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Association of Kashrus Organizations Conference 2022

Posted on: May 28th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 914

Last month’s AKO conference brought together some 150 kashrus experts. Their primary motivation: making sure Klal Yisrael has kosher food to eat

The Jewish world today has hundreds of agencies making sure that all kinds of food is kosher, from the salmon off the Norwegian coast and Peruvian beef to French wines and Stella D’oro Swiss fudge cookies.

Once a year, the organizations get together for three days of camaraderie and enlightenment. From a business perspective, many of them are direct competitors, but at this conference, the focus is on what really motivates them: making sure people have kosher food to eat.

Under the umbrella of the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO), this year’s conference, held last month at the Delta by Marriott Hotel in Iselin, New Jersey, was certainly an eye-opener for me. I met people in kashrus organizations I’ve never heard of — Oregon Kosher, Top-K, Rhode Island Kosher — and from parts of the world, like South Bend, Amsterdam, and Panama, that I never even dreamed would have an organized hashgachah.

“People are always asking us, ‘What’s new?’ ” notes Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the OU Kosher. “What do you mean, ‘what’s new?’ There’s always something new happening in our industry.”

And so it was that I found myself striding into the hotel for the kashrus world’s biggest annual convention.

The Humans of the Kashrus Field
I came at the tail end of breakfast on a Tuesday morning, as kashrus experts from dozens of groups scurried to begin the day of presentations.

“Who gives the hechsher on this place?” I called out after them.

I’ve always been somewhat of a risk-taker and was grateful that the joke landed sturdily. It turns out that the caterer was Greenwald’s, which happened to have done my bar mitzvah some years back. The mini knishes I remember from that special night were nowhere in sight, but they did have quite a bash set-up.

Kashrus experts, it emerged, can have quite a sense of humor. One speaker, whose name I no longer remember, began his session, “I want to introduce to you a concept you may not know of — day and night.”

At one point I tweeted a photo of Chaikel Kaufman, who spoke on the topic of — and I quote — “Why not to use a travel agent.” Within minutes I got a text from the travel agent I’ve been using for years. “Did my boss speak well?”

Yes, Mr. Kaufman is apparently a travel agent of good standing.

“The first question I get when I meet people, and I tell them what I do is, ‘A travel agent? Who uses a travel agent today?’ ” Kaufman said. “And I don’t have a good answer for that.”

Mashgichim are frequent travelers, and Kaufman was there to give them some tips on how to make the most of their experience.

There were some fascinating moments as well. Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the executive director of AKO, as well as the kashrus administrator of cRc Kosher (Chicago) announced three new initiatives to make people more kashrus aware. The first, which you may have heard of, is a series of videos and articles from the Kashrus Awareness website. The second is providing free kashrus consultation to summer camps for their camp kitchens, and the third is still under wraps and all information I received was off the record.

Lab Meat: The Modern Ben Pakuah
Modern science has promised us the miracle of meat grown in a laboratory, as a humane alternative to slaughter. But is it kosher?

Rav Moshe Heinemann, head of the Baltimore-based Star K certifying agency, delivered a shiur on the kashrus of lab-grown meat. The first patty made from cultured meat was created not even a decade ago, but Rav Heinemann found ample precedent for it in the rich body of halachah. A fundamental issue is whether the culture begins with cells taken from a living animal, and that seems to be “not kosher,” since we cannot eat meat that did not result from shechitah.

One part of his shiur was based on the sugya of ben pakuah — a living fetus discovered in the womb when the mother is slaughtered. Mid’Oraisa, the shechitah of the mother “covers” that of the fetus, and it would be permitted to eat it without a separate shechitah. But due to maris ayin, Chazal were concerned that onlookers would not realize this is a ben pakuah, and therefore decreed that it must have its own shechitah. However, if there were something very unusual about this animal — aside from it being a ben pakuah — then it would be permitted to eat it without shechitah. Everyone would realize that this was something unusual, and that would alert them that there might be some reason it was being eaten without shechitah.

