Javier Albarracín, Halal Alimentaria: “Spain is an increasingly interesting market for the halal industry”

Javier Albarracín: Spain is a tolerant society. (Photo: Alimentaria)

Javier Albarracín, Head of Alimentaria’s halal section, about halal products in Spanish supermarkets, Muslim travelers and the Expo Halal at the food fair Alimentaria in Barcelona.

Mr. Albarracín, why is Spain and the Expo Halal Alimentaria important for the global halal industry?
Spain is an increasingly interesting market for the halal industry due to several reasons. There are approximately two million Muslim population in Spain with a significant demographic growth in recent years. Moreover, Spain is an increasingly attractive destination for Muslim tourists of all kind, from leisure to business and from medical to MICE tourism sectors, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, thus there is a growing demand in certain urban areas for halal gastronomy and accommodation. This is especially true in Spanish cities such as Cordoba, Granada or Barcelona. Finally, the first circle of internationalization of the Spanish companies is a very Muslim one: North Africa, Middle East as well as certain sub-Saharan countries and the Balkans. In many of these markets, the Spanish services and products are well introduced, thus requiring and increasing adaptation to the sophistication and tastes of these Muslim consumers. Expo Halal Alimentaria, with its size, diversity of sectors and global outreach, is a unique opportunity to put together under one event all the interested stakeholders involved in this expanding business ecosystem.

What are the special offers for exhibitors and visitors at the Expo Halal Alimentaria in Barcelona?
Alimentaria is offering the most comprehensive approach to the halal food sector in Europe. In the framework of Alimentaria 2020 there will be the 3rd International Halal Congress, with more than 20 international experts presenting the last trends and patterns of consumption of this segment. Visitors will also find a very relevant and diversified halal offer with more than 250 companies showing all sorts of halal food and beverage products. Meanwhile, there will be showcookings of international cuisines to present the diversity of possibilities that this segment of gastronomy offers: Thai and South-African chefs will be cooking their typical national dishes for the joy of the participants. Alimentaria is also developing a special program of halal B2B meetings, putting together the needs and the offers of this segment, facilitating business among international companies interested in the halal segment. Beyond all this, there will be more than 4.500 exhibitors form all around the world, allowing visitors to meet with businesses and relevant stakeholders from many Muslim markets from all the continents. Visitors will be able to benefit from all these activities and experiences during the four days of Alimentaria 2020.

How many Halal producers have Spain? How many produce for the local market, how many for the global?
In Spain there are around 900 halal certified producers of mainly food products. However, the interest for this segment has increased steadily in last years, with a significant exponential growth of the interest of many companies and institutions. In fact, many Spanish national and regional authorities and institutions are developing policies to coordinate efforts with the private sector to encourage companies to enter this growing business segment. Most of Spanish companies export their halal certified products to European markets, North Africa and the Gulf countries, but both, the growing demand from all sorts of restaurants in Spain as well as the growing number of tourist of Muslim background in key cities of the country are increasing the potential of the domestic Spanish market.   

How easy is it to find halal products in the Spanish supermarkets? Who buys these products?
Halal meat is very easily found in many stores and increasingly supermarkets. Other products are slowly being introduced due to the increasing normalization of other gastronomic references from the world that use halal ingredients and products. Therefore, there is a growing offer of all sorts of Asian products from Southeast Asia or from the Middle East that are halal. Consumers are all Muslim population living in Spain but also increasingly restaurants and other readymade food chains as well as stakeholders dealing with Muslim inbound tourism and big international events: wedding planners, event’s organisers, specialised tourism events.

Spain is a very important cultural destination for Muslim travellers. What products and services does Spain offer these tourists, especially for women travelling alone?
Spain is a tolerant society, open to the world and significantly respectful with diversity, either religious, ethnic or any other kinds. People from different cultural backgrounds feel welcomed in Spain. This is a trend that Muslims perceive and is one of the main reasons why Spain is in the very top of non-OIC tourist destinations in the world. Families but also women can feel save, comfortable in the streets and in public spaces of Spain. And with a huge experience of Spain in the tourism sector and the vast historical and cultural heritage of Muslim influence, Spain is a very unique destination for this kind of tourism. The most relevant stores and outlets have adapted their offer to attract Muslim shoppers. Restaurants are increasingly offering halal menus. Arab is a language increasingly used due to the million Arab citizens living in Spain. The cultural and natural diversity of the country makes it very attractive. The maturity of the service sector brings guarantees to the tourists. All these factors, and the commonalities of Spain’s way of being and culture affinity, have made this country a very attractive destination for them.

Interview: Kemal Çalık