|Selecting the right kosher certification agency for your company
How do you go about selecting the right kosher certification that will satisfy your companys particular needs?
Unless you are a local retail establishment whose kosher certification needs are best satisfied by the local rabbinical council, you are about to undergo a bewildering journey of trying to compare the merits of several different certifications. All kosher certification organizations are not identical!
It is most important that you go about this process in the same manner that you would to choose an attorney, a financial consultant or a key employee. In short, do your homework! Asking the right questions and exploring all the options available in kosher certification may very likely spare your company an experience that can turn out to be a very unpleasant and expensive mistake.
In the beginning....
Before you begin the task of interviewing and studying the pros and cons of individual certification agencies (the same is true even if you already have a certification and would like to consider a change), you need to understand that a reputable organization will not certify your companys products based solely on their trust of your company.
Among many other things, the kosher certification agency requires:
extensive review of formulas and equipment,
details regarding the sources of your raw materials,
the right to audit documents pertaining to kosher matters.
Expecting the kosher agency to issue a certification based on trust is unrealistic. In fact, if an individual Rabbi or agency offers a certification based only on written communications, you ought to immediately suspect that such a certification is unlikely to grant you broad acceptability, since other reputable agencies will be unlikely to recognize the validity of such a certification. This in turn may necessitate your beginning the entire procedure of obtaining a certification again. Obviously, an unwelcome prospect.
Questions to ask a perspective certification agency:
These are the types of pointed questions you should be asking to determine if the agency is really serious about servicing the companies it certifies. Ask the Rabbi for a list of all the companies under certification by this particular agency. Then, make some phone calls to determine if other companies have been satisfied with the level of service they have received.
One issue which may not be so obvious when first negotiating terms of kosher certification, but may be a very serious concern later on, is your need to know in advance if your raw ingredient suppliers will require kosher certification. If they do, will their present certification which they may already have, be acceptable? Although in most instances reputable agencies accept the certifications of other reputable agencies, there are a disturbing number of exceptions to this rule. You should be forewarned if one of your suppliers is going to present a problem. You have a right to expect a certification agency to be perfectly candid and to offer a rational explanation if they reject any of your suppliers. If they fail to provide you with a convincing explanation, it may very well be your signal to begin looking elsewhere.
With respect to fees charged for kosher supervision there are some very significant differences even between the large and well-known agencies. Making sure that you fully understand a particular agencys fee structure is worth the time and effort spent acquiring this information. It is advisable to get quotes from several different agencies. Ask in advance about annual fee charges, travel reimbursement, per diem charges, if applicable, and initial inspection charges. We strongly object to the practice of fees being set for kosher certification based on the volume of sales. In our opinion, the certification agency in effect becomes your partner and thus they have no business certifying themselves. If the fees quoted seem unreasonable, try using your negotiating skills; many agencies, in some circumstances, are willing to reduce their regular charges for a period of time. They may allow your company to test the kosher market and make a final determination if kosher certification is in your companys best interest.
In summary, we wish to reiterate the importance of doing the necessary homework. Before you engage a kosher certification agency, it is essential that you understand both the positive and negative aspects of that agency. If, as you prepare to sign on the dotted line, you have the feeling that you are now about to become a member of their family and that they will be there working for you, you have probably made the right choice.
Assuming that your company has done some market research to determine that it
would benefit from by acquiring a kosher certification