Mitsui Invests $7.6m In Halal Production Drive

To meet growing global demand for halal food products, and offset a potential domestic slowdown in sugar consumption, Japan’s Mitsui Sugar Company will start producing halal sugar. Demand for sugar has lessened due to Japanese consumers becoming more educated about some of the sweetener’s adverse health effects. According to Japan’s agriculture ministry, demand was roughly 75% of what it was in 1985 for the year ending in September.At the same time, there has recently been an increasing number of visitors to Japan from Muslim countries. These visitors, as well as seasoning makers, are seeking out halal offerings. Sugar refining traditionally involves removing pigments and other impurities from raw sugar by using bone char derived from cattle. While this animal product can filter both pigments and ash at the same time, sugar produced in this way is not compliant with Islamic dietary rules. The word ‘halal’ literally means permissible or lawful; the Halal Food Authority rules are based on Islamic Shari’ah. To create halal sugar, Mitsui Sugar, which has 939 employees, will eliminate the use of bone char from its sugar production process at its Fukuoka plant in southwestern Japan. Instead, the company will filter its sugar using activated charcoal. The change will cost the company US $7.6m, and the new sugar production units will start being operational in mid-2018. If all goes well, Mitsui will change over its other production facilities as well. Though the switch is expensive upfront, it will also ultimately save some money in the long term, as yearly production costs sink by US $900,000 due to reductions in water and electricity usage. In addition to meeting demand for halal food in Japan, the company will also look to export its halal sugar throughout the Southeast Asian market.

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