Wednesday, December 26, 2007

`Kosher' Label The Fastest Growing On US Products

According to a global database, the "Kosher" label was the most frequently used claim on products launched in the US this year, beating out `all natural" and ""No Additives or Preservatives," which finished second and third.

The figures come from Mintel's Global New Products Database, which monitors worldwide product innovation in consumer packaged goods markets.

This may be hard for some non-Kosher consumers to recognize, since the label itself doesn't scream "Kosher" but is frequently present on some of your favorite brands in the form of a small hechsher or coded mark symbolizing which organization has certified that the product was prepared in accordance to the kosher dietary laws. People who keep kosher recognize the marks and look for them on labels when purchasing.

Common ones include a small `k', a `u' or an `ou' with a circle around it, a small Hebrew glyph with the word `parve' or a `k' inside a star, a square or shield.

This past year, 3,984 new kosher food products and 728 kosher beverages were launched.

The kosher marketplace has been growing rapidly, not only because of the increase in Jewish consumers who keep the dietary laws (found in Leviticus in the Torah), but by non-Jews who are becoming increasingly health conscious. Americans spend $10.5 billion annually on kosher products, and many are marketed in outlets like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, as well as in markets that traditionally cater to Jewish neighborhoods.

In a survey conducted by Mintel in 2005, 55% of respondents who purchased kosher foods said they thought they held a higher mark of health and safety than non-kosher items, 38% were vegetarians and 16% said they eat halal, which works for Muslims because kosher dietary laws conform to halal practices for both meat and dairy produce.

While the primary motivation to keep kosher for Jews is a spiritual one, the health aspect is especially relevant in the light of problems with poultry, beef and other products originating in China.

"In food, there is no 'Good Housekeeping' symbol, and in the minds of many, the kosher symbol represents another pair of eyes looking at the food," he said. "All the things that go into certifying a kosher product - consumers feel good about it, because not only the manufacturer but a third party oversees it," said Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, senior rabbinic coordinator at the Orthodox Union, one of the most popular Rabbinical organizations specializing in the certification of Kosher products.

Worried about Mad Cow disease, trichinosis, bird flu or salmonella, anyone? Interested in eating healthier? The solution could lie in some age-old wisdom.

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