Gehlenberg is a sleepy village in northern Germany. It has a population of 1,600 and boasts a church, community hall, war memorial and a pub, along with a few wooden crosses by the roadside and a tiny chapel. It's a staunchly Catholic village, but on three days of the week, the Prophet Muhammad makes the rules -- in a white factory building on the outskirts of the village, that is. That is where the Meemken family business produces a broad range of sausage that follows Islamic food standards. The company supplies almost 100 tons of salami and various other types of sausage each week to food retailers in Germany and abroad.
International food companies such as Nestle and Unilever have for years offered a range of products that meet so-called halal food standards. Halal is an Arabic term that means pure, or permissible. The term refers to a way of life that follows Islamic law. German companies are gradually realizing that catering to faith-oriented consumption is a good way to make money. In these times of economic crisis, finding new markets is more tempting than ever.
The potential market for halal food in Germany is huge. An estimated four million Muslims live in Germany, and the community is pre-programmed to grow because Muslims have a higher birth rate than non-Muslims. Halal already accounts for 17 percent of the global food market, according to the World Halal Forum based in Malaysia.