Brunei Halal brand is building a global standard for halal foods on standards, reputation and trust, says Noel Shield.

It’s been only one and a half years since the Brunei government launched its branded ‘unified approach’ to halal food accreditation, but it is gaining prominence. The green Brunei Halal brand is now visible internationally, pursuing a share of the increasingly wealthy Muslim market and raising the international profile of Brunei itself.

Brunei Halal brand

Brunei Halal mark

 

The brand now includes a selection of packaged foods outside the ‘traditional’ meat and fresh produce range, including snack foods and non-alcoholic wines. 150 new product lines are planned to appear by June 2011, with cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to follow. How did Brunei Halal become what is arguably the world’s most trusted halal mark in such a short time?

According to Islamic dietary guidelines, food may contain no pork or pork-derived products, or any other animals prohibited by shariah law. Any meat or other animal-derived product must come from animals slaughtered according to strict compliance procedures. No alcohol content is permitted and equipment should be free of any or alcohol or non-halal meat residue.

Brunei Halal is the first attempt to establish an internationally accepted accreditation for shariah compliant food production at all stages of the supply chain. Halal approval around the world is currently the domain of various government owned and private organizations. With that variation comes differing degrees of compliance and trust, and even some items labeled as certified in fact have no such approval.

In 2009, Brunei took the chance to create a locally named brand that could become a trusted world standard. Under instructions from His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei it formed Brunei Warifah Holdings to ‘own’ the brand, which then entered a joint venture with the newly formed Ghanim International Food Corporation (itself a joint venture between Brunei Global Islamic Investment and China’s Kerry FSDA) to supervise the accreditation process and manage both the Brunei Halal mark of approval and the brand itself.

Brunei Halal Hamper promotion

Brunei Halal’s Noel Shield says it’s the “solid certification procedures” that make the brand stand out. Even after manufacturers have been researched and audited by Brunei Religious Affairs, inspectors return to factories to supervise equipment and packaging procedures to ensure there are no lapses. Brunei, he says, is the only country to employ such stringent measures and this helps build consumer confidence.

Brunei Halal takes pride in the fact that obtaining its mark is tough. Accreditation goes further than just religious guidelines, also adhering to strict corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles and ensuring factories operate under safe and hygienic conditions, meet environmental standards and do not utilize child labor. The conditions apply to everyone in the supply chain, from primary producers through to logistics and distributors.

“We’re not afraid to reject producers if they don’t meet our requirements,” says Shield. “In fact, we rejected four factories last year alone. We won’t touch anything that’s not HACCP (the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point standard) and we’ve even turned down HACCP approved manufacturers.”

Brunei Halal display at ASEAN-Japan Centre in Tokyo

 

Brunei Halal is averse to criticizing procedures and authorities in other countries, focusing instead on promoting its own integrity as an official brand backed by a country known for its observance.

“Brunei even invented the word ‘halalness’,” says Shield. The word is now in widespread use around the world. People’s trust in the brand’s reputation is paramount, and everyone understands that cutting corners would spell disaster.

Brunei Halal is part of the five strategies to diversify Brunei’s economy over the next two decades, as specified in ‘Vision 2035’ plan. They are: to build consumer brands, to boost offshore investment, to encourage foreign investment in Brunei, to assist local SMEs and to provide an ample supply of jobs for young Bruneians.

 

by Jon Southurst, Tokyo