IFANCA-Certified Halal Cabot Cheese at Grocery Stores Nationwide!
The typical challenges related to halal certification of cheese pertain to the use of animal-based rennet. When rennet is not from animals, it removes these obstacles. When Vermont based, Cabot Creamery Cooperative (www.cabotcheese.com) took their first steps towards halal certification, their intention was to make their cheese even more marketable.
“While we have earned a reputation for making the “World’s Best Cheddar”, we know that to be successful for the long haul, we must do the best job possible of meeting our consumers’ needs,” says Jed Davis, of Cabot Creamery Cooperative. “When faced with so many choices in the marketplace, we find that consumers often value third-party “endorsements” of certain brands or products.”
Third-party endorsements can take the form of certifications such as halal certification. “[IFANCA] certification for the halal standards of our cheese has been very helpful in attracting consumers, to whom these dietary standards are significant,” says Davis. As for those who do not have religious dietary requirements, a certification still has value because it’s almost a ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal of approval, he adds. “For Cabot, it was the combination of this excellent endorsement, plus the research that indicates that the Muslim population of the U.S. was likely to surpass the Jewish population,” says Davis.
Other endorsements could come from winning prestigious awards, such as the one Cabot Cheddar Cheese won for the second time, at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest. This is the largest international cheese competition in the world, hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.
And IFANCA, having certified more than 2000 companies globally, was a natural choice when it came to choosing a halal certifier. “Once we became convinced of the benefit of carrying halal certification on our product packaging, there really wasn’t another choice. IFANCA impressed us with their approach to the whole certification process. In fact, IFANCA had previously sent us information about halal certification, even before we began the internal discussion of pursuing it. In contras t to some other kinds of certification, IFANCA has really set itself apart as the choice for credible certification.”
What changes has Cabot Creamery seen in the halal industry, if any, lately? “There appears to be tremendous opportunity both in terms of a growing Muslim population, a growing awareness of halal certification and growing status for halal as an important third-party endorsement for products. In the span of less than two years, halal certification is showing up on a range of products, or is now more noticeable on a range of products. That is unprecedented,” says Davis.
Cabot’s award-winning product line can be found in specialty shops, supermarkets and super centers throughout the United States. “While we always hope that consumers can find a wide selection of our products at the local stores they frequent, we realize this isn’t always the case and we do have both a mail order catalog (800-639-3198) and an online shopping store (www.shopcabot.com),” says Davis. “Although our distribution could be described accurately as national-meaning you can find our products in all 50 states, we are typically thought of as a strong regional brand and focus on exploring opportunities domestically.”
While many Muslims consider cheese pizza to be halal, it may not always be so. Is there a way to spread the word about using halal cheese, for instance, in the pizza industry or wherever there are large volumes of cheese used? Davis thinks that would be a tough sell. “We do supply the food service industry, but have not yet seen the same level of enthusiasm and demand that we witness in the retail trade.”
“Foodservice generally, despite the impressive volumes, is harder to penetrate because of the more unbranded, price-conscious nature of the sport. In addition, the fact that typically (e.g. with a pizza) a number of products are coming together to create the final product, it becomes an additional step for the final manufacturer – one that may not necessarily payback in the short term. I’m guessing the penetration is much greater at retail. Nevertheless, with out-of-home meals being such a considerable percentage of total meal occasions, this opportunity should continue to receive real scrutiny.”
As for growth in the near future in halal cheese, the prospects are bright. “We continue to be very optimistic of the prospects for sales growth for Cabot Cheese and are confident that halal certification plays a role in that growth,” says Davis.
Are there recipes available for halal cheese? Davis points to their website. “Almost all our recipes can have halal Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar substituted for our reduced fat or flavored cheddar. You can peruse our library at http://www.cabotcheese.com/recipes and sort by category (appetizers, etc.) and sub-category (reduced fat, etc.). If readers know of some traditional Muslim recipes that could be made with Cabot, we’d welcome those!” Readers are encouraged to submit recipes to www.cabotcheese.com or via snail mail to: Cabot Creamery, 1 Home Farm Way, Montpelier, VT 05602
(Sources include: Cabot Creamery)