The Oldest Diet is the Latest Trend…

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Every few years, nutritional discoveries provide the food industry with hot new trends – propelling sales and building brands positioned to capitalize. The latest? “Kosher,” reports an industry analyst, is “becoming the ‘new organic’ certification for consumers.” The hottest new trend … is in fact the oldest continuously -practiced dietary tradition. For over 3000 years, the kosher laws have provided a complete dietary standard – tested and proven, with the divine “seal of approval” trusted literally worldwide.

What Makes it Kosher?

“Kosher” – from the Hebrew kasher (“fit”, “prepared”) – has entered common parlance to describe anything done right, whether in business, politics or simple decency. This derives from its strict meaning in Talmudic tradition: in ritual and civil law, something “kosher” is correctly prepared, proper in every detail.

For over three millennia, however, “kosher” has been so identified with dietary laws that it is instantly recognized as a type of food preparation. What makes it “kosher”?

Contrary to classic misconception, it is not a rabbi’s blessing that grants kosher status; the kosher supervisor ensures that products conform to a clearly-defined code concerned with a) which foods are permitted; b) how food is prepared; and c) which foods may be cooked or eaten together.

From animal slaughter to vegetable preparation, kosher demands strict standards of ethics and purity; every ingredient matters. Biblical law requires separation of meat and milk, creating three categories – meat, dairy and “pareve” (“neutral”) – making kosher certification ideal to an ever-widening consumer base.

What draws consumers to kosher?

One study asserts, “With more than ten million kosher consumers in the US, the Jewish population is a very low percentage of this number … indicating that kosher has ‘converted’ into a generic product.”

Kosher has long been a niche market. But a new multi-cultural appeal gives it explosive marketing potential. While the fast-growing observant Jewish community demands more (and varied) kosher products, diverse consumers adopt kosher certification to meet their own specific needs.

For the expanding Muslim market, kosher symbols on meat and other products satisfy its Halal standards. Vegetarians are assured that kosher “dairy” or “pareve” products contain no meat. The lactose-intolerant can be sure that “pareve” foods contain no dairy. And health-conscious consumers choose kosher for perceived quality.

With the US market leading, kosher is an international phenomenon. Long a standard in Europe, well-known kosher symbols now guarantee mainstream consumers of quality products in emerging markets from Brazil to South Africa.

Kosher certification is today’s best marketing move – as the NY Times says, the “shrewd way … to gain market share for a minimal investment.”

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