Switzerland: Why a Swiss Village Makes Halal Pastry


Even Europe is gradually adjusting, as the demand for halal products grows in the double-digit percentage range each year. Last year, when McDonald's opened its first European restaurant with halal burgers on the menu -- in London -- sales rose immediately. The British supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury's have installed separate halal shelving and are targeting Muslim customers in their advertising. And for the past two years Nestlé has eliminated pork, blood and alcohol from the production process in seven European factories, including a sausage plant in France, a Nescafé plant in Germany and a powdered milk plant in Spain.

Because Nestlé has discovered that puff pastry is a strong seller among Muslims, globalization has now reached Wangen bei Olten, a town of 4,983 inhabitants that recently fought a heated but ultimately unsuccessful battle against the construction of a mosque minaret. Walter Leisi, whose father began producing ready-made cake dough and puff pastry in 1938, and whose childhood bedroom was once next to the kneading machine, now writes terms like "Quality Monitoring Scheme" on a white board and has a certificate issue by the Muslim Institute of the Paris Mosque for "Pâte à tarte sans Alcool (halal)."

Much has changed since the invention of Leisi-Quick. The former family-owned business has since been sold to Nestlé, and the demand for puff pastry is no longer determined by the French plum harvest, but by Ramadan.

The company sells most of its puff pastry to France, the land of the quiche. If the halal version is successful, Nestlé plans to offer more halal products soon, including shortcrust pastry and pizza dough. "Nowadays," says Leisi, "this is part of having a well-rounded product line."

He puts on a white coat and a cap and begins a tour of the factory, past shiny chrome-plated kneading machines and conveyor belts traveling in every direction, 24 hours a day, carrying dough in various forms: flattened, in small mounds and rolled up.

Halal or not halal, the differences are not visible. The machines are the same. They have to be cleaned regularly with alcohol, which evaporates after 15 minutes. Then, in accordance with the Islamologist's instructions, another batch of halal puff pastry can be produced. "It's really quite simple," says Walter Leisi, and smiles.

Source: Spiegel (English)

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