Why Do I Need Kosher Certification for My Brand?

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In This Article:

#1. Most consumers see a kosher symbol as a quality stamp. #2. Another pair of eyes on the manufacturing end has consumer appeal.  #3. A kosher symbol can be a precautionary guide for those with dairy sensitivities.    #4. Other religions have dietary needs that overlap with kosher.  #5. If your customers don’t want to eat bugs, better go kosher. Bottom Line Trust Your Customers.

Check out the top 5 reasons you wouldn’t expect to need kosher certification for your company.

When compiling a portfolio of certifications, you need to predict and provide what your customers are already looking for.  But it can be daunting to understand how the various certifications available cover those needs.  For example, does Organic include Non-GMO?  Do we need Dairy-Free if we’re Vegan?  What about Kosher – is that necessary outside of a specific religious and cultural market?  Let’s look at some uncommonly known facts about kosher certification. How could it be a key factor in catching the widest possible market segment for your products? 

#1. Most consumers see a kosher symbol as a quality stamp.

If you’ve heard that kosher is technically a set of laws indicating religious acceptability of food, then you’re correct.  That makes you more informed than many. There are those who mistakenly believe that “kosher” means a rabbi has blessed the food in a factory or restaurant.  The essential goal of any kosher certification is to verify food production adheres to Kashrus (or Kashrut).  That’s Jewish biblical and Rabbinic law (collectively known as Torah law), in the category of food consumption.  Jews make up approximately 0.2% of the world’s population. So, many people wonder why kosher food sells so widely across the spectrum of consumers. 

In reality, the largest segment of consumers who intentionally buy kosher-certified products is that of the “average” consumer. 

This means that most kosher consumers aren’t part of any group with special dietary needs.  Research shows that consumers in the US attach terms like “quality,” “healthfulness” and “safety” to their perception of kosher-certified foods: 

“In a consumer survey of adults who purchase kosher food, Mintel found that the number one reason people buy kosher is for food quality (62%).  The second most common reason people say they purchase kosher food is “general healthfulness” (51%) and the third is food safety (34%).”[1]

If you can display your product as in line with these values, you’ve already made half the sale.  A well-recognized kosher symbol can be a reliable, attention-getting tool to deliver the assurance for your customers.

#2. Another pair of eyes on the manufacturing end has consumer appeal. 

There’s no single certification type known to allay every concern of every consumer set.  In fact, even when a product bears several popular certification types, most consumers still choose product that also display kosher.  In today’s market, production is rapidly expanding and consumers are making themselves increasingly aware of the best practices. And they educate themselves about which companies are applying them.  While this applies at every level of business structure, the public eye is on product handling and ingredient sourcing.  Kosher certification, for one, involves an extremely high level of ingredient verification when compared with other certifications. 

“Kosher food has gained the reputation of being more carefully produced and thoroughly inspected than non-kosher food.”

Marcia Mogelonsky, Ph. D, senior analyst at Mintel. 

Inspectors from the most reputed kosher agencies won’t let anything slide that could jeopardize the kosher status of a production.  This is a fact that regulatory personnel across the board are familiar with.  It’s because kosher inspectors are Orthodox Jews themselves. So they’re religiously bound to the same standards they’re applying to food companies.  This makes the kosher laws applicable and important to them.  Consumers who actively seek kosher products have some version of this notion in mind when making their buying choices.    

#3. A kosher symbol can be a precautionary guide for those with dairy sensitivities.   

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 1-2% of US children are allergic to milk.[3]  While this number may seem relatively small, according to an issue of the Journal of Dairy Science,[4] an estimated 70% of the global population is lactose-intolerant to some degree!

Allergen control is an important piece of the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) protocol in the food and beverage industry.  These standards exist to reduce or eliminate cross-contamination between product runs containing allergens, and those to be marked allergen trace-free.  The FDA requires manufacturers hoping to make an allergen-free claim on their packaging to get their equipment swabbed and analyzed by third-party labs.  Because this process is of a custom nature, allergen management programs can vary greatly across manufacturing facilities.   

Can you rely on Kosher Certification the same way as Dairy-Free?

The kosher certification process, by contrast, involves a standard set of substance-purging procedures. It’s called kosherizing, or “kashering” to uphold the total segregation of meat from dairy, that’s integral to any kosher program. For this, the Kosher “Pareve” (literally, neutral, meaning non-dairy and non-meat) designation is helpful.  The “Meat” or “Pareve designation on kosher certified foods signifies completely separate production from all traces of dairy.  While kosherizing procedures often overlap with allergen management, the main difference is the absence of lab analysis in kosher certification. 

So, a reputable kosher symbol with a Pareve or Meat designation is not a replacement for all other methods of ensuring safety for the dairy-allergic population.  However, it does verify that dairy was either completely segregated, or that the line was thoroughly cleaned and purged of dairy remnants according to kashrus standards.  Under advice from a qualified healthcare professional, some with dairy sensitivities find the kosher symbol to be a helpful gauge.

Furthermore, a kosher symbol can be a useful cross-reference tool. The FDA allows manufacturers to market products as “Non-Dairy” if the ingredients are free from milk, butter and cream. This is even when milk-derivatives may be present.  The “Dairy-Free” claim is more restricted than “Non-Dairy”, yet even this term is not applied without risk. 

Then, what help is a kosher symbol to the dairy-free community?

