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Nippon Express seizes chance in halal food transport

Logistics company bets on Muslim tourism, growing hunger for Japanese cuisine

Nippon Express uses dedicated carts to transport halal food, keeping it separate from prohibited items such as pork.

TOKYO -- Nippon Express is expanding transportation services that meet Islamic dietary rules, anticipating steady growth in demand in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

The logistics company has acquired halal certification for distribution centers in Tokyo and Fukuoka. It plans to use these centers in eastern and western Japan as highly efficient distribution points for the transport of food and other products that adhere to Islamic law.

Nippon Express will also expand service between these centers and its halal-certified facilities in Malaysia.

The company is betting that demand for halal-compliant services will grow, along with the rising number of Muslim visitors to Japan and the surging popularity of Japanese food in other parts of Asia. Nippon Express said it is considering seeking halal certification for more of its distributions centers inside and outside Japan.

Keeping it pure

Preparing food according to halal rules requires strict control over the entire process, from procurement and transportation of food and ingredients, to preparation of the food itself. Halal food must not have contact with prohibited, or haram, items such as pork.

Nippon Express's halal transportation services designate certain areas in its distribution centers for halal products. In addition, dedicated carts, covers and elevators are used to transport halal products around the centers to keep them from coming into contact with prohibited items. Containers used to transport halal food are purified according to the Islamic ritual cleansing procedures. 

Nippon Express obtained halal certification in 2016 for one of its distribution centers in Tokyo from a certification body in Japan. One of its centers in Fukuoka was recently certified as well. The company will use these two facilities to improve efficiency, shortening the time required to deliver halal food.

Halal transportation services make up a small fraction of the company's business, but Nippon Express sees an opportunity in catering to the needs of the growing ranks of Muslim tourists in Japan. Target customers include food wholesalers looking to deliver halal products to restaurants and retailers in Kyushu.

In Malaysia, Nippon Express received halal certification for a distribution center from a local certification body in 2014.

The company uses the center to transport wagyu Japanese beef and fresh fish such as tuna from Japan to Malaysia, and to bring ingredients for in-flight meals for Muslim passengers from Malaysia to Japan.

It has established the new halal-certified center in Fukuoka -- a distribution hub serving the rest of Asia -- to meet growing demand for Japanese food and ingredients around the region. Japanese cuisine is becoming more popular, especially in Muslim countries.

The new facility is expected to improve efficiency and lower the cost of operations.

There are few Japanese companies that offer integrated halal transportation services both inside and outside Japan, according to Nippon Express.

The company will consider expanding its halal operations to Indonesia as well. "We are ready to increase the number of halal-certified centers in Japan as demand grows," said a Nippon Express executive.

(Nikkei)

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