that the lack of halal options was a factor in their decision not to use campus dining services. If we apply this logic to other foodservice venues, it becomes clear that the Muslim population seeking halal options is critically underserved in the United States.
What Is Halal Food?
“Halal” is an Arabic word meaning “permitted” or “allowed.” It describes food that is acceptable for consumption according to Islam, and it is an obligation—not a choice—for Muslims. The term “haram,” on the other hand, denotes foods that are forbidden, such as pork products, alcoholic beverages, the meat of carnivorous animals (such as birds of prey), and blood.
Although the aforementioned items are expressly forbidden in Islam, they do not make up the entire list of haram foods. Other foods may not be permissible, depending on their origin or how they were produced. For example, meat such as beef and poultry can only be considered halal if slaughtered by a Muslim in accordance with the following rules:
- The animal must not be dead before the time of slaughter.
- The animal must die by bleeding, with one cut resulting in loss of life for the animal.
- God’s name must be invoked at the time the animal is cut.
It is impossible to determine simply by looking at an item whether halal requirements such as those listed above have been met, which is where the need for halal certification arises.
Why Is Halal Food Certification Necessary?
The goal of halal certification is to make it easier for Muslim consumers to know which foods are halal or haram and diminish confusion surrounding questionable items. It is impossible to compile a full list of permissible ingredients without knowing the source of an ingredient or a company’s manufacturing process, which is where halal certification comes in.
Saeed Hayek, PhD, a food scientist and quality manager at IFANCA, notes that some of the ingredients that impact the halal status of a food, depending on where they were sourced, include gelatin, glycerin, mono- and diglycerides, enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, natural flavors, and colorings. “Most … food products will contain at least one ingredient from this list,” says Dr. Hayek. “These ingredients can be sourced from [animal-based] materials and, thus, bring … doubt to the halal status of the product. Except for gelatin, other ingredients can also be sourced from [plant-based] and/or synthetic materials, which would be suitable to halal.”