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Halal food in Azerbaijan: A captive market?

Azerbaijan’s population is majority Muslim. Estimates vary, depending on the surveying standards applied, but the general consensus is that between 91-99% of Azerbaijanis identify as observers of Islam. If you’re a supplier of halal products, Azerbaijan might be the market for you.

Globally, halal food and drink is predicted to be worth a staggering $1.9 trillion by 2019, 16 times larger than Azerbaijan’s economy, according to a report from Thomson Reuters. Azerbaijan remains relatively undeveloped in terms of halal – but the potential is hiding below the surface.

A look at halal food & drink in Azerbaijan

This Central Asian state is home to over 9 million inhabitants. And, as stated above, the vast majority of the population considers itself Muslim. Essentially, this means the majority of food products should be considered halal. 

However, Azerbaijanis tend to be less observant than other majority Muslim countries. For example, per-capita consumption of alcohol is comparable with neighbouring Orthodox Christian Georgia. 

Despite consumption of alcohol and non-halal foodstuffs being a big no-no for observant Muslims, Azerbaijanis take a more laid back approach to their devotion. However, the halal sector is starting to gain momentum, pointing towards big opportunities for food and drink exports, food production machinery and investment in processing sites nationwide.

Halal standardisation hits Azerbaijan

Since 2012, Azerbaijan has approved four separate halal standards, which cover production, export, packaging, marketing and imports of halal goods. The latest of these came into force in April 2014. The end goal was to create a standardisation framework matching international criteria, in order to protect Azerbaijani citizens from “haram”, or forbidden, produce. These standards are: 

• AZS 757-2014 “Certification of halal products”
• AZS 372-2012 “Halal standards for meat. General requirements to production, transportation, storage and sale”
• AZS 386-2012 “General rules for using the term halal”
• AZS 731-2012 “halal foods. General requirements”

What’s more, the government published a document, “General Guidelines on Halal Food” in 2015 listing all animal types considered halal, further spreading awareness nationwide. 

Capitalising on increased Halal consumption in Azerbaijan

Only four domestic food producers are currently recognised as compliant with the state halal standards in Azerbaijan. This means there is a huge gap in the market for foreign companies to exploit; whether it is in exporting products or setting up production sites in the country.

Al Islami, Dubai-based producers of halal food, and one of Technavio’s predicted biggest halal vendors to 2019, has been expanding into Azerbaijan since 2014. Amongst its product range are burgers, sausages, mutton, minced meat and seafood – indicating the types of halal offerings popular amongst Azerbaijani consumers. 

In terms of imports, the hottest commodities would be in the form of meat and dairy products, outside of livestock to be slaughtered domestically. Chicken and beef meals form a large chunk of halal cuisine, and this is reflected in Azerbaijan’s import profile. 

In 2014, Azerbaijan imported $48.9 million worth of poultry, alongside $34.7 million worth of frozen beef meat. 2015 saw the Central Asian state import close to $85 million worth of animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs (dairy and egg products are considered halal as long as they come from animals found in the “General Guidelines on Halal Food” document). 

Keeping in mind Euromonitor predicts that the global halal meat market will rise by 26% by 2030, there is plenty of scope for expansion into Azerbaijani markets in both the immediate future and long term.

Azerbaijan is also currently undergoing a nationwide programme of boosting agricultural and food production to move away from its reliance on mineral exports. As such, investment in new production facilities and factories is happening across the country – providing a space for foreign firms to offer cutting edge technologies and boost Azerbaijan’s halal output considerably.

Find more halal opportunities at WorldFood Azerbaijan

Want to uncover more of Azerbaijan’s potential as a world-beating halal food and drinks market? WorldFood Azerbaijan 2017 is your destination. 

Held between 17-19 May 2017 at the Baku Expo Centre, this exhibition brings together the leading lights of Azerbaijan’s food industry with international businesses - giving your company the perfect platform to get your products seen by interested buyers. 

Learn more about WorldFood Azerbaijan today, and get in touch to book your space at the show now.


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