Every time I visited a local Muslim store, I noticed different halal logos and labels on them. There was a level of inconsistency and confusion about the difference between them and who issues these halal labels. That realization led me to organize the first United States Halal Expo and Summit. The idea was to bring halal businesses and consumers together.
Since then, slowly but surely, things started to change. The U.S. halal market’s popularity has skyrocketed among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The U.S. has become one of the largest exporters of halal meat to the Muslim world. More and more U.S. companies are certifying their products as halal.
The industry’s growth is not limited solely to food products. More than ever, people care that their cosmetics, medical supplements, and even finances meet halal standards. However, the U.S. halal tourism market has yet to catch up to many other nations.
To learn more about the halal industry and market, I traveled to Malaysia, Turkey, and Dubai, where I met with several halal producers and distributors. It was an eye-opener because of the sheer size of the halal market and its potential, especially in the U.S.
Later I realized the need for education and advocacy work for halal in the U.S. This inspired me to grow the halal industry in the United States and sought to create an organization to advance and advocate for the halal lifestyle in the U.S. That’s when the idea of creating the American Halal Council, a nonprofit organization that focuses on educating and advocating for halal came to life. It also promotes halal through research and halal verification of existing halal products and services. The AHC board is comprised of the world’s top halal experts. Today, AHC is the only nonprofit organization that serves halal consumers and businesses in the U.S.
As I continued to organize the Halal Expo and Summit every year, I learned so much about our market and its many aspects. I also had the opportunity to conduct several meetings with government officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These meetings were instrumental in learning the current policies and the ways to help advance them on the federal and local levels.
Last year, unfortunately, we were faced with the COVID-19 epidemic, which forced us to divert our attention towards the various challenges this created for halal businesses around the world. In order to protect halal stores and consumers, we launched a program to supply over a hundred stores employees with face shields in five major cities in the U.S. We also launched an education program to update halal store owners on best practices of protecting their employees and customers.
During the first days of the epidemic, we launched halal food distribution to seniors in our community. With the help of countless volunteers, we helped deliver hundreds of meals to seniors at their homes. We also worked with local governments and food pantries to provide halal meals to families who were impacted economically by the pandemic.
Last year we had to make a difficult decision whether to host the third annual Halal Expo and Summit or not. Once again, we decided to face the challenge instead of running from it. We held the event on a newly created visual platform called Hopin at a time when many other events were canceled or postponed indefinitely.
As we worked with businesses, consumers, and government officials we realized that hosting an annual event was not enough to grow this important industry. That’s when we decided to form the U.S. Halal Consultants with a dozen experts in the halal industry. The idea was to provide a platform for businesses who are seeking help in various areas such as business development, marketing, market research, certification, and training. Today our team of consultants provide services to many halal companies in the U.S. and those coming from outside.
Fortunately, we were able to accomplish many goals in a short time. However, there is so much more work to be done since the demand is higher than the supply in the domestic market. We are working diligently to create more awareness and transparency in the U.S. halal market. We are also working with local and international partners to create a U.S. based halal standard.
The halal industry is still a growing market, and our work has only just begun. We believe that people deserve to consume halal and tayyib products and services. We continue to work with many partners to advance our work and achieve our goals. This is what keeps us going, and we strive to offer the halal and tayyib way of life to every American.
Marwan Ahmad is the founder of the American Halal Council, U.S. Halal Consultants and Halal Expo & Summit