Food & Beverage

Japanese firms aim to tap halal markets

In expectation of a growing demand for high-quality food from Japan in line with economic development in the Middle East, Japanese companies are trying to tap into the region, particularly through efforts to produce halal foods.

Halal food is strictly prepared according to Islamic law, and pork and alcohol are forbidden. For many Japanese companies, the issue of how to meet such requirements will hold the key to successful business in the region.

In late January, a business opportunity meeting was held in Dubai with the participation of three Japanese companies—a trading company dealing in confectionery, a company selling marine products and a condiments maker.

The participants introduced their products, stressing that their items do not contain any pork or alcohol, while explaining the products’ distinctive packaging.

Citing demand for high-quality food products, the president of a local food wholesaler said Japanese items may likely be accepted by consumers in the United Arab Emirates.

Middle East nations, particularly oil-producing countries such as the UAE, have seen a growth in imports of food products.

In 2011, six Persian Gulf countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE—imported food products worth about ¥1.35 trillion, more than four times the figure posted 10 years earlier.

The value of food products from Japan to these nations was only ¥5 billion, however.

The major factor to the lagging growth in Japanese food exports to the Middle East is explained by the difficulty in dealing with halal requirements.

Although an Islamic organization in Japan also carries out a halal certification procedure, in many cases, it costs more than ¥100,000, leaving many companies hesitant about applying for the certification.

The size of the global halal food market is reported to be about ¥50 trillion, offering an attractive area to Japanese companies facing the shrinking domestic market due to the low birthrate and aging society.

The Aichi Prefecture-based condiments maker last year developed a product targeting consumers in the Middle East and obtained halal certification for it.

“Not many major companies have tapped into the Middle East market,” company President Nobuaki Suzuki said. “So I believe there are also opportunities for small and midsize companies.”

In the Middle East, with the recent economic growth, more people have taken interest in leading a healthy dietary life, paying attention to food products from Japan, where the people are known for their longevity.

 Source: The Japan News

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