As reported earlier, over the years, the halal food industry has experienced exponential
growth and development due to the increasing demand for halal products. Malaysia, determined to become the world leader in halal industry
continues to look for more concrete measures in enhancing the growth of the
domestic halal economy and also the exports volume.
In line with the goal, it is expected that the industry would be
able to produce products that are superior in quality and able to meet consumer expectation. However, recent reports and studies suggested that
local halal products especially from the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) still
need a lot of improvement and are lacking especially in terms of quality, labelling,
packaging (Malek & Aziz, 2017; Achu,
2015; Che Omar, 2013; Mohd Daud, Ramli, Jemahadi, & Razalli, 2011) and
popularity
(Machfud, Khatib, Haji-Ahmed, & Ahmad Dahlan, 2011). In a past
study, it is also revealed that consumer did not associate halal products with
quality (Abu Dardak, Habib & Tih, n.d.). A
revelation such as above is disquieting, since halal products should be known
as a symbol of quality food. This is also contrary to the halalan toyyiban
concept that is being recommended to be applied in food manufacturing by the Government,
and also most importantly, commanded by the religion as guidance for Muslim consumption.
The halalan toyyiban concept, in
general, emphasizes that food must be wholesome which encompasses quality,
safety and nutrition alike (Ambali &
Bakar, 2014; Badruldin et al., 2012).

 

As a result of the
sophisticated and high profile demand from local consumer and expatriates,
there is also an increasing trend of imported packaged food products in
Malaysia which poses as another competition for SMEs halal food products. The
hike is especially noticeable in categories such as ice cream, jams and preserves,
confectionery, cheese and sauces, dressings and also condiments (Euromonitor, 2013).
This trend might be a threat for local halal products since imported products are
often perceived as superior in quality and sometimes sold at almost similar prices,
which of course would lead to consumer
choosing the imported products for the value for money and the quality it
possesses. This trend is especially concerning since most of the imported
products do not possess a halal certificate.
As an example, media had recently reported about a statement released by JAKIM
on the absence of halal certification for hugely popular imported chocolate
brands among Malaysians, which are Daim and Toblerone. In the same statement,
they also advised the consumer to only buy products that bear recognised halal logo (Mohd Shahar, 2016),
implying that Muslim consumer is still purchasing
confectionery products or in general products that do not possess halal
certification. A further problem that might arise if halal food manufacturers do
not step up their game and upgrade their products is that consumer will opt for
well-marketed products with superior quality just by reading the ingredients
while ignoring the fact that the products do not possess halal logo (Quantaniah, Noreina, & Nurul, 2013).

 

Aside from the problems
mentioned before, Bohari, Cheng, and Fuad (2013) also pointed out that the halal food industry in Malaysia lacks the
ability to identify what consumer wants in
terms of taste and preferences in a halal food
product. This is very alarming since food manufacturers should know what
their consumer wants in order to fulfill the expectation. When expectation is
fulfilled it can evokes consumer satisfaction and may leads to positive
consequences such as repeat purchase and positive word-of-mouth (Hansen, 2008).
In contrast, when consumer wants are not fulfilled, there is a possibility that
they will opt for another products, which would translate to monetary losses to
the producers. Other than that, there are also never-ending issues of halal logo authenticity, halal food
adulteration (Fadzlillah, Che
Man, Jamaludin, Ab. Rahman, &
Al-Kahtani, 2011)
and usage of unrecognised halal certification on a product (Abdul Majid, Zainal Abidin, Mohd Abd Majid, &
Tamby Chik, 2015). Issues
related to safety and hygiene violation (Ghazali, 2015; Utusan Online, 2015) have also arise which can be quite upsetting as consumer
put their utmost trust in halal-certified products. Altogether, these
issues have made it imperative for assessment towards halal
food products and investigation on which attributes that do not meet consumer
expectation to be done. Thus, the
purpose of this study in general is to measure the extent to which the performances of halal
food products, in this case SMEs halal confectionery products, have met Muslim
consumer expectation. This research acts as an empirical attempt to build a
framework that provides a theoretical
based knowledge in understanding these issues by assessing consumer
expectation, perceived performance and behavioural
intention towards the product.

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To date, there is no comprehensive research on
the state of consumer satisfaction or
post-purchase behaviour towards
the halal food product in Malaysia being published. Other researchers
of consumer behaviour
on halal issue have focused more on the pre-consumption behaviour like consumer awareness and
purchasing decision (Ahmad, Abdul
Kadir, & Salehuddin, 2013; Ambali & Bakar, 2013; Borzooei & Asgari, 2013; Hamdan, Mat Issa, Abu, & Jusoff, 2013; Abdul, Ismail, Hashim, & Johari, 2009a). There is also a scarcity in theory-driven
research in the field of consumer studies related to halal product and most researches in this field of studies have only
used Theory of Planned Behavior as the foundation. Hence, by using the expectancy
disconfirmation theory, this research intends to fill in the gap and uncover
the untapped part in this field of study.

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