IFANCA’s 15th Annual Halal Food Conference 2013

Last month I had the privilege of attending IFANCA’s 15th Annual Halal Food Conference 2013 right here in the Chicago suburbs, attended by business, industry and political leaders from around the globe. Who would have thought so many different kinds of people from such a huge variety of professions could be interested in the halal food and consumer goods market?

Well, there’s plenty.

And this conference  demonstrated how much potential, interest, and promise of future growth there is in this industry that encompasses food, cosmetics and many other retail products.

The theme of this year’s 15th annual IFANCA conference was Halal United: An Integrated Approach, demonstrating the need to collaborate on all levels of the food and textile industry where consumables are sold to Muslims and those interested in halal products.

After a wonderful breakfast serving all halal foods and drinks (including the very clever alcohol-free Bloody Mary), Dr. Muhammad Munir Chaudry, President of IFANCA, opened up the conference by giving an overview of the various topics that would be touched on during the three-day conference:

  • Various aspects of the halal supply chain
  • Import/export requirements
  • Halal compliance
  • Halal assurance systems
  • Halal entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Animal welfare and religious requirements
  • Food safety and security
  • Talks from governmental agencies(Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, GCC)
  • Relationship between suppliers/regulators
  • Domestic retail products, some of whom have been with IFANCA for two decades!

Dr. Chaudry touched on the fact that the eight million Muslims in USA and another one million in Canada have been sort of invisible and that now some companies are realizing there is purchasing power, even though it’s a niche industry.

I thought his reference to Devon Avenue here in Chicago as “Halal Avenue” was a clever one.

One of the first topics covered was about the Indonesia market which is the largest of halal markets worldwide at 125 million Muslims. Dr. H. Amidhan Shaberah, Chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulama, spoke to this issue.

Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer of Saffron Road, was there to talk about the many opportunities just waiting for entrepreneurs in the world of halal foods and other products. He showed a video about the driving growth of his brand, the first halal brand to be in Whole Foods Market as well as the fastest growing brand in the frozen food category there,  making it #1 in July 2011 (the same year My Halal Kitchen hosted several giveaways for their products and Whole Foods gift cards for Ramadan during the first ever Ramadan campaign by a major retailer).

Other food brands present were Organic Valley, which has some halal certified products already but is working on more.

The History of Halal Certification and Halal Current Global Market, a presentation by Mian Riaz, Ph.D. Food Protein R & D Center, Texas A & M, was a very interesting one for the fact that it detailed out how halal foods were all originally made from very simple products but the complexity of the food industry created the need for a halal certification agency like IFANCA and just 35 years ago there was no concept of this whatsoever.

He mentioned this TED Talks video by Christien Meindertsma called “How Pig Parts Make the World Go Round”, which details out the numerous and fascinating places where pig parts end up on the consumables we are surrounded by each day.  It’s also very important for halal and kosher consumers to be mindful of.

Dr. Riaz says there is a $3 trillion dollar market for the entire industry and that in the future Pakistan will have more growth than Indonesia as well as the emergence of potential halal markets in China, India, Brazil and Japan being critically important contributing factors to this number.

Br. Abdelhamid Evans of Imarat Consultants and the online magazine, Halal Focus gave an incredibly interesting talk about how halal represents a distillation of global human values that span across cultures and religion: the ethical, moral, spiritual.  These values (lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, etc.) is what we see emerging as being important to everyone and it is shaping the evolution of a new market force: all foods, ingredients, non-food, pharma, logistics, accreditation arenas which are driven by shifts in perception.

He talked about how everyone is looking for new markets, yet everyone who does not look for the Muslim market is missing a huge opportunity.  For example, halal is a policy issue in governments around the world; halal food merges with the finance sector, which trickles into the media and the consumer product development and creation processes demanded by consumers reaching all those high numbers that nearly every speaker touted during the conference.

Halal is going mainstream and mainstream is going halal.

And that’s a very good thing for business.

Hani Mansour of Kuwait spoke to the topic of the Globalization of Halal Standards due to the fact that domestic labeling not comprehensive and that there were plenty of non-halal ingredient loopholes that existed, indicating a lack of industry awareness on the benefits of halal standardization. I particularly liked the fact that among all the technical speak, he reminded everyone of the real meaning of halal and tayyib: healthy and wholesome, ethical. 

