Catalonian food exports to the Middle East were $590 million in 2021 (Courtesy: Prodeca).

Halal Industry

Catalan food exporters eye the halal market

Catalonian government body Prodeca is promoting the region’s food around the world, and is giving the halal segment greater focus.


Catalonia is one of the main producers of food and beverages in Europe, with exports of €12.87 billion ($14.34 billion) in 2021. The regional government of Catalonia puts this part of Spain as the second largest European food ecosystem when including production, transformation, marketing and auxiliary industries.

In the halal segment, Catalonia stands out as being the first Spanish region to offer food and beverages with halal certification.

“As Catalonian companies are export orientated, they needed halal certification to get into the markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and they developed this some years ago. That is why we are now the first region in Spain for halal food and beverages. Most of the halal production is destined for foreign markets, which is why certification is important, and that is why companies accredited by markets in the GCC, Turkey and Asia have flourished in Spain over the last 10 years,” said Susanna Barquin Castany, Business Solutions Manager, Meat & Halal Sector at Prodeca, part of the Catalonia government to promote Catalan agri-food products.

The European Union accounts for the lion’s share of exports, at 53.6% or €6.9 billion ($7.6 bn), growing by 11.4% last year on 2020. Exports to the Middle East account for 4.12% of total exports, at €530.2 million ($590 mn) growing 18.9% in 2021 on the previous year. Africa accounts for 6.1%, at €785.07 million ($875.19 mn), growing 28.8% in 2021, and Asia accounts for 20.76% of exports, at €2.67 billion ($2.97 bn), growing 7.33% last year.

To the Middle East, cereals and milling products are the largest exports, at €163 million ($181.7 mn), followed by extracts, essences and concentrates, ingredients, and soup preparations at €57.51 million ($64.09 mn). Sweets, chocolates, confectionery, honey, coffee,and teas are €42.61 million ($47.49 mn), while meat and deli meats are €65.51 million ($73 mn). Meat and drinks excluded, olive oil is Catalonia’s biggest export to Asia, at €59.6 million ($66.42 mn). To Africa, extracts, essences and concentrates are the biggest exports, at €102.09 million ($113.7), followed by sweets, chocolate and confectionery at €42.25 million ($47 mn).

The top overall export is meat, notably the region’s famous deli cold cuts and cured meats.

In 2021, the value of Catalonia’s food and beverage exports increased by 12.34% and by 10.12% in volume compared to 2020. In fine food and related products, the increase is 18% in value and 14% in volume in 2021.

While Catalonian pork meats are popular around the world, such products are not exported to Muslim-majority countries. The sector has adapted by creating halal versions, such as halal bacon and chorizo (a dried and cured sausage) made from beef or turkey. “In addition to our very fine deli meats, we have almonds coated in chocolate, and honey with saffron,” said Barquin.

Catalonian exporters are increasingly moving beyond exporting to the closer markets of North Africa and the Middle East. “We have in mind Indonesia and Malaysia because they have growing spending power and are Muslim, and we need to work on that,” said Barquin.

Prodeca is supporting the development of halal food as it is for other segments like vegan and organic food.

“Halal is a novel sector and we need to normalise this kind of consumption. You can produce specialised chocolate that is organic, vegan, and gluten free, and halal is part of that. In our view, the halal consumer is no different from other consumer segments: they look for quality products at an adequate price, yes, but above all, they want confidence and service,” said Barquin.

PRODECA is supporting the III International Halal Congress of Alimentaria in Barcelona on 4-6 April. “We are sure halal food is a really powerful sector in terms of consumption, and Barcelona can be a good hub for the sector. We are Mediterranean, we are flexible and we can understand different cultures. And we’re in a good location geographically,” she said.

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