The Global Demand for Kosher

Over the past forty years, the demand for kosher-certified products has increased dramatically and kosher is currently one of the hottest food trends. Steady growth at an annual rate of 15% over the last decade has led to an exponential rise in the numbers of products now available to the kosher consumer. Certified kosher food sales are forecasted to surpass $300 billion by 2013, and those numbers are expected to stay strong. There are many reasons for this surge in revenue, and these are explored below.According to data compiled by Lubicom Marketing and Consulting, LLC, in September 2011:

  • Consumers in the United States are spending over $12.5 billion annually on ‘traditional’ kosher food products
  • Consumers today can choose from 135,000 different kosher-certified retail food products, a marked increase from 1977 when less than 2,000 such products were certified kosher
  • Over 10,000 American companies produce products for the kosher market
  • Over 8,000 new products are introduced into the kosher market annually worldwide
  • Kosher-certified ingredients used to manufacture goods for the kosher marketplace in the U.S. alone are valued at $370 billion

As noted by Sue Fishkoff in Kosher Nation (pub. 2010), “kosher food is big, and it’s increasing at twice the rate of the non-kosher market.”

The United States dominates global kosher sales, launching over 50% of all new kosher products available worldwide. In order to meet this demand, companies throughout the world are seeking kosher certification in order 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 before 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.

In the U.S., Lubicom reports that approximately 21% of Americans regularly or occasionally purchase kosher products specifically because they are kosher. That amounts to roughly 12 million American consumers, very few of whom are religious Jews. 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 #1 reason they buy kosher.

Gone are the days when food was purchased indiscriminately, merely on the basis of 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 1950’s.
“At first I thought that kosher meant food for Jewish people. Now I realize that people equate kosher with quality.”

  • Alice Mok, Marketing Director of Twin Marquis Trading Corporation of New York. (TMI became kosher when many of their New York customers began asking them whether they had kosher certification.)

According to figures compiled in 2011 by Lubicom Marketing and Consulting, 7.5 million of all consumers claim “kosher is better.” Even absent any of the dietary concerns mentioned above, they nevertheless look for a kosher symbol as additional reassurance when buying food.

Vegetarians, who have committed to excluding meat, poultry and fish from their diet, represent the next largest segment of the kosher consumer (38% according to the Lubicom survey). The STAR-K symbol, or the STAR-K symbol in conjunction with the ‘Pareve’ designation, guarantees that a particular product contains no meat, dairy, or poultry derivative and is therefore suitable for vegetarian use.

Muslim Consumers
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 approximately 16% of the “kosher” market.

The Jewish Market
Religious Jews represent a small fraction of the overall kosher market in the United States,   comprising only 8% of the 12 million Americans who regularly shop kosher.

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.

Lactose Intolerant
Lactose intolerance afflicts up to 50 million Americans, a large percentage of whom are either African American or Asian American. In addition, there are many people who suffer from allergies to dairy products and who may experience a life threatening reaction to the most miniscule consumption of milk- derived ingredients. Kosher law requires absolute segregation between meat and milk. Thus, products containing a dairy ingredient must bear the kosher symbol with the letter “D.” The absence of the letter “D,” or the use of the ‘Pareve’ designation (a Hebrew word meaning neutral), ensures that the product is 100% dairy- free. Lactose-intolerant consumers, as well as those allergic to milk, search for the kosher symbol because it is their warranty that the product has never come into contact with any dairy derivative or shared any equipment with a dairy production.

Marketing Your Kosher Products

The kosher market abounds with opportunities for the food industry. STAR-K urges you to explore how products bearing the kosher symbol can be a part of your sales and marketing strategy. The STAR-K can act as a liaison between your company and the kosher market. It can direct you to global markets and help you achieve the marketing edge you’re looking for.

With its respected international staff, its hallmark global acceptance, personalized service, and impeccable standards, STAR-K Kosher Certification can provide you with that competitive edge in the kosher market.

Request an application and take advantage of the STAR-K’s no-obligation feasibility study, which is offered free of charge. The staff of STAR-K welcomes the opportunity to serve you.