Let’s look at a common scenario. Someone finds a product, such as a yogurt alternative, labeled as “Dairy-Free Yogurt.”  If the product is kosher certified, and the supervising rabbi wasn’t able to find a workaround for shared equipment with dairy, then the product will have a letter “D” or the word “Dairy” next to the kosher symbol.  This connotes that the product does indeed contain dairy traces.  A dairy-sensitive shopper would rely on the kosher symbol in this case. It alerts them of dairy traces in a so-called “dairy-free” food.

If your products don’t contain dairy, or you can find dairy-free substitutes, then Kosher Pareve certification is a great option.  This way, you’ll include the dairy-wary demographic in your targeted customer base. (Finding suitable subs for your dairy-based ingredients is a task your Rabbinic Coordinator (RC) can assist you with).

#4. Other religions have dietary needs that overlap with kosher. 

While Kosher is the most extensively certified religious food standard, Judaism isn’t the only faith that entails dietary guidelines.  Possibly the most familiar convergence among food certifications is between Kosher and Halal.  For instance, many laws such as the restriction on certain species of animals, and the painless ritual slaughter of permitted ones[5], are common between these two systems. 

However, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says several other religions specify some forbidden or not-recommended foods.[6]  While none of these sets of rules aligns fully with ours, the highly-regulated nature of kosher certification provides enough overlap. Kosher offers assurance to some members of these groups enough to motivate them to seek kosher certified foods.  Given how few certification programs serve these groups, kosher certification provides the closest fit for their needs in manufactured foods. This is especially the case with a globally recognized one, such as OK Kosher.

#5. If your customers don’t want to eat bugs, better go kosher.

Yes, really.

Do we mean to tell you that all the non-kosher foods people are eating contain insects and worms?  Not exactly.  However, infestation control is arguably less comprehensive in other regulatory programs, if present at all.  The FDA, in its Food Defect Action Level Booklet, defines amounts of bugs and bug parts permitted in certain foods. They base their standard on maximum levels of “natural or unavoidable defects.” This means their research hasn’t shown these amounts of bug matter in food products to present a health hazard to humans.[7]

According to the blog of Scientific American Magazine:

“Following FDA guidelines…If you are a fan of spinach, the action limit is 50 or more aphids, thrips and/or mites per 100 grams.”[8]

It means that consumers unwittingly consume bugs on a regular basis, even in regulated FDA-regulated foods.  That is, if not making considerable effort to avoid it.

Concerning kosher consumption, bugs are completely forbidden (except for locusts, believe it or not[9]).  It follows, then, that exacting measures need to be taken to ensure the complete absence of them in kosher food.  That’s why screening certain varieties of produce for infestation is one of the most central aspects of certifying kosher.  This is especially so in the foodservice and prepared meals industries, where the use of fresh produce is common. 

Furthermore, the need for this quality assurance measure has increased over the past century. That’s because the more powerful chemical pesticides have become less desired and banned in commercial farming. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors hazards of pesticides for our protection, ongoing in the US. So it’s only logical to increase our research in the area of food infestation, as pesticide use decreases overall.  

What bugs are there, exactly?

Some examples of the most common forms of infestation in fresh produce are leafy green-loving thrips and aphids, worms and maggots that burrow inside nuts and beans, as well as small mites camouflaged inside and on the surface of fruits (some smaller than a strawberry seed).

And what will you do about it?

Our free, downloadable Vegetable Checking Guide, authored by OK Kosher’s very own Insect Committee (yes, it’s real!) is a well-trusted resource used by thousands of kosher professionals and homemakers alike. 

OK Kosher leads one of the strictest and most reliable programs for insect inspection and control with our certified products.  We utilize a thoroughly researched and tested system of screening for and preventing infestation.  Our team has developed methods for restaurant and facility personnel to manually rid their products of bugs completely.  Our programs take into account the needs of conventional and organic farming methods and are effective with both.  So if you want to put your company’s cleanest bug-free foot forward, count kosher certification on your team.

Bottom Line: Trust Your Customers.

Remember that customers’ concerns form the basis for ever-changing demand.  Classic marketing wisdom tells us it pays to learn about the people to whom we advertise.  When well researched, this can be a huge aid to your brand’s success.  Now you know that there’s surprising diversity among the kosher consumer set.  The discerning customers who gravitate towards kosher-certified foods extend far and well beyond those typically associated with it.  Consider your products and formulas to assess whether these customers could be yours too.

[1] https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/3-in-5-kosher-food-buyers-purchase-for-food-quality-not-religion/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/milk-allergy.aspx/

[4] Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 70, Issue 2, February 1987: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030287800231/.

[5] https://halalauthority.org/halal-and-haram/

[6] The Business of Dietetics, Volume 102, Issue 7, P912, JULY 01, 2002.  https://jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(02)90212-9/fulltext/

[7] https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredients-additives-gras-packaging-guidance-documents-regulatory-information/food-defect-levels-handbook#CHPTA/.

[8] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/but-not-simpler/i-hate-to-break-it-to-you-but-you-already-eat-bugs/

[9] Leviticus 11:22.

The information presented in this blog post is based on research, general knowledge, and/or the author’s understanding of the subject matter. This blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon by the reader or considered as professional advice. For specific guidance on any given topic, the reader should consult a qualified professional in the given field. OK KOSHER DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM RELIANCE ON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS ARTICLE.

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