Hungry for halal

Amid a surging market, halal foods take centre stage at annual festival

From kulfi (a frozen dessert popular in India and Pakistan) and date syrup to Afghan dumplings and halal certified beef jerky—all these delicacies and more could be found in the aisles of the Halal Food Fest, which rolled into Toronto on July 15.

The sixth edition of the festival was expected to draw more than 35,000 attendees from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond over its two-day run at the International Centre.

Vendors, about 200 in all, offered samples of their latest halal food offerings from local restaurants and bakeries as well as consumer packaged goods firms. Alongside smaller specialty companies such as Let's Feed (date syrup), Ashak (Middle Eastern dumplings), The Mocktail Company, and Carne Jerky Co., bigger players like Maple Lodge Farms with its Zabiha Halal brand and Loblaw's Sufra Halal brand also had a presence.

The halal food market is surging in Canada and is now worth more than $1 billion, and it's growing by double digits each year. Salima Jivraj, co-founder of the festival and founder of the Halal Foodie website, attributes the growth in halal to a growing Muslim population in Canada. "As a result, the market is growing and that is capturing the attention of industry, and we're seeing a lot more new products coming out and new restaurants are opening up," says Jivraj, who is also managing director of halal at Toronto-based Nourish Food Marketing.

Halal means "permissible" in Arabic and refers to foods that adhere to Islamic law and are fit for Muslim consumption.

Jivraj says the biggest growth is coming from halal proteins such as beef and chicken, but also from value-added products. "We've done our own research through Nourish and we find a lot of growth in areas in consumer packaged goods that are delivering good value and convenience." She adds that outside of protein categories, dairy and HMR are big, but halal-certified confectionery is also important. "It's important to consumers because there are a lot of bi-products in confectionery that may or may not be halal."

Read: Halal consumers feel underserved by food manufacturers and retailers: study

While the festival, a consumer event, doesn't target retailers, Jivraj says she is surprised by the number of buyers from grocery chains who check it out each year. "I feel like there's representation from all the major grocers who come to see what's new in halal but also what's accessible—what they can get their hands on right now."








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