|For nearly fifty years, the demand for kosher-certified products has increased dramatically. Currently one of the hottest food trends, Kosher has become big business. Steady annual growth of the Kosher industry over the past two decades has led to an exponential rise in the numbers of products now available to the kosher consumer. The most recent Lubicom Marketing Consulting research data indicates that it has developed into a $12.5 billion industry for reasons explored below:
The United States dominates global kosher sales, launching the majority of all new kosher products available worldwide. To meet this demand, companies throughout the world are seeking kosher certification to expand their existing markets and enhance sales strategies. Many of these companies are choosing STAR-K Kosher Certification and are enjoying the marketing privileges this certification offers. The STAR-K symbol can open new marketing avenues never realized.
Who Buys Kosher?
Millions of people around the world limit their food consumption according to a wide array of criteria, including health, food safety, taste, and religious or other dietary reasons. Many of these people specifically seek out the kosher symbol as a trustworthy means of ensuring that these criteria are being addressed. According to market studies, the appeal of kosher foods transcends the interest of any one specific ethnic group. Consumers of kosher foods include Jews, Muslims, and members of various Christian sects, vegetarians, those suffering from celiac and lactose intolerance, and the many who simply believe that “kosher is better.”
A Mark of Quality Assurance and Reassurance
According to Timothy Lytton in Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food (pub. 2013), a new landmark analysis of the kosher certification industry, “the growing popularity of kosher food in America is a response to a more general cultural anxiety about industrialization of the food supply.” Over half of the Lubicom kosher survey respondents (55%) cited ‘health and safety concerns’ as the number one reason they buy kosher.
Gone are the days when food was purchased indiscriminately, merely based on taste or eye appeal. Consumers examine the ingredient panel of products, as well as the nutritional information prominently displayed on the label. They are extremely concerned about the food they eat, questioning manufacturing processes, as well as the choice of ingredients used. The kosher symbol, with the monitoring and care it represents, ensures the highest quality standards to the largest and most diverse consumer audience.
“Like the movements to eat organic, local, or ethically produced foods,” Dr. Lytton contends, “the turn toward kosher is, for many consumers, a way to personalize food production.” Buying kosher is a means of providing some reassurance to the anxious food consumer.
The kosher symbol on a label represents more than a product that conforms to religious standards. It is viewed as a mark of quality and an added safeguard, tantamount to the famous “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” According to John McMillan, a food analyst at Prudential Bache Securities, the ‘Kosher Seal’ is equivalent to what the Good Housekeeping Seal represented in the 1950s.
“At first I thought that kosher meant food for Jewish people. Now I realize that people equate kosher with quality.”
According to a Lubicom survey, vegetarians, who have committed to excluding meat, poultry and fish from their diet, represent the next largest segment of the kosher consumer. The STAR-K symbol, or the STAR-K symbol in conjunction with the ‘Pareve’ designation, guarantees that the product contains no meat, dairy, or poultry derivative and is therefore suitable for vegetarian use.
Millions of Muslims throughout the world follow a dietary regimen similar to the kosher code. Since they recognize that food products bearing a kosher symbol conform to the requirements of Halal, foods certified as kosher have a broad appeal to Muslims. The countless inquiries from the Islamic community attest to the attention given to the kosher symbol on packaging of a broad variety of products. Muslims currently constitute a sizeable chunk of the “kosher” market.
The Jewish Market
Religious Jews represent a small fraction of the overall kosher market in the United States.
Other Religious Denominations
Seventh Day Adventists and other Christian sects share some of the same dietary restrictions found within Judaism. Pork, for example, is not permitted to Seventh Day Adventists. A kosher symbol on meat and other food products is a guarantee that the food is permissible for their use.
Celiac and Other Gluten-Restricted Diets
There are an estimated two million people in the United States who suffer from celiac disease, a condition in which the body is incapable of properly digesting and absorbing gluten. Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, spelt, barley and rye, and used in a multitude of processed food products, including canned soups, soy sauce, salad dressings, even yogurt and ice cream (in the form of wheat starch). During Passover, a Jewish holiday in which no leavening products are permitted, many celiac sufferers specifically seek out Passover products that are largely made with potato starch and other gluten-free substitutions. A plethora of websites catering to the celiac and gluten-sensitive community direct consumers to stock up on ‘Kosher for Passover’ products when these are available. Increasingly, many companies who produce Kosher for Passover products have added ‘gluten-free’ to their labeling.