Muslims in Germany say it is still difficult to find halal products in most grocery storesImage: DW/Peter Deselaers
Halal business boom
October 30, 2009
Muslims in Europe have long struggled to find halal food products, which abide by Islamic law. But now businesses are realizing there's a lot of money to be made catering to the growing Muslim population.
It is just after working hours, and customers are slowly rolling into the Uemit Turkish supermarket in Bonn. The shelves are packed full with Turkish delicacies, and colorful fruit stands stretch across the front entrance. A handful of shoppers have made their way to the halal meat counter at the back of the store.
Rabia Kasik, a young store clerk, says their customers like to shop there because it is one of the few places in Bonn where Muslims can buy halal food, including chicken patties, beef burgers - even gummi bears.
"People can find halal food here, and in a few other specialty markets - but not in many other places. It is difficult for Muslims in Germany, because everything is mixed with pork," Kasik says.
Halal is an Arabic term that means "lawful", and it refers to a way of life that adheres to Islamic law. Any food or drink can be halal if it meets Muslim standards. For example, meat products cannot contain pork, and food producers must clean their machines with alcohol-free detergents.
Halal business booming
Experts say that halal food is the fastest growing food sectors in the world. It already accounts for 17 percent of the global food market, according to the World Halal Forum.
In 2010, halal food is expected to generate sales of more than 45 billion euros in Europe alone. With the Muslim population in the EU growing due to immigration and higher birth rates, businesses are starting to realize the untapped potential of the halal food market.
In France and Britain, which have the EU's largest Muslim populations, this trend has been gaining momentum for some time. British supermarket chains, Sainsbury's and Tesco sell halal products, as does the French chain Casino. Even the American fast-food joint Kentucky Fried Chicken serves food that abides by Islamic standards at many of its European restaurants.
Mustafa Balikci is the head of Anatolia Foods, a company that specializes in halal products. Its headquarters is located in the small German town of Rheinbreitbach, where he grew up, but the company is now represented in nine countries.
"The idea was to establish a market for halal products in Europe, because it's very difficult for Muslims in Europe to find halal products" Balikci says. "Even if a product's label says it's halal, Muslims have to be very careful because it may not be accurate. It's sometimes hard to know if something is really halal or not."
Germany still lagging in halal business
Mustafa Balikci says Germany has been slow to stock its store shelves with halal products compared to other European countries, due in part to the controversial process by which meat is certified "halal". Muslims broadly agree that the animal must be alive and devoid of any drugs when it is slaughtered - something that goes against German law, which requires abattoirs to use sedatives. As a result, most halal food producers in Germany have to import their meat.
Despite the legal barriers, however, Hatice Balikci - who's also part of the family halal food business - says she is not worried. In fact, she believes that Germany's four million Muslims mean an expansion of the halal food market is inevitable.
"I think the business will go on and it's a big trend," she says. "We saw how many people came to the halal stands at the Anuga Food Trade Fair to get information about it."
"They were not all Muslims - there were people from all over the world, from Pakistanis to Chinese people. So I think it's a big market place."