The iconic Swiss chocolate Toblerone quietly became halal earlier this year, according to the newspaper SonntagsBlick.
Owned by the American food company Mondelez, Toblerone chocolate has been produced in conformity with islamic law since April 2018, said the newspaper. The product is not labelled halal.
The recipe, which contains sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, honey, milk fat, almonds, soya lecithin, egg white, and vanillin, has not been changed, but the ingredients and production process at the factory near Bern, which produces all Toblerone, have been adapted, a company spokesperson told SonntagsBlick. More specifically, this means the production process must be regularly inspected by imams and avoid all contact with pork or alcohol – alcohol is sometimes used to clean blades and other factory equipment.
The practice is nothing new. For example, the Nestlé Group has more than 150 factories worldwide producing Halal products in 43 countries1.
The halal food market is expected to reach US$740 billion by 2025, a significant incentive for companies to create halal products.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the book the Black Swan, explains how minority food requirements can prevail over the majority if their demands are not costly.
For example, because non-vegans will happily eat vegan food but not the other way around, food makers can make their lives easy by certifying all non-meat, non-dairy and egg-free products as vegan, thus creating products that everyone will eat. A win-win.
Taleb also thinks this phenomenon explains the dominance of automatic cars in the US. They took over, not because a majority initially preferred them but because someone who can drive a manual can also drive an automatic, while someone only able to drive an automatic cannot drive a manual.
However, halal food certifications can result in negative reactions from some consumers, which explains why some companies choose to make these changes with little fanfare. In the UK, there has been consumer pressure on retailers to disclose whether meat, a very different product to chocolate, is halal or not, according to the Telegraph.