The recent problems in Europe regarding the discovery of the widespread use of horsemeat in processed food products, even in some of the biggest brand names in the market, highlights the complex nature of the food industry supply chains.

Whether it was due to criminal activity, negligence or greed may never be fully revealed, and just because it has not been discovered elsewhere does not mean that it is not going on. The combination of a tough economic climate and increasingly complicated supply chain means that the integrity of our foods is being increasingly compromised.

For the practitioners in the halal food sector, and for the Muslim consumers around the world, this is a troubling situation, but it is also one that opens up an interesting possibility. In the same way that the economic crisis, triggered by usury banking practices, offered an opportunity for Islamic Finance to demonstrate its superiority, the crisis in the food industry offers an opportunity for all of us in the halal camp to demonstrate that the parameters of halal and tayyib offer a way to safeguard the quality and purity of our food supply chains.

Not that we are quite ready to demonstrate that. There are still too many cracks in the regulation of the halal supply chain to hold it up as a shining example in general. However, the significance of the application of halal and tayyib is that it necessitates, and provides the tools to set up, the creation of an unbroken ‘chain of trust’ from the farm to the table.

Observing the growth of the halal food market over the past decade has been reminiscent (for those of us who remember the pre-digital days) of watching a photograph develop…the image gradually appears in greater depth and clarity of detail. As we watch the halal market maturing, we can observe three specific forces that are beginning to converge in a way that will lead to a new phase of growth and opportunity.

These forces are regulatory, financial and demographic.



There is a dawning recognition that the halal sector has to be regulated with greater efficiency and transparency. Market forces tend to dictate that changes in regulatory procedures are only brought about by either force or opportunity, both of which are now coming into the foreground.

The process by which halal compliance and food safety is monitored is coming under increasing scrutiny globally, and there is a growing sense that as halal food is a sub-set of the mainstream food industry, it must be monitored with the same degree of professionalism and integrity as the rest of the food sector. That is to say, the certification bodies will themselves be increasingly subject to oversight by a higher regulatory authority.

The way the Middle Eastern countries monitor the halal compliance of their vast food imports (mostly from non-Muslim countries of origin) is going to change in the near future. With new halal standards and regulatory infrastructures being developed in both the Gulf States and in Saudi Arabia, we can expect to see new authorities appearing in the marketplace.

This will force exporting countries to adopt procedures similar to those in place in Australia and New Zealand, where the government agencies, the meat producers and the Islamic certification bodies all cooperate under a government approved halal program.



The past few years have seen rumblings in the Islamic Finance sector and an emerging recognition that more has to be done to actually warrant the use of the term “Islamic.” One of the suggestions is for Islamic Finance to be more engaged with the “real economy”…and what could be more real than food?

As the two major industries based on Shariah compliance, the food and finance sectors are on an inevitable course towards convergence. The next phase of market growth will see more investment, risk-and-reward sharing equity stakes, merger and acquisition, venture capital plays and micro-finance being put into practice in the halal food sector.

Greater regulation will encourage these moves, as will projects such as the move to position Dubai as a global hub for halal manufacture and trade. While others have made similar claims, Dubai’s geographical position, along with its ability to have big ideas and then roll out massive infrastructure projects and see them come to life, make their vision of being a centre for Islamic economy and trade more credible. If nothing else, it will certainly bring increased awareness of the value of the halal market.



A cursory glance at the global population demographics makes it very clear that the Muslim populations, both in the homelands and among the re-rooted communities in the West are younger and growing faster than any other group.

Increasingly well (and western) educated, a new generation is striving to find a way of life that is compatible with the Qur’an and Sunnah and at the same time that fits with the 21st century lifestyle. Halal food is one of the cornerstones of this new global urban Muslim lifestyle, and as this group becomes more financially secure and raise their families, they will play an increasingly influential role as valued customers.

Their preferences will be noted and catered to. Their collective spending power will become a valued statistic in the food, finance, travel, health care, cosmetic, education and leisure markets. A new generation wants a new Islamic lifestyle, and they will have the spending power to influence the producers.

The convergence of these three forces will produce a new phase of growth and maturity in the halal market that will be felt over the new couple of years in all corners of this now global marketplace.