What are examples of “unusual” things that allow the ben pakuah without shechitah? The Rema (Yoreh Dei’ah 13:2) gives an example of a ben pakuah whose hooves are not split. Rav Sherira Gaon permitted two calves that were ben pakuah to be served at his child’s wedding, arguing that the presence of two bnei pakuah at the same time was unusual enough to qualify for this exception. Rav Heinemann said that he knows of a ben pakuah that was born without a tail — a prime example of a double oddity. The lack of a tail tremendously affected the animal’s ability to disperse the hundreds of flies that are attracted to its skin and Rav Heinemann thought that was peculiar enough to be another example of one that can be eaten without shechitah.

Based on all this, Rav Heinemann proposed that if the cultured meat were labeled as coming from a ben pakuah, that would also be considered unusual enough to permit its cells (and meat) without shechitah, and the meat could be cultured from it.

Assuming we overcame the shechitah issue, would the cultured meat be considered pareve?

“If it looks like meat, it tastes like meat, it smells like meat, it’s meat,” Rav Heinemann declared. “Fleishigs.”

Kosher Raspberries: Coming Through
Could raspberries soon be rejoining the pies and cocktails of the Jewish fruit bowl? They’ve been banished for many years due to insect infestation, but a new technology could make them grow as bug-free as greenhouse cabbage, according to Rabbi Lazer Fischer of Cincinnati Kosher.

Vertical farming, Rabbi Fischer said in his session, arose from scientists’ fears that the world’s existing arable land will no longer be able to feed the global population by 2050.

“You know why?” he asked. “Because the scientists say that the world has issues. The globe as we know it is in danger due to global warming, over-farming, and soil erosion.”

To solve this, environmentalists invented vertical farming.

He took attendees through a virtual tour of 80 Acres Farms, located on the outskirts of his home city of Cincinnati. The facility produces over 1.6 million plants at any given time. A dark room contains hundreds of peat mosses, each containing a single seed ensconced in dirt. Every few days it gets transferred to an increasingly larger “grow zone” to give it more space to grow. Lights of blue and red, which together emit a purplish tinge, are shone on the plants. These are the only two colors that have an effect on plants, Rabbi Fischer explained.

80 Acres Farms has designed its facility to filter all venues that could serve as conduits for bugs — humans, air, and water — eliminating the odds that insects are in the produce. How they do it is a commercial secret, though they have let the kashrus agency in on the secret. There is minimal contact with humans and air, and water consumption is 97 percent less than the 70 liters per plant per year used by traditional farming.

For now, vertical farming is used for leafy vegetables like lettuce, but 80 Acres is experimenting with strawberries and raspberries.

“It’s not a given that if it’s a vertical farm, then it is bug free,” Rabbi Fischer said. “But there is a very good chance that you could get to that point if the facility is designed properly and has proper oversight.”

No Compromises: Are We Back to the Bad Old Days?
The glut of kosher food, lamented Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of OU Kosher, has made many Yidden complacent that if “everyone eats” a food then it must be kosher. This threatens to take the community back to the bad old days when anything went.

“When we were younger, we ate just about everything,” he said. “If it looked kosher or it sounded kosher, we ate it. Then, the world got better. But what I’m seeing today is that people are going back to deciding based on assumptions and guesses. Did the proliferation of ‘lists’ of approved items — such as the liquor lists or Slurpee lists — create an environment in which people are satisfied with saying that a food is probably okay?”

He pointed to the Grey Goose vodka controversy last year, in which it was suggested that the spirit contained grape-based alcohol (stam yayin), rendering it not kosher. While it ultimately turned out to be fine, the scare set Rabbi Elefant thinking — even if one day it is okay, what stops Grey Goose from mixing in grape alcohol some other day? Yet people were not worried and went right back to sipping their vodka without hashgachah.

Rabbi Elefant has a plethora of similar stories: discovering that Southern Comfort, a once-popular drink in the heimish community, contained grape-based alcohol; finding out that After Eight Dinner Mints, produced by a British company, and eaten with tea by London’s Jewish community every Friday night after the seudah, had butter oil mixed in, making it milchigs.

He said that the time has come for this attitude to change. He recalled how many years ago he told Rav Chaim Yisroel Belsky ztz”l, one of the OU’s poskim, that he was hesitant to inform companies under his supervision that wholesale changes may be coming. How can we insist that they change from what we’ve always allowed them to do?

