Halal United with the IFANCA International Halal Food Conference

485393_508092375914024_1569907556_n

Food bridges diverse cultures effectively, and it forged bonding at the International Halal Food Conference, hosted by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) April 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. The event brought a multinational array of corporations; among them were Abbott Nutrition; The Coca-Cola Company; Amway-Nutrilite division; Wrigley-subsidiary of Mars; PepsiCo; Cargill; American Halal Company; Organic Valley; McDonald’s Corporation, and others  lesser known to the public but that have products used by other companies in their formulations.

Several dignitaries from the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and food scientists, export agency representatives, entrepreneurs, and consultants, from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Belgium, Switzerland, Kuwait, U.A. E., Pakistan and India rounded out the program.

The theme of Unity was iterated by several presenters who acknowledged that the former stance of protectionism and competition needs to be cast away in exchange for transparency, mutual support and cooperation. Attending the IFANCA conference were other Halal certifying agencies, and ISNA’s Ahmed El-Hattab called for a unification of Standards and formation of an ISNA Accreditation Board.

IFANCA’s founder and president, Dr. M. Munir Chaudry, stated the objectives of the gathering included import/export requirements; introducing Halal entrepreneurship opportunities; presentations on animal welfare; and advice of food safety and security. Naming brands of their certified products, Cabot Cheese; Baskin Robbins; and Tom’s of Maine, he expressed that although there are 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada they are not visible, even though they represent $18 billion in purchasing power.

Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer of American Halal Company, and spokesperson for the hugely successful Saffron Road presented a video with grocery industry magnate Errol Schweizer, senior global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, who sees “Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand in the frozen category.”

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) president, Ann Daw, noted in the video that “Halal should be a mainstream concept.” Durrani explained that “70% of our [Saffron Road] customers are not even Muslim.” He has consistently presented Halal as an aspect of Ethical Consumerism, and further explains “It’s about how we conduct our business…how we conduct ourselves in the world.”

Of the $8-9 billion in Kosher food sales, nearly $3.5 is bought by Muslims, and in Whole Foods supermarkets the Saffron Road line is first in frozen entrée sales. Within the larger sphere of grocery stores, the brand is 6th as it enjoys 250% growth. Success has been achieved through synchronized social media with print, online, retail merchandising, and extending to the blogger community.

In the realm of Halal foods, 35% of sales are processed foods and 10% in meats, according to Mian Riaz, PhD., director of food and protein at Texas A&M University. He stated that this is not a niche market anymore, and that 1.5 billion people eat ritually butchered food each day.

Abdalhamid Evans, founder and senior analyst of Imarat Consultants, further defined the scope of the Halal industries as finding shared values beyond religion. “They see Halal as lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, demonstrating awareness, and equitable,” Evans declared. “These values have commercial worth, and are described as eco-ethical and moral.”

Evans, a global Halal expert knows, “Halal has different connotations in different parts of the world. There are very nuanced contexts that corporations need to be aware of. Certification as a ‘cottage industry’ is going to end. Halal is big business and on the verge of becoming irrevocably sophisticated and complex. Certification is going through changes. Industry is looking for clear standards so there is a checks and balance. They want to see an accreditation industry with transparency.”

A new development is the application of the term to the Finance industry. Evans explained, “What Islamic Finance needs to do is get more involved in the real economy.” His message was that investment and financing should not be sought for gain, but more for building the strength, education, and solid economic stability for all. Halal then becomes an asset class with indexed funds, venture capital, and micro finance.

Emphasizing the need for unity, Hani Al-Mazeedi, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, expert in Halal quality, safety, and services, cited that the initial standards will be guidelines. Mark Overland, director of global certification at Cargill, Inc.— IFANCA’s Company of the Year—mentioned that his company has about 200 Halal certified plants out of their 800, based on consumer demand. None are in the U.S. His view is “We should recognize what consumers want, and then deliver that with integrity,” and he has echoed the sentiment for unity by advocating a council.

