Taking Bigger Bite of Global Food Pie
The Halal market has some of the best growth potentials. By 2020, the global Halal market could be worth over US$5 trillion, from an estimated US$3.6 trillion in 2013.
Food and beverage leads Muslim spend by category. The Economist estimates by 2018, it will outpace the growth in the conventional food market to reach US$1.6 trillion and will account for over 17% of the world food market.
The Asia Pacific has the highest market share in terms of revenue. Increasing population and increase in disposal income amongst Muslims as well as non-Muslims are driving demand.
With its well-renowned food culture, Singapore is well placed to tap the industry’s growth. Eating is a national pastime and food is a national obsession and frequent topic of conversation amongst residents.
More importantly is Singapore’s Halal certification system. In the absence of international standards, certification from a recognised authority is key to product acceptance in the Halal market.
Singapore’s Halal certificate is well-established. Started in 1978 by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis), or the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, it is possibly the first Halal certification system in the world.
The Muis Halal Certification system is also certified to ISO/IEC 17065:2012, the international standard for certification bodies. Awarded in 2018, it is the first in ASEAN to be ISO/IEC certified.
“This gives an added credibility to our certificate. Our processes are much more organised, integrated and transparent,” said Munir Hussain, Assistant Director, Halal Certification Strategic Unit, Muis.
Tapping on Grants to Expand and Grow
The government is ramping up support for Singapore’s food industry. Under the Food Manufacturing Industry Transformation Map (ITM) unveiled in 2016, new grants and tax deductions were introduced to help food manufacturers upgrade and innovate to keep pace with changing consumers’ tastes and advancing technology.
The aim is to raise productivity by 4.5% on average and create 2,000 new jobs for the industry by 2020, and develop Singapore into a leading food and nutrition hub in Asia by 2025.
Speaking at the launch of the ITM, Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry said, “Our food manufacturing industry feeds Singaporeans’ love for food with a wide variety of products that are delicious, safe and of high quality. With our excellent reputation for food safety, the industry has also become more export-oriented. Exports from the food manufacturing industry have grown at a compound annual rate of 6.1% in the last five years, such that today more than half of our industry output is exported.”
This is a boon for home-grown food manufacturers like Pondok Abang, which produces Halal ready-to-eat meals and frozen food. With the new Productivity Solutions Grant, which offers up to 70% funding for off-the-shelf productivity solutions to buy new machinery to boost productivity, Pondok is investing in a German-made machine costing S$130,000 to package frozen and ready-to-eat food.
“Bringing in machines lets us teach our staff new things. There is progression,” company owner Hasan Abdul Rahman told The Straits Times. “When the company expands, staff also expand in their career path – no longer are they packers, but they can be supervisors, who teach others how to operate the machines.”
Pondok Abang is also tapping on the new Enterprise Development Grant, which provides up to 70% funding support for local firms to scale up and go international.
As the Muslim community champion Muis has weighed in to help Halal food manufacturers to make process improvements and raise productivity, as in the Singapore Poultry Hub (SPH).
The SPH is a joint venture formed to operate a poultry slaughterhouse. By teaming up together rather than operating separately, the five parties – Tan Chin Long, Kee Song Holdings, Sinmah Holdings (S), Tong Huat Poultry Processing Factory and Tysan Food – can enjoy greater economies of scale.
“We are working with the companies to help improve the process flow. The abattoir comes under the Muis poultry and product schemes. But not all the items in the abattoir will be Halal-certified,” said Mr Munir.
Certification System Scales Up
Over the years, the Muis’ Halal certification system has undergone several upgrades to keep pace with developments. The first major upgrade was in 2007-2008. From a manual system in the early years, it was computerised in November 2007.
Developed in house, the MUIS eHalal System (MeS) manages the entire certification process from end-to-end, making application approval faster and easier as compared to the manual process then. It is used by companies for the submissions of new applications as well as to make changes and renew their certificates. It is also used by officers to process and approve applications, issue automated renewal certifications as well as highlight shortcomings on issues discovered during audits.
In March 2008, Muis raised the ante by phasing in more rigorous certification requirements. Called the Singapore Muis Halal Quality Management System (HalMQ) it was developed jointly by Muis and then standards champion SPRING Singapore. HalMQ, which encompasses seven types of certification schemes spanning across the food chain, from products and eating premises to central kitchens, factories and poultry abattoirs, is aligned with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). This ensures that companies meet the requirements for food safety as well as Halal concurrently.
Now in its 40th year, the system is undergoing another major upgrade to be in sync with Singapore’s push for a more digital, more connected society.
Muis has tapped into the government’s Digital Accelerator programme to re-engineer its business processes to improve productivity and efficiency. Muis e-Halal System 3.0 (MeS 3.0) will be a cut above its predecessor, the MeS 2.0, said Mr Munir.