“Anyone who has that attitude,” Rav Belsky answered firmly, “should not be working in kashrus. We must always be checking and reevaluating ourselves.”

Mooo, You’re on: Candid Camera
The recent Covid pandemic hung heavily over the conference, which was dedicated in memory of two kashrus giants who were niftar during the outbreak — Rabbi Dr. Zecharia Senter, the founder and rabbinic director of Kof-K, and Rav Don Yoel Levy, the rabbinic director of the OK. In addition, many of the sessions were devoted to lessons learned from the virus years.

Can cameras, for example, replace human oversight? The experience of the past years has proved to be a mixed bag, said Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, from the kashrus authority of Australia and New Zealand.

Rabbi Gutnick spoke about the use of cameras in the production of chalav Yisrael. Cameras have been used extensively during the Covid pandemic, but they have turned out not to be as foolproof as they initially thought.

“There are many things that you can’t see,” Rabbi Gutnick declared, “You have to be careful that you weren’t hoodwinked when using a camera.”

So what are cameras good for? Rabbi Gutnick explained that they are good as a hiddur, or if you need a specific task to verify.

He then offered a pilpul on the effect witnesses have: In some cases, they create the event, such as at a wedding. In other cases, they merely provide proof of an occurrence, such as with monetary transactions. When it comes to chalav Yisrael milk production, Rabbi Gutnick said, one could argue that a mashgiach watching the milking on a camera would be sufficient. But on the other hand, the Chasam Sofer says that the rabbinic decree prohibiting chalav akum was given for a reason that was not revealed. According to this, having a camera would not suffice, since perhaps that “other reason” requires a human physically observing the milking process. He further noted that all would agree that a Jew watching a camera would not be enough to create gevinas Yisrael (for cheese).

Other issues with cameras are that (a) they are technological, which means that they are bound to fail and break every so often, and (b) it is hard for a mashgiach to stare at a screen for extended periods of time.

“The fact of the matter is,” Rabbi Gutnick said, “watching a long row of cows walk to be milked is very boring, and it’s easy for a mashgiach looking at a monitor to fall asleep or get distracted.”

The ideal mashgiach is someone who pays attention to what is happening and reports back to the rabbinic supervisor.

One person who knew little about farms or animals was once serving as a last-minute substitute mashgiach at a dairy plant, Rabbi Gutnick recalled. He called his rabbinic supervisor, breathlessly yelling into the phone, “They’re milking a horse! They’re milking a horse!”

The kashrus agency sent someone down to check out what was happening and discovered a herd of black and white cows, with the mashgiach screaming “There’s the horse!” as he pointed at the one brown jersey cow mixed into the herd.

“We had to explain to him that a brown cow is a cow, not a horse,” Rabbi Gutnick said. “But at least that mashgiach was paying attention.”

Ask and Answer: Rav Dovid Cohen
One of the most fascinating sessions was a Q&A with Rav Dovid Cohen, the rav of Congregation Gvul Yaavetz and a prominent posek in Flatbush. Laden with wisdom and delivered with wit, he began with the pronouncement that a shiur must begin with a milsa d’bedichesa — a joke.

“Three years ago,” he began, “when Rabbi Sholem Fishbane asked me to speak at this conference, I said, ‘Everything is fine, I just have to check out the kashrus.’ ”

Rav Cohen was asked whether a kashrus organization may hire a mashgiach currently employed by a different agency.

He prefaced his answer with a fascinating, behind-the-curtains look at how rabbanim rule on halachah. The mesorah of Lita, from Rav Chaim Volozhiner to Rav Moshe Feinstein, was to study the sugya and issue a psak based on their understanding of its conclusion, even if it differed with Rishonim. The mesorah in Hungary, though, was to cite all opinions, and then rule based on the majority.

As to the question itself, Rav Cohen said that all such queries — hiring a chef away from a different caterer, offering a higher salary for a cleaning lady, or hiring a rebbi who teaches at a different mosad — have the same answer. One may not directly ask the employee to leave his place of work, but one may advertise in a place that the person will notice it and call him on his own.

“This is the minhag ha’olam, and this is the acceptable psak,” Rav Cohen declared.