Additional speakers and topics that continued were quite technical and fascinating. Much of it was jargon that food scientists are most comfortable with, but anyone in the food industry would probably think of a million questions to ask in terms of how things are done. 

I think a couple of my questions may have been out of the realm of the world of food science, but I was just looking out for all of us consumers who really want to know what’s in our food and how it gets there.

Moving right along…

The US Dairy Council was there to talk about the halal requirements for dairy that included checks on emulsifiers and thickening agents, rennet and enzymes used to manufacture cheese and whey ingredients, drying equipment and packaging materials.  They touched on the many sources of rennet being: 1) animal (almost never used because it’s too expensive); 2) microbial, 3) plant, 4) fermentation (yeasts, bacteria, fungi).

Also mentioned was that in Middle East, the governments do not require dairy requirements to be halal certified, although in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia they do.

Quite an interesting topic from the dairy council to a dairy lover like myself.

More food science specific topics included the topic of gelatin by Riyaz Khan of Nitta Gelatin India Ltd.  headquartered in Osaka, Japan, with plants in India, China, and North America. He described gelatin so thoroughly to be:

  • a natural, healthy and pure protein obtained from animal raw materials containing collagen
  • Produced by the partial hydrolysis of collagen
  • Most used hydrocolloid
  • Thickening and stabilizing agent
  • Forms a thermo reversible gel
  • Best compared with ‘replacers’

Lost yet?

Go back to the TED Talks video above.  A lot of the stuff they use gelatin for is not just for industrial applications, but also to clarify drinks and make cakes look nice come from the parts of the pig that produce gelatin, but it can also be sourced from halal animals and sea life.

Mr. Khan mentioned the following sources of gelatin:

Bovine bone, bovine hide, pork skin, pig bone, fish scale

And that halal gelatin must be derived from halal sources (i.e. bovine animals) and that all plants sources must also be halal (perhaps he meant that the intoxicating sorts would not qualify?).

Food for thought:

Gelatin has been used in the Western world since 12th century. 

So how does one go about the sourcing of halal animal ingredients?

There was a lecture for that, too.

Just check out all of the various things that need to come from halal sources in our consumables:

  • enzymes
  • shortening
  • glycerin
  • oleic acid
  • gelatin
  • glycerin
  • glycerol

You know you’ve seen them in medicines and foods. (hint: cheese, bread, vitamins, etc.)

And if that wasn’t enough, did you know…

That packaging is just as important to the halal industry? 

The use of plasticizers and slip agents (mostly used to bring you your packaged foods and other goods) can come from lard, tallow, rennet, pepsin, whey, natural and artificial flavors, glyercol, glycerin, lecitihin, mono and diglycerides, gelatin, collagen– all of which can be sourced via the pig.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg…

There’s more.

But you might not want to be inundated with all of that.

Which is why IFANCA exists.

Some people may not see the need for a halal certification agency- they might just see it as a way for an organization to profit from an unnecessary and tedious effort at making things difficult for producers.

But that’s really not the case, I believe.

I’ve personally seen the founder, food scientists and other people at this organization who truly care about their work. They care about Islam and pleasing Allah (swt) by trying as hard as they can to ensure that our foods are halal through and through.  That’s an enormously important effort that takes a lot of work off the back of the consumers.

IFANCA’s statement is that an animal ingredient in a product must be halal-slaughtered in order to be halal-certified. 

That alone is a lot of work, dedication, time, education of the product owners and then the consumers, us.

Whether or not you agree with what they do or care about a conference catering to food industry individuals striving to learn from one another about their particular technical expertise in this arena, one thing I will ask you to do is simply take a look at the years of work IFANCA has provided us as consumers and all the headway they’ve made so far to bring some of the best brands around to get a halal certification, showing us that {despite all the elephants in the room} they care enough to cater to our needs by providing proof that their ingredients meet the highest standard we have: halal and tayyib.

Organic Valley


What have you taken away from this overview of IFANCA’s 15th Annual Halal Food Conference?

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