Halal food trends are booming
Thailand has long been known as the kitchen of the world thanks to its abundant natural resources and tasty cuisine and now it is achieving global fame in another culinary category – the halal food industry. With strong government support and innovations in the e-commerce and food industries, the potential to grow is strong.
The global halal food market is expected to reach US$ 2,043.20 billion by the end of 2027, according to Coherent Market Insights. The growth is mainly driven by the increasing number of Muslim populations who require their diet to comply with their religion and the increasing acceptance of halal food among non-Muslims.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Muslims are expected to comprise over a quarter of the global population by 2030. There are approximately 2 billion Muslims around the world at present, making up about 25 percent of the total world’s population. Of that, around 3.2 million Muslims are living in Thailand.
A report by Statista revealed that Muslims spent around US$ 1.17 trillion in 2019 on halal food. That spending is expected to increase to $1.38 trillion by 2024.
Serving the increasing demand for halal food products
The trends have opened opportunities for local companies to penetrate the market. And with the growing concerns about health, halal food businesses have great potential to attract non-Muslim consumers.
An online halal food marketplace, halal cloud kitchen and home deliveries are also making their presence felt, adding to Thailand’s vibrant halal food scene and redefining halal dining. Among them is Bangkok Halal Kitchens, a virtual kitchen in Thonglor district. Launched in December by FoodDeeHub and dedicated to delivery services, the kitchen serves ready-to-eat Thai and international dishes prepared in adherence to halal food production strictures.
Meanwhile, online halal food marketplace Pinsouq has ramped up its operations and expanded its stores nationwide to meet the increasing demand for halal food products and changes in consumer behavior.
“Our aim is to serve not only Muslims but everyone who appreciates products that are of high quality, safe and hygienic,” says Sharif Densumite, managing director of Has Order Co Ltd, the operator of Pinsouq, which sources halal-compliant meats and food supplies for the foodservice industry and consumers. The company also has wholesale stores in Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya, Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat.
Pinsouq was established six years ago as an e-commerce platform for online merchants who sell halal-certified products. To meet the new ‘normal’ needs driven by the pandemic, the company is now setting up more stores in the provinces.
“More and more consumers head to the web to shop. They make their purchases using more than just one channel. Some may choose to pick up the items they buy at a store, others may use delivery services,” Sharif says.
“Buying ingredients from an online marketplace is convenient. It helps us make the inventory in the kitchen more effectively and saves time,” says Sarocha Dolah, manager of a leading Pattani restaurant.
“It’s great to have a store that offers halal-certified products under one roof in our neighborhood. And delivery service makes our life easier,” says Zul Duerama, owner of a halal café in Bangkok’s Suan Luang district.
More than just religious values
The halal concept is not restricted to the understanding of religious values alone, but involves products and services of the highest quality that meet the increasing demand of consumers in the global market.
Halal food products are widely perceived as being of high quality, hygienic, and healthy as they are processed under safe and ethically responsible conditions.
“There is a persistent misconception about halal. Most people assume that foodstuffs that don’t contain pork are just okay for Muslims to eat. In fact, halal principles go far beyond limiting the consumption of a single animal. They are a lot more detailed and stricter,” says Sharif.
To qualify as halal, food must be strictly prepared in adherence to Islamic dietary law, especially the way of slaughtering animals, he adds. Halal food must also not contain pork, alcohol, harmful ingredients, unsanitary elements, and poisons.
And the halal assurance system is an integrated management system that involves all production processes from sourcing to preparation and processing and from packaging to storage and transportation.
In the Thai food and beverage industry, companies are required to implement standards in manufacturing as a way to monitor and control quality, food safety, and hygiene. Among them are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and ISO 22000 for food safety management. Implementing halal certification is a voluntary initiative, according to Sharif.
Obtaining halal certification is a growing trend among SMEs and start-ups and not only helps boost consumers’ trust and confidence but also serves as a springboard to the global market.
The Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT) has awarded halal certification to around 5,000 companies in Thailand, accounting for over 160,000 product items, mostly food, and beverages.
The CICOT acts as the certified body for Thai halal food products to ensure they abide by the requirements of Islamic law.
“Halal principles complement the food safety measures required by the health authority. Applying the concept to operations not only ensures that products are of high quality and safe but also helps increase the competitiveness of companies in the global market,” Sharif says.
Combined efforts spells success
Thailand’s Commerce Ministry has run several campaigns and activities to strengthen the Thai halal industry by promoting halal-certified products and services from Thailand and building a reputation for trustworthiness. The ministry has also given strong support to Thai halal food manufacturers to improve the quality of their products in order to capitalize on the high purchasing power of the Muslim population worldwide.
Despite having a Muslim minority, Thailand ranks 11th among the world’s largest halal food exporters and ranks first in halal exports among ASEAN countries. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Thailand’s halal food exports reached US$35.03 billion, accounting for 2.44 percent of the global halal market.
Academic institutions also play a part in bolstering the growth of the Thai halal industry.
Chulalongkorn University’s Halal Science Centre helps companies to maintain halal standards by conducting inspection and certification processes using the latest technologies.
Last February, the Halal Institute of the Prince of SongklaUniversity launched a “Halal System Management” curriculum, the first of its kind in the world, in a bid to upgrade and increase the quality of human resources in the Thai halal industry.
With strong support in place, Thailand is well-positioned to tap into the growing global halal market.
“These trends create an environment conducive to growth, providing opportunities for companies,” Sharif says.
By Veena Thoopkrajae with additional report by Sukhumaporn Laiyok