Considering Kosher Certification in the UK?
How can the most widespread food claim in the USA benefit UK companies?
By Rabbi Yehuda Pink MSc, Field Representative for OK Kosher Certification
As a UK-based Field Representative for OK Kosher Certification, I often encounter people who labour under misconceptions about kosher in the UK. A common one is that kosher certification is simply a matter of asking a rabbi to bless a factory. Although, in my opinion, it is true that kosher certification will almost always bring a blessing to a business in the form of greater market penetration, it is a far more thorough process than simply pronouncing a blessing. In this article I will outline the process of securing kosher certification and the benefits it will accrue to your company.
What is Kosher Certification?
In short, kosher certification is an official means by which authorities in kosher law verify and monitor the kosher status of food production and service. (For a succinct overview of kosher law, see our Kosher 101). Kosher certification is a growing industry; the kosher market is worth over £100 billion worldwide and growing by approximately 15% per annum. Over 40% of all products sold in the USA are kosher certified.
Why Get Kosher Certified?
It is often thought that kosher certification is only necessary if a product will be marketed in an area with a significant Jewish population. This is incorrect. Members of several religions and atheists alike are helping fuel the robust market for kosher foods, according to a report by market research firm Mintel. 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%). The third is food safety (34%). This contrasts sharply to the just 14% of respondents who say they purchase kosher food because they follow kosher religious rules. Another 10% buy kosher because they follow some other religious rules with eating restrictions similar to kosher.
“Kosher food has gained the reputation of being more carefully produced and thoroughly inspected than non-kosher food,” comments Marcia Mogelonsky, PhD, senior analyst at Mintel. “With recent food safety scares causing people to rethink even the most familiar food products, we can expect more adults to turn to kosher food as a way to ensure food safety and quality.”
Is Kosher Certification Relevant in the UK?
Although the UK kosher market is relatively small, the number of companies seeking kosher certification is growing.
For those wishing to export to the USA it is vital, with research showing that in the USA, placed side-by-side on the shelf, kosher products sell 20% better than competing non-kosher brands.
In the UK, kosher certification is increasingly seen as assurance that the consumer is receiving what’s listed on the packet. This is particularly important following the food scandals of recent years leading to an increasing demand for a clear audit chain from raw materials to finished product.
The Certification Process
So, what exactly does kosher certification in the UK entail?
Application and Consultation
The first stage will entail a an application submission and thorough discussion and review of how the facility operates. This includes production methods, raw materials used, and whether the plant will be completely kosher or producing both kosher and non-kosher products. This step is normally a phone call to evaluate the information provided by the company seeking certification.
The next stage is for a Rabbinic Coordinator visit to the facility. This highly qualified rabbi will inspect the premises, review the current procedures in place, and ascertain the needed steps for facilitating kosher production and compliance ongoing, and design a plan.
Ingredient Review and Guidelines
We call this kosher onboarding. Every raw material will be checked to ensure that it is kosher compliant. If a problematic ingredient is found, a good kosher agency can suggest an approved alternative. This is based on the information that kosher certification agencies hold about tens of thousands of raw materials. The rabbi will then draw up a document detailing approved methods of production. It will list which pieces of equipment may be used, and a schedule of all raw materials approved for use.
A field representative will conduct regular, unannounced audits at the facility. During these, they’ll seek confirmation of any changes to the plant, equipment, ingredients, or process. This includes installation of second-hand equipment, new ingredient suppliers, etc.
During an audit, the rabbi will confirm that the purchasing, receiving, and production processes all match the kosher agreement in place for that facility. He might ask to see documentation relating to goods received, production and cleaning procedures. The rabbi will also check for correct labelling with the kosher logo on all finished products, where appropriate. In addition to checking official records, the rabbi will inspect the warehousing and manufacturing areas to confirm the information given matches the reality on the ground.
How to Choose a Kosher Organisation
There are so many organisations offering kosher certification in the UK. How does one choose the right one?
The right kosher certification agency will become a trusted partner that your company can depend on. It is vital to ensure that you choose an experienced, capable kosher certification agency. It’s also prudent to ensure they have experience in your particular market, product or service.
Review the systems that the kosher certification agency has put in place. Ensure that they safeguard your data and that kosher certificates will be easily accessible when you need them.
Research the agency’s reliability among kosher authorities and its symbol recognition among consumers. Broad acceptance in both areas means considerably greater value. Today’s shortcut is tomorrow’s liability. If a supervising rabbi offers short-term shortcuts that do not completely address long-term concerns, look elsewhere.
The Cost of Getting Certified
There are several variables that directly impact kosher certification fees. One critical element of any good kosher compliance program is ongoing auditing of the production facility by trained rabbinical personnel. The frequency of audits is determined by the type of products, processes and the production facility structure. This auditing program is critical to a successful kosher program.
The key factor in determining fees for kosher certification in the UK, or anywhere, is the required frequency of kosher audits and site location. Since these variable factors are unique for each production facility, fees will necessarily vary from facility to facility. Viewed in tandem with the increase in sales that it will drive, the cost of certification is rather low. Furthermore, in most cases, it’s well worth the investment.
The scale of any given kosher certifying agency is another factor. With an organization like OK Kosher, a company with facilities in nearly any part of the world can go kosher. We have satellite offices all over the world and representatives visiting nearly 100 countries on the regular. So a trip to your manufacturing plant likely won’t be an added expense when working with OK Kosher.
The Decision to Go Kosher in the UK
In light of recent and current world events, it’s no surprise that today’s consumers want more transparency. This is all the more true with regard to food products. This is why third-party certifications in general are on the rise. Kosher certification is no exception, and neither are the UK’s kosher-seeking consumers.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to pursue kosher certification in the UK is up to every company individually. Consider the markets carefully to determine what on-label claims your consumers will want to see, and choose accordingly.