In highly globalized era, current world population observed as 7.6 billion, it is projected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion in 2050. The rate of increase in Muslim’s population is higher than rate of increase in world’s population. Muslim population has been increased 18 percent as compares to world population which increased 11 percent (Euromonitor, 2018).Consumption of food and other halal related products increasing 10.8 percent each year and its worth will be $3.7 trillion worldwide. Halal concept is not just a Islamic concept, it is in the realm of business and trade, becoming a global symbol for assurance of quality and most favorable choice due to its truthiness, trustworthiness, pureness and significance. Halal brand is emerging prominently among other brands. There is much literary work found which shows that halal food’s demand has been increasing among non-Muslim countries. Halal, a central concept of Islam, refers to any object or action which is permissible to use or engage in according to Islamic principles and practices. A Muslim who strictly adheres to the faith is expected to do what is deemed halal and avoid what is ‘‘haram’’ or forbidden. This categorization plays a significant role in defining the food consumption norms of Muslims. Pork, for example, is considered haram and most Muslims, whether practicing or not, avoid any foods that contain any pork ingredients or its derivatives, such as lard. Over one-fifth of the world’s population is Muslim and that proportion is projected to rise from 1.7 billion in 2014 to 2.7 billion by 2030. Globally, Muslim spending on food and beverages was estimated at $1,292 billion in 2013, or 17.76% of the global food and beverages expenditures, and is projected to grow to $2,537 billion by 2019, or 21.2% of global expenditures.
Despite the clearly rising Muslim demand, the market for halal products is undeveloped in many non-Muslim majority regions, including the U.S., where the disposable income of the Muslim population was estimated at $98 billion in 2013. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S. and is projected to become the largest non-Christian religion by 2050 (Pew Research Center 2015). Many companies worldwide, including in the U.S., continue to ignore the importance of offering halal foods, significantly losing out on the opportunity to cater to the substantial and growing numbers of Muslims (Thomson Reuters 2014). The immature market for halal products, particularly halal meat, in the U.S. means that online interactions and websites can play an important mediating role in the religion-market nexus. This research uses netnographic analysis to examine the mechanisms through which social media and virtual communities provide unobtrusive, natural and intrinsic explorations of consumer behavior and word-of-mouth. Most of the researchers found netnography as a method to explore hidden dimensions and unobtrusive response because consumers show their real and natural opinion in virtual platforms. There is plenty of researches on muslims regarding halal food perceptions. But there is scarcity of qualitative studies to explore the perceptions of non-Muslims.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Food selection and its corresponding decision-making process are often shaped by the prevailing social norms and practices, with religion serving as a major foundation in the approach. The word “halal” is derived from Arabic language that means permission in law (Wilson and Liu, 2010). More specifically, halal refers to acceptable activities based on the Holy Qur’an. In relation with this word in English, most of the people has perception that halal is only related with foods which are acceptable to consume by the Muslims. However, according to Rehman and Shahbaz Shabbir (2010), halal concept obeys the Shariah rules which clearly specify what Muslims can and cannot accept. Based on the halal point of view, one must not use harmful ingredients, exploitation of labor and environment for unlawful use. Therefore, the term is not subjected to only food and encompasses the whole spectrum of a Muslim’s conduct, highlighting what a Muslim should and should not do to receive mercy from Allah. Halal concept instructs that food producers must ensure good nutrition with permitted ingredients.
Haque et al. (2015) found that positive attitudes like good understanding towards halal concept, awareness and self-concept plays an important role towards halal food consumption. Halal food considered safe, healthier, animal friendly and environment friendly. Social influence is another important factor which significantly effects consumer behavior. Worldwide, food choices and consumption pattern and preferences vary across country. Different people with different ethnicity and religion have different way of life and belief. Religions can influence consumer attitude and behavior particularly in food purchasing decision and eating habits. According to Dindyal (2003), most societies in the world indicated that religions are the one of the most influential roles when it comes to shaping food choice among societies member. However, study done by Ernest Cyril De Run et al., (2010) argued that religion is not the only factor that matters the most in consumption world, instead, the intensity of one’s religious affiliations known as religiosity (the degree of being religious) is crucial in molding one’s purchase behavior.
In the study, done by Mejova et al. (2017) using Instagram (social media platform) found strong linkage between halal food and healthy life and also founds that live animals sold for slaughter, due to westernization of halal food it causes obesity and people are more likely to eat out. In addition, halal food considered as clean, contains less blood, environment friendly and hygienic. However some of the non-Muslims thought that halal process of animal slaughtering is animal cruelty.
Although, non-Muslim consume halal food, but due to unauthentic information, misconceptions and rumors in virtual and real places, they have many negative perceptions and evaluations towards halal food. These scenarios would severely hinder the growth of halal food in non-Muslim’s cultures and countries.
The main objective of this study is to:
- To explore the negative and positive perceptions of non-Muslims towards halal concept and halal foods.
- To find the understandings of non-Muslims towards halal food consumption.
- What are the factors which influence the perceptions of non-Muslims people while they are thinking about halal?
- To what extent non-Muslims have knowledge about Halal concept?
Although previous empirical studies have confirmed significant relationships among service attributes, satisfaction, and experience-sharing, but there is still need to find the perceptions and understandings of consumers unobtrusively and qualitatively. To fill in this gap, a qualitative methodology was utilized in this study. Netnography, an ethnographic form of research that is conducted online, is an open-ended practice and an inductive method for generating a theory by analyzing qualitative data. This study will follow the five steps of netnographic research suggested by Kozinets (2010) as defining the research questions or topics, community identification and selection, data collection, data analysis and iterative interpretation of the findings, and reporting the research findings and theoretical policy implications. The data will analyze following the two sequential analytical processes of analytic coding and hermeneutic interpretation, which requires that ‘‘the interpretation must be coherent and free of contradiction”. Themes will be documented. Observations should be supported with relevant examples. A command of the relevant literature will be evident. Tradition must be acknowledged. The interpretation should be comprehensible to the reading audience, given their pre-understanding. The interpretation should ‘enlighten.’ It is ‘fruitful’ in revealing new dimensions of the problem at hand. It yields insight that leads to revision of [pre-] understanding. This revision should be made quite explicit’’. A relevant online community was selected for its popularity, accessibility, and reliability. Data will be collected from the review threads posted by individuals from UK, Canada and USA. Thread which shows the perceptions and commonly posted by “insiders” and “Mangers” as these individuals shows more social and relational response in online communities, will be considered for data interpretation.
At the end of the research, new themes will be emerged which was undiscovered until now and a conceptual framework will be verified through qualitative technique.