Some of the questions dealt with thorny issues that had no clear answer. What is the kashrus agency’s responsibility regarding the “ambience” of a facility where it provides a hechsher? One kashrus organization recalled having a Christian symbol at an event, and another recoiled at having to provide a hechsher at an event that featured inappropriate activity.

“I don’t know,” the rav responded. “It’s a judgmental thing.”

If there is pritzus, he said he would advise against it, but if it’s primarily a staid affair that also has some objectionable content, then he would permit it. But he emphasized the responsibility kashrus organizations have to save uninformed Yidden from eating treif.

What should a kashrus organization do if a mashgiach it employs is credibly accused of withholding a get from his wife or not paying child support? These things are a massive chillul Hashem, Rav Cohen responded.

“You are part of Klal Yisrael, and Klal Yisrael must help free an agunah,” he said. “I’m not saying to fire him yesterday. But you should replace him. Tell him that we are going to look for another mashgiach. You’ll probably find someone else.”

Are there grounds to be lenient when it comes to kashrus issues in retirement homes? Rav Cohen said yes, noting that a common expression in the Shulchan Aruch is that “a sick or elderly person is allowed.” He said, “It doesn’t say that the elderly people are sick, it says sick or old.”

I left the conference with a new appreciation of the Mishnah in Avos, “Hafoch bah v’hafoch bah, d’kula bah.” Turn the Torah around and examine it from every angle, because if you do so, you will discover that it addresses every issue and every question.

Tossing Rivalry to the Winds
One of Rabbi Moshe Reich’s early assignments after coming to work at the Kof-K kashrus agency was to take a senior Pepsi official out for lunch. It was approximately 13 years ago, and the soft drink giant’s vice president of operations was coming to the Kof-K headquarters in Teaneck.

Pepsi was the agency’s client, and Kof-K CEO Rabbi Dr. Zechariah Senter tasked Rabbi Reich with handling the executive. Rabbi Reich searched for an upscale kosher restaurant and took Rabbi Senter and the executive there.

As they were seated, a waitress came over to take their order.

“I’ll take a Diet Pepsi,” said Mr. Pepsi.

“I’m sorry, we don’t carry Pepsi,” she responded. “Can I get you a Coke?”

“No,” he said. “I’ll just have some water.”

Rabbi Reich, mortified for not thinking of this simple hitch, questioned him: Would he really not drink a Coke?

“I don’t understand, Rabbi,” Sherman replied in astonishment. “You’re from the Kof-K, would you eat from the OU?”

“Sure,” Rabbi Reich said.

Sherman stared at him in shock. He then told him that he had once taken his son to a game at Yankee Stadium, where Coke has the franchise. He told his son beforehand that there would be no drinks at the game. However, in middle of the game, his son begged for a drink.

“You know the rules, we only drink Pepsi,” he told his son. “I’d rather buy a beer and get arrested than drink a Coke.”

“That,” Rabbi Reich tells me, “is what real competition looks like in the outside world.”

The Jewish version of competition was on intense display at the recent Association of Kashrus Organizations conference, where 150 representatives from 75 kashrus agencies hobnobbed, traded tales from the field, and swapped ideas.

Rabbi Reich, who organized the confab, said it was “the largest conference AKO ever had.”

“I appreciate that Mishpacha is dedicating time for this, because I don’t think the kashrus world realizes how much we actually work together,” he said.

As a symbol of the unity, the conference was dedicated in memory of Rav Senter and Rav Don Yoel Levy. Rabbi Levy was niftar on Acharon shel Pesach at the height of Covid and had a quick levayah; Rabbi Senter was niftar a year later to the day and also had a rushed levayah to make a flight to Eretz Yisrael for kevurah.

Rabbi Ari Senter, the current director of kashrus standards at Kof-K, wanted to do something for them, and he worked with AKO to dedicate the conference in their memories. He asked each kashrus organization attending to take one of the ArtScroll Shas’s seventy-some volumes so they could make a siyum haShas, which took place alongside a hachnassas sefer Torah.

Rabbi Senter of Kof-K spoke about Rabbi Don Yoel Levy of OK, and Rabbi Meir Fogelman, Rabbi Levy’s son-in-law, paid tribute to the late Rabbi Senter.

