Eyeing the vast market potential of the world’s burgeoning Muslim community, South Korea’s pharmaceutical companies are seeking halal certification for their drugs to diversify and ramp-up their market share.
Halal — which means “permissible” in Arabic — certification ensures that a given product strictly complies with Islamic dietary law through production, storage and delivery. Halal foods must be made without blood and exclude meat from carnivorous animals, including pigs, and animals not slaughtered according to Muslim tradition.
Ildong Pharmaceutical has taken the lead in adapting to halal standards by becoming the first Korean pharma company to receive halal certification from the Korea Muslim Federation, KMF, in September for its lactobacillus supplement Biovita.
The probiotics used in Biovita and other supplements — lactobacillus sporogenes, bacillus subtillis and clostridium butyricum — were certified halal by the KMF last week as well, according to Ildong.
“By earning halal certification for not only Biovita but also the basal probiotics, Ildong is now prepared to export not only our finished probiotic drugs but independent base materials to the Muslim community,” an Ildong spokesperson told The Korea Herald.
“We are particularly eyeing markets in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia — which house the world’s largest halal certification agencies and high Muslim populations — as well as those in the Middle East,” he said.
The KMF halal certification is equivalent to those of two of the world’s top halal certification agencies — Malaysia’s MAKIM and Singapore’s MUIS — in the two countries, according to their cross-certification agreement. The KMF is set to conclude a similar agreement with Indonesia’s MUI.
Meanwhile, YuYu Pharma is currently developing new drug production measures to meet halal standards while Green Cross, a Korean biopharmaceuticals company, is paying close attention to potential changes in halal regulations in the Muslim countries.
As standard drug capsules are primarily made with gelatin derived from pigs or cows, YuYu Pharma has been actively examining ways to develop a new type of capsule using alternative materials or plant extracts to meet halal standards.
“YuYu Pharma is in the process of developing plant-based soft capsules, which should be ready within a year or two, as we need to test and confirm the capsule’s safety, stability and profit prospects, all very important considerations,” said a YuYu representative.
Green Cross is “closely watching changes in halal standards in the Islamic world, where it already exports its plasma-derived biopharmaceuticals like albumin,” according to a company spokesperson.
Industry experts called on more Korean firms to actively pursue halal certification, citing the need to prepare early for the forthcoming policy changes and adhere to consumer preferences in the Islamic world, which takes up around 23 percent of the world’s population.
“Though halal certification is mandated only for food products as of now, it is expected to expand into the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors in the near future,” said Jang Geon, president of the Korea Institute of Halal Industry.
“Moreover, from a marketing perspective, a pharmaceutical product with a halal certification is much more appealing to Muslim consumers than those without such markers,” he said, urging local firms to “take the lead in the halal-certified pharma sector, which has yet to be dominated by other developed countries.”