Developed with input from internal and external stakeholders, MeS 3.0 will:
• Improve productivity by eliminating pain points such as manual or repetitive entry of information.
• Facilitate submission of application with more user-friendly interface.
• Eliminate several paper document submissions.
• Enhance security by using SingPass or CorpPass and support online payments. Receipts will also be issued online and the application statuses will be updated automatically.
Hosted by LicenceOne, the one-stop licensing portal which helps businesses apply for all Singapore government licences, MeS 3.0 is also more convenient for new and existing applicants. Within the same portal, they can apply for all other relevant licences needed when setting up their businesses.
The system is being steadily rolled out in three phases beginning in the third quarter of 2018.
Phase one aims to make the system more user friendly. By being hosted by LicenceOne (www.l1.gov.sg), submission for restaurants and catering is made in one application instead of two. Applicants can also make their payments online.
In phase two, the level of integration will increase. For instance, reports from unannounced checks on premises can be recorded in the system unlike the past where two separate systems were needed.
There will be further enhancements in phase three. “We are looking at automation to help companies overcome the pain points. Keying in ingredients is one of them. We will see how we can automate using QR code,” said Mr Munir.
To ensure adoption of the new system goes without a hitch, Muis has developed an eHalal training manual as well as installed a kiosk at its office. Staff will be on hand to take users through step by step.
With the emergence of new players in the Halal industry, demand for Muis Halal certificates is on the uptick. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of Halal-certified premises rose 72% to 4,456 in 2017. Of these, 20.5% are manufacturing facilities which come under its ‘product’ and ‘whole plant’ schemes.
The time taken to approve applications is a lot faster, as processes are more streamlined. “Right now we take the approach, if companies are not ready with all the requisite papers, we reject them upfront, just like an ISO audit. This is not a licensing scheme, it is certification,” said Mr Munir.
Since 2 May 2018, auditing, which was once undertaken by a third party, has come under the purview of Muis.
“This ensures proper co-ordination, hence applications are much faster. It depends on how fast companies can comply with the requirements. They can be certified in three to four weeks,” said Mr Munir.
In the past the entire process could stretch out up to four months as there was a lot of back and forth, especially when companies were insufficiently prepared.
As the industry continues to expand, more staff has been recruited to cope with the increasing workload. Over the past two years, staff strength has doubled, putting a constraint on space at the existing premises at the Singapore Islamic Hub.
To accommodate the increasing numbers, the Halal Certification Strategic Unit is relocating to bigger premises in Mayo Street. Occupying three levels, the new office will be better placed to meet the industry’s needs, both now and into the future.
Bitten by Travel Bug
Travelling amongst Muslims is big and getting bigger. Growing affluence as well as increasing population, which is expanding at more than twice as fast as the overall world population, is driving demand.
A report from MasterCard and Muslim travel website HalalTrip estimates that by 2026, travelling expenditure amongst Muslim international travellers will hit US$300 billion, an increase of 92% over US$156 billion in 2016.
The growth potential is particularly good amongst the young, which represents 60% of the population in Muslim-majority countries. The report estimates that millennials – those aged between 20 and 36 – will spend more than US$100 billion annually on travelling by 2026, up from US$55 billion in 2016.
Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of Islamic travel specialist HalalTrip, said that while older Muslims typically travel in large families once a year, young Muslims take multiple trips.“Travel within this young generation of Muslims is booming as consumers with more disposable income seek more exotic experiences and far-flung destinations than their parents. Their per trip expenditure could be lower than the earlier generation but since they make multiple trips per year, their overall expenditure is higher.”
Singapore is a favourite with Muslim travellers. In the latest Mastercard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI), Singapore is the most popular non-Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) destination for Muslim travellers and the sixth most popular destination in the world.
Mastercard Singapore country manager Deborah Heng said, “Singapore continues to appeal to Muslim travellers for its enhanced tourism offerings and cultural proximity while also providing for their needs comprehensively.”
Malaysia retains pole position in the overall rankings, which cover 130 destinations, with Indonesia in joint second with the United Arab Emirates.
Singapore Rolls out the Red Carpet
The hospitality industry is rolling out the red carpet to cater to the burgeoning number of Muslim travellers. More hotels are installing prayer rooms, offering iftar room service menus and providing the qibla (direction to Mecca) in their guest rooms. While Halal food is easily available in this multicultural country with its sizeable Muslim population, there are over a dozen hotels with a Muslim kitchen. Among them are Royal Plaza on Scotts, Grand Hyatt Singapore, Grand Mercure Roxy Singapore, Fairmount Singapore, Village Hotel Katong and Marina Mandarin, and the numbers are increasing.
This green city, easily the greenest in Asia, is a great place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Parks can be found across the country, including the iconic Gardens by the Bay with its intriguing sculptures and vertical gardens, the world-renowned Botanic Gardens, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and the 87-hectare SungeiBuloh Wetland Reserve.