“Everyone thought we made a mistake,” Rabbi Reich said. “People were asking, ‘Why is Rabbi Senter talking about Rabbi Levy, shouldn’t it be the opposite?’ But we told everyone we did this on purpose.”

This was Rabbi Reich’s third stint as AKO conference organizer.

“I felt like I was making a chasunah but I didn’t have to pay for it,” he joked. “I had to make a seating chart, trying to make sure that people who have things in common sit near each other.”

His first conference was in 2018, followed by another in 2020, which ran alongside the Siyum HaShas on daf yomi on January 1. The AKO organization was established in 1985 but reached its current format two decades ago. Responsibility for the annual conventions rotates among several agencies.

The current one was originally scheduled for the end of December, but with the Omicron variant spreading, Rabbi Senter felt it would be a chillul Hashem if there was a Covid outbreak because of it, so it was canceled.

Aside from the US and Canada, four other countries were represented — South Africa, Britain, Israel, and Australia. Several heimishe agencies attended for the first time. Rav Dovid Cohen was there as a guest the entire time, making himself available to answer questions privately.

One priority of conference organizers was the smaller kashrus agencies, since the Kof-K regularly travels to their cities to train in their mashgichim. There are seven major kashrus certifiers in North America — OU, OK, Star-K, Kof-K, and cRc in the United States, and COR in Ontario and MK in Montreal — and some five dozen smaller ones spread out throughout the country, from AKC in Atlanta to OVK in St. Louis to the Rabbinic Council of California. The conference held a special session on how to certify kashrus properly utilizing just one or two staffers.

Reflecting on the conference, Rabbi Reich said, “You had the new guard and the old guard getting together, having that handshake and getting to know each other. It was a tremendous display of achdus. I’m still getting messages from people who say they are still riding the coattails of the conference. That should be the ultimate message.”

 

 

Kosher Certification Has Gone Mainstream

Posted on: April 14th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

Republished from Food Safety News

By Cookson Beecher on April 19, 2022

For the approximately 15.2 million Jewish people in the world, this is a time to celebrate Passover — the festival commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in the 1200s BC. This year the holiday runs from April 15 through April 22.

As with other holidays, food is an important part of this annual celebration, with the main observances centering around a special home service called the seder, which includes a festive meal. The foods served must all be kosher.

Kosher Certification Agency Near Me - Kosher Supervision

Derived from Hebrew, kosher means to be “pure, proper or suitable for consumption.” It’s a term that describes foods that comply with dietary guidelines set by traditional Jewish law. Not only do these laws set forth which foods may be consumed, but also how they must be produced, processed and prepared. And which foods should not be eaten.

With the extra supervision required to be accepted as kosher, with oversight by rabbis for example, kosher food is perceived by many people — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — as being healthier and cleaner.

No wonder then that a kosher label on food attracts shoppers of all kinds. In fact, according to research in 2017 by Kosher Network International, the global market for kosher foods was worth $24 billion, with growth expected to hit 11.5 percent by 2025.

OK Kosher, one of the largest kosher certification organizations in the world, has certified about 700,000 products made by 4,000 manufacturers, which include Kraft, Heinz, Kellogg and General Mills. Even Coca Cola has gone Kosher.

Rabbi Eli Lando, executive manager of OK Kosher, said that by and large, “consumers see a kosher certification as a verification that a product is healthy, clean and safe. And while the certification has roots in religious traditions that are thousands of years old, it now speaks directly to the modern consumer’s demand for wholesome foods.”

Although there are 6 million Jews in the United States, according to World Population Review, Lando said Jewish people represent only 20 percent of the kosher product consumer base.

In other words, kosher has gone mainstream, with social media helping to boost people’s awareness of it.

Roger Horowitz, author of “Kosher USA,” describes a Kosher seal as a “silent salesman.

“It may seem ancient,” he said, but the people doing it are modern and in the modern marketplace.”

What’s kosher and what isn’t
Food that is kosher must adhere to specific Biblical-based dietary laws. Some of these rules require only eating animals that are kosher — cloven (split) hooved mammals that chew cud. These include cows, sheep, goats, lambs, oxen and deer. Cuts of beef from the hindquarters of the animal, such as flank, short loin, sirloin, round and shank, are not considered kosher.