Underscoring many speakers was the impression that business people, researchers, and religious scholars often have no concept of the realities of each other’s constraints. The current challenge is to establish trusting relationships, communication with good will, and efforts to find equitable solutions.

Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc.~A Professional Development Company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.

Halal Fests Making a Wave in America!

Halal Food Tour Realizing the potential of Halal foodies at their community’s Halal Food Festival, co-founders of the popular web show Sameer’s Eats, Sameer S. Sarmast and Saad Malik, were blown away when the anticipated 1000 attendees swelled to a wave of 4000! Last August’s festival was planned with the local New Jersey Muslim Youth Community Center (www.myccnj.org), and Malik reported that most vendors even ran out of food. Mesmerized by the diverse crowd, Malik turned to his partner and said, “Dude, this is mind boggling. We need to take this on the road.”

Stoked by inspiration, Sarmast confirmed, “We saw that great Halal food brings people together no matter their race, religion, or professional background. This year we’ve decided to spread Halal food across America. We’re putting on five big events in five cities. We look forward to working with local organizations in each city to help their initiatives and more.”

The Halal Food Tour (www.halalfoodtour.com) has them partnered with Yvonne Maffei, the personable and effervescent publisher, cookbook author, and blogger of My Halal Kitchen (www.myhalalkitchen.com). The five city tour will kick off with Los Angeles on April 13th; then to New York in June, Washington DC in August, Chicago in October, and finally to Houston in December.

Besides appearances by Maffei, several other celebrities have signed on to appear at some of the venues. Mo Sabri, singer and lyricist; Preacher Moss, the thought provoking writer and founder of “Allah Made Me Funny” Muslim Comedy Tour; Aman Ali, reporter, storyteller, and co-creator of “30 Mosques in 30 Days;” and Omar Regan, who is best known for his acting and comedy talent. This creative production team is seeking many more popular Muslim personalities and businesses in each city that represent the diverse American Muslim landscape. The ticketed events are expected to bring much publicity to the nascent Halal Movement in America.

safe_image

Also inspired by the huge attendance of the New Jersey festival, Irfan Rydhan, the Event Director of Jam-Productions is collaborating in partnership with Atif Qureshi of Zabihah.com ( the world’s largest guide to Halal Restaurants and Products) and Javed Ali, founder of ILLUME Media (www.illumemagazine.com) to produce “California’s First Halal Food & Eid Festival” aka “Halal Fest” (www.HalalFest.com) for August 17th in the main parking lot of NewPark Mall in Newark, CA.

The event is open to the public and is scheduled approximately 1 week after Eid ul-Fitr. Rydhan stated that their intent is to cultivate awareness of delicious Halal food, promote Muslim businesses, and express diversity and cultures in an atmosphere of fun for the whole family with children’s air jumpers, super slide, and merry-go-round. Halal Fest will feature Halal food trucks, restaurant booths, and a large bazaar with approximately 30 vendors selling a variety of clothing, jewelry, arts & crafts, books, and other novelties.

Nationally recognized Chef Jimmy Sujanto of Padi Restaurant in Berkeley, CA that features Indonesian Halal dishes, will be there to conduct a Live Cooking Demonstration. Representing a variety of cuisines, arrangements have been made for Indo-Pakistani , Middle Eastern, African-American Soul Food, and Indian-American Fusion as well as the standard food festival fare of burgers, fried chicken and pizza – all Halal of course. Surely, it should entice everyone to explore some new flavors and bridge cultural gaps to familiarize neighboring communities with Halal food from Northern California.

For the adventurous set, the multi-talented partners have signed on a live skateboarding demonstration by professional American Muslim skateboarder Jordan Richter (read his story here: http://www.illumemagazine.com/zine/articleDetail.php?Wayward-Son-The-Jordan-Richter-Story-13769), and other activities for the whole family to enjoy are in the works.

Will this be the year for Americans to really catch the wave? Don’t miss it; sign up if you are a Halal enterprise or vendor. These events are likely to be the start of something big for Americans who really love food, and who doesn’t appreciate great Halal, healthful delights that appeal?