Japan’s biggest food manufacturer has chosen Malaysia to be its hub for halal exports, in partnership with a Malaysian chicken major.
Leading the joint-venture with Lay Hong, NH Foods is now constructing a factory in Selangor at an investment of US$10m.
When complete in the first half of 2018, the plant will initially be capable of producing 1,000 tons of food each month, though this capacity could double depending on demand.
Formed late last year, the joint-venture has already launched five variants of Japanese-branded frozen halal chicken products, marketed under the Nippon Premium NutriPlus brand.
The joint venture is currently exploring opportunities in Indonesia and Thailand to expand its footprint to become an integrated producer.
“Our main target is to focus on urban areas,” said Yap Chor How, Lay Hong’s executive director. “We want to tap into NH Foods’ logistics network.”
NH Foods logged sales of $11.2bn last year, of which 17% was from its overseas operations. Lay Hong, meanwhile, is one of Malaysia’s biggest poultry manufacturers, with annual production of 500m table eggs and 30,000 metric tons of broiler meat.
It said the NHF Manufacturing joint-venture had marked a major step forward in the form of new product development and market penetration.
“We are now reviewing strategies and will capitalise on the strength of NH Foods to take it to greater heights,” Lay Hong said in a statement, adding that response to the initial range of five meat products has been encouraging.
Under its export strategy, the Malaysian unit will also produce halal-certified ready-to-eat chilled foods, including meat balls, burgers and omelettes.
The new factory will also produce easy-to-cook vegetables and other Chinese foods, including dim sum.
The unit hopes to export about 40% of its produce to Singapore, Japan and the Middle East.