Some meats, such as meat from pigs, rabbits, squirrels, camels, kangaroos and horses are not considered kosher.

Pigs? Pigs can transmit trichinellosis, or trichinosis, a disease transmitted by eating raw or undercooked pork contaminated with the parasite Trichinella, which is not visible to the naked eye. Symptoms range from nausea to heart and breathing problems. In the past, trichinosis was fairly common and can still be a problem in rural areas.

The best way to prevent trichinellosis is to cook meat to a temperature of 71 degrees C (160 degrees F). Freezing, curing or salting, drying, smoking, or microwaving meat may not kill infective parasites. Of course, In the case of kosher, you can prevent infections by not eating pork altogether. In Biblical days, this was a practical safeguard against it.

Certain domesticated fowl, such as chicken, geese, quail, dove and turkey may be eaten. But predator birds such as eagles and hawks may not.

Fish is considered kosher only if the fish has fins and scales. This would include tuna, salmon, halibut and pickerel. But shrimp, crab, oysters, lobster and other types of shellfish are not permitted. That’s because they have spread typhoid and are also a source of a type of hives.

Meanwhile fish and eggs and plant-based meats are classified as “neutral,” meaning they don’t contain milk or fish.

Fruits in their unprocessed forms are kosher but they can’t contain insects, which means they must be inspected to make sure no insects or larvae are present before being sold or eaten. Specially trained rabbis do the inspections.

Nuts and seeds and the oils from them are kosher, although sometimes the processing of these foods can make them non-kosher because of possible cross-contamination from equipment that was used for meat or dairy products.

Also, under kosher rules, meat and dairy may not be made or eaten together. In other words, it’s one or the other at mealtime. This is based on the belief that dairy foods and meat digest at unequal rates, which is hard on the body.

Grains for the most part are fine. But during Passover, all leavened grain products — those made with yeast or a leavening substance — are forbidden. But unleavened breads such as matzo are allowed.

Kosher slaughtering . . . and after
Kosher requires that an animal or bird be slaughtered by a trained kosher slaughterer. The process involves severing the trachea and esophagus with a special razor-sharp knife. This also severs the jugular vein, which kills the animal or bird instantaneously and is said to cause a minimal amount of pain to the animal or bird.

After the animal has been slaughtered, the internal organs are inspected for any abnormalities that would make the animal non-kosher. The lungs are also checked for abscesses and other health problems.

The blood, which is a medium for the growth of bacteria, is drained. Meat must be “koshered” within 72 hours after slaughter so that the blood won’t congeal. Eating the blood of an animal or bird is forbidden.

Labeling is important
Because foods nowadays can contain so many different ingredients and also because of the complexities of modern food processing, it would be hard for a consumer to know if a product is kosher or not. That’s where labeling comes in. A kosher label on the packaging indicates that the product has met all of the necessary requirements. For those who want to adhere to kosher dietary guidelines, the advice is to choose only foods with these labels as a way to avoid accidentally eating something that isn’t kosher.

In North America, kosher certification ranges from around $5,000 to $15,000 for annual certification. As well as regular inspections, unannounced inspections are also part of the certification process. Rabbis are involved throughout the certification process. This gives consumers added trust in kosher products because an extra set of eyes are involved.

According to the JIFA, the Jewish Initiative for Animals 74 percent of Americans chooses kosher based on concerns for food safety. In fact, of the people who buy kosher products, the majority point to food safety as their key concern. And previous research has shown that American shoppers believe that kosher food is safer.

Washington state dairyman Dick Klein, who isn’t Jewish, is one of them. He said he always buys kosher, if it’s on sale, because “it’s healthier and safer.”

Some problems
Meanwhile, JIFA, says that despite the fact that people think kosher food is inherently better, this is despite the fact that almost all kosher and non-kosher meat, poultry, dairy and eggs come from animals raised on factory farms, which raises concerns about the overuse of antibiotics.

When it comes to how kosher animals are bred and raised, JIFA says that kosher certification has no relationship to antibiotic use, health genetics, confinement, or access to pasture.

