Sunday, January 11, 2009

KOSHER: Muslim Consumers & the Marketplace

Can Muslims use kosher certification symbols to tell if a food is halal?

YES: Muslims can use kosher symbols to determine if a food contains pork, pig-derived products, meat from improperly slaughtered but jointly permissible (halal, kosher) animals, blood or hawwam creatures (vermin) such as insects, rodents, frogs, snails and reptiles. These are all prohibited by both kashruth and shari'a.

NO: Muslims cannot use kosher symbols to determine if a product contains alcohol. Some non-kosher foods, like those containing shrimp or cheese, can be made in a halal manner.

Kosher: Under-serving Muslim Consumers
Muslims make up 30% of the "kosher consumer," outnumbering Jews who keep kosher[1] in this consumer group by 3:1. Despite our economic weight in the kosher foods market, Muslim Consumers are nonetheless under-served by kosher food standards.

Foods which contain alcohol and alcohol-derived products like (most) wine vinegar can be kosher, but are forbidden (haram) for Muslims to eat. On the other hand, kosher dietary laws impose restrictions on Muslims that are unnecessary for that food to meet halal criteria. These are:

  • Banning foods containing seafood such as shrimp, crustaceans or shellfish;
  • Banning the mixing of meat and dairy;
  • Banning foods containing non-Jewish cheese, and;
  • Seasonal dietary restrictions.
When a food contains a non-kosher but Islamically permissible substance, such as shrimp, Muslims often have no way of knowing if that food also contains an ingredient derived from a haram substance such as pork. This is true even if he or she reads the label. 

Two such products are Doritos® brand Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, made with pork enzymes[2, 3], and Gorton's brand Shrimp Scampi which contains both gelatin and wine.[4] Each of these food products, though containing non-kosher ingredients, can be made according to halal standards with slight modifications to the recipes.

Producing Halal is Cost Effective
Producing foods in accordance with halal dietary standards is actually less complicated, less costly and provides a bigger return than only producing foods according to kosher standards. Here are several reasons why.

Muslims are a bigger Market

  • The United States is home to 8 – 11 million Muslims of diverse backgrounds, with one thing in common: they eat halal food.[5]
  • 80% of Muslims regularly observe halal dietary standards, only slightly more than 20% of Jews regularly observe kosher standards.
  • Within the kosher consumer group, Muslims outnumber Jews 3:1.6 
  • The U.S. market for halal foods is $12 billion per year.[7] This, despite the lack of widespread availability for halal products outside of major metro areas.
More Food Products become Marketable

  • Muslims are not restricted from eating meat taken from the back half of a slaughtered animal, keeping costs associated with Islamic slaughter low.
  • Muslims are consumers of foods containing cheese and cheese products, expanding the number of food products marketable to Muslim consumers beyond the traditional "kosher consumer" boundaries.
  • Muslims are consumers of foods containing crustaceans, shellfish and mollusks, expanding the number of food products marketable to Muslim consumers beyond the traditional "kosher consumer" boundaries.
Low Learning Curve for the Manufacturer
Current awareness of kosher food production protocols concerning the banning of products derived from pork, insects and blood lowers the manufacturer's learning curve to making non-kosher food products like shrimp or clam dishes in a halal manner.

Related Topics:
Kosher v. Halal: What are the differences and similarities of kosher and halal?
A comparison of kosher and halal animals
ALCOHOL: In Islam, it's Haram

[1] Bushkin, Gary. "Kosher & Halal certification: natural products with a pedigree; How dietary preferences have changed the formulation of products in the nutraceuticals market now and for the future." Reprinted on from: "Kosher Halal Overview," Nutraceuticals World. March 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
[2] "Seasoned Products Made Without Porcine Enzymes," Frito-Lay web site. (Retrieved April 7, 2009).
[3] Brand Overview: Doritos, Frito-Lay web site, (Retrieved April 7, 2009).
[4] Our Products: Shrimp Scampi, Gorton's web site, (Retrieved April 10, 2009).
[5] Chaudry, Muhammed, PhD. "Halal in Confectionery," Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA). Presented at the 2007 National Technical Seminar of the American Association of Candy Technologists.
[6] Bushkin, Gary. (ibid)
[7] Bushkin, Gary. (ibid)

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