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Food & Beverage

Japan instant rice maker hopes to feed Muslims going to Mecca

Small Tokyo company makes first foray into global halal food market

These instant meals will be sold to pilgrims going to Mecca this year. (Photo by Miho Saito)

TOKYO -- Muslims visiting the holy city of Mecca during the Hajj pilgrimage this month will form a test audience for a new line of instant meals from a Japanese company expanding in the halal food market.

Onishi Foods has prepared 1,200 packages of versions of well-known rice dishes, including Indian biryani, Malaysian nasi goreng and Thai gaprao, that pilgrims can cook in about 15 minutes by adding hot or cold water.

The meals have been halal certified for what marks the company's first overseas sales push for such products. 

The Tokyo company has enlisted a Saudi Arabian partner to sell the three products to Muslims making the annual five-day Hajj pilgrimage, which regularly draws over 2 million of the faithful from around the world.

Onishi, a subsidiary of rice cracker maker Kameda Seika, is one of a number of food companies in Japan increasing their halal lineups as tourism and emigrating workers bring more Muslims to the country.

In Japan, Onishi is known mainly as a maker of instant foods geared for natural disaster stockpiles. The meals contain precooked, dehydrated rice that can be reconstituted with water.

Onishi has worked to make its products in Japan halal compliant. The company will consider making a full-fledged entry into foreign markets based in part on the reception to its Hajj products.

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