All food in Turkey is halal

The gold bear likes to point out that it makes children happy, and adults as well. But the golden bear does not make people who appreciate it that no pork remains are stirred into their sweets. Muslims, for example. That's why there is now the inclusion bear: halal fruit gums. So without pork gelatine. Produced with a German imprint by a German company in Turkey and so far only available as a re-import in Turkish supermarkets.

There are more than 4000 of these markets in Germany. It used to be small corner shops that Turks actually call Uncle Mehmet shops. Many of them have now grown into wholesale markets. In addition to cheap fruit and vegetables, there is an ever larger selection of products, almost all of which are imported from Turkey: cheese, olives, honey, beef salami, yoghurt, biscuits and gummy bears. German food manufacturers and retailers have been pondering how they can lure customers and their wallets away from Uncle Mehmet to the German supermarket shelf.

The three million Turks in Germany spend 17.6 billion euros annually, says Engin Ergün, who, with his agency Ethno IQ, explains to German companies the term "Turkish consumers". For Ergün, Turkish is a broad term that has less to do with the passport than with a feeling. And a lot with food.

Halal is important to many German-Turks, although religion does not play a role in their everyday life

It is Engin Ergün who advised the bear to give up pigs. Because most people are pretty conservative, especially in the kitchen. "Eating like grandma's" is a need for which one does not have to belong to any particular religion. And for most Turks, like grandma's, eating means following certain religious rules. "We are currently observing the third and fourth generation of German-Turks that it is important that the food is halal." Although they drink alcohol and religion is a rare occurrence in their everyday life. And although in case of doubt they prefer to go to the German supermarket, because there the chances are higher that not only an underground station but also a parking lot is nearby.

The only problem is that German supermarkets now have all kinds of exotic corners with curry pastes and algae leaves, but no reliable system that warns of pork residues in products. Germans are generous with pigs: it is not only allowed in salami, but is also hidden in cake icing, yogurt, soap and fruit gums. However, that is only in the smallest print. "There is little credibility for Muslim customers," says Ergün. For many, it seems safer to go directly to the Turkish dealer than to study lists of ingredients.

So would a Halal seal be a solution? One of these is emblazoned on the pork-free gummy bears, for example. Because in the perception of the layman, halal means above all things: no pork, no alcohol and meat only from slaughtered animals. In an ethical-religious interpretation, however, halal has a much more extensive meaning. As the opposite of "haram" (forbidden), halal denotes the good, the permitted. And good also means: no factory farming, fair wages, healthy animals, respect for creation.

Suspiciously many halal stickers on kebab shops

When Hamza Wördemann from the Central Council of Muslims in Germany explains the word halal, it sounds like he's talking about organic and fair trade. "Anyone who eats halal should actually only eat meat once a week anyway, and they should also know exactly the conditions under which their food was made."

In practice, this is difficult to implement for most, admits Wördemann. And the majority of the 200 self-proclaimed Halal certification bodies in Germany label products as halal if only the minimum requirement "pig-free" is met. Sometimes that is not even true. He was pleased to see Halal stickers on more and more kebab shops, says Ergün, the marketing man. Then at some point the stickers appeared to be suspiciously numerous. "Halal has become a commercialized term. People know they can sell well with it." But because it is a religious and not a legally protected name, it is easy to cheat. Nobody has to fear punishment.

Hamza Wördemann is therefore not in favor of a uniform seal, but of precise product labeling. "If it says on a fruit yoghurt that it does not contain pork, the customer is already helped." Although Wördemann is primarily concerned with the eating habits of German Muslims from a religious perspective, he also sees a market. "Most people are willing to pay up to ten percent more for halal food."

Not only in this respect, the halal buyers are pretty close to the organic buyers. "In our time of digital globalization, people are looking for cultural security. This is what makes regional products so popular," says Professor Gunther Hirschfelder, who researches European food culture as a cultural scientist at the University of Regensburg. For him, the halal trend is less of a religious phenomenon than the attempt to "maintain cultural independence". And just like organic market followers on the one hand eat lactose-free, but on the other hand they may also like to eat burgers, many Muslims who otherwise never go to the mosque will only eat and drink after sunset from June 28th. Then Ramadan begins. Fasting like grandma did.