Food safety enters the picture
Although many people consider kosher foods to be safe when it comes to standard food-safety requirements, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Kosher Check, a Canadian certifying company, is a full-service certification agency — but one with an important difference, according to its website. While kosher agencies worldwide aim to certify that the ingredients and manufacturing processes of their clients follow the Jewish laws of kosher as set out in the Torah (the Jewish Bible) Kosher Check goes further.

Formerly BC Kosher, it was the only agency in the world that required its clients to be in good standing with all applicable food safety rules as a condition of kosher certification.

Now Kosher Check certification has been introduced for those manufacturers that want to promote not only their kosher compliance but their commitment to food safety as well.

The company says that certification of a company’s products and manufacturing processes by Kosher Check is a mark that “not only guarantees your ingredients and products kosher status, it also acts as a mark of assurance that food safety laws have been strictly followed to a minimum level of HACCP compliance.”

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) compliance requires businesses to identify potential food safety issues and review their entire food storage and handling processes and procedures. The goal of using HACCP is to ensure a business is HACCP compliant. Compliance implies all aspects of food storage and handling are conducted in a safe manner.

Kosher Check says it can work with companies that don’t meet this standard to achieve it.

The company’s website also says that this double-layered guarantee formalizes and reinforces the widely-held belief among consumers that Kosher products are safer to consume. Besides attracting Jewish shoppers, the Kosher Check label will attract “the throngs of shoppers concerned about food safety issues,” thus greatly expanding the market for a company’s kosher products.

Kosher Certification in America – Why Kosher for Passover is Thriving

Posted on: April 14th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FOOD DIVE

The ‘silent salesman’: How kosher certification went mainstream

By Megan Poinski

Right now, Jewish people around the world are scrutinizing their cabinets and pantries, trying to get rid of any food items that aren’t kosher for Passover.

Hanan Products has been ready for this year’s holiday, which runs from the evening of April 15 to 23, for months.

Every January, the New York manufacturer of whipped toppings and creamers converts its entire factory to kosher-for-Passover production for a little more than two weeks.

In an interview in late January, as the special manufacturing period was drawing to a close, Chief Operating Officer Ryan Hanan described the process. Several rabbis were moving around the factory floor, scrutinizing every detail as the factory churned out non-dairy whipped toppings and coffee creamers that can be used during the eight days of Passover. Specialized sealing tape was everywhere. Only one line in the facility was running, and workers spent long hours making the specialized products that the commercial bakery customers Hanan Products serves will need for the annual holiday.

“It’s a little hectic,” Hanan said.

But the hectic time pays off at Passover. This year, Hanan Products made about 250,000 pounds of kosher for Passover items. The company is one of the few in the space that makes a product that can be enjoyed by observant Jews during the holiday. Rabbi Eli Lando, executive manager of certification organization OK Kosher, said that kosher for Passover is an especially hot market because most people in the Jewish faith — not just those who follow a kosher diet on a daily basis — will stick to those products during the eight-day holiday.

Every day of the year, however, kosher is a hot market, period. Research in 2017 by Kosher Network International — commonly abbreviated KNi — found that the global market for kosher foods was worth $24 billion, and was projected to grow 11.5% by 2025. OK Kosher, which is one of the largest kosher certification organizations in the world, has certified around 700,000 products made by 4,000 manufacturers, Lando said. Its clients include Kraft Heinz, Kellogg and General Mills.

Kosher is one of the most popular certifications in the food industry today. According to one commonly cited estimate, the certification is on about 40% of all products in a U.S. grocery store.

While there are about 6 million Jews in the United States, according to World Population Review, Lando said Jewish people represent only 20% of the kosher product consumer base. By and large, consumers see a kosher certification as a verification that a product is healthy, clean and safe. And while the certification has roots in religious traditions that are thousands of years old, it now speaks directly to the modern consumer’s demand for wholesome foods.

What is kosher?
In essence, food that is kosher adheres to specific dietary laws for members of the Jewish religion. Different religious texts and their interpretations lay ground rules about the types of food items and ingredients that observant Jews need to eat, as well as which foods and ingredients they need to avoid. Some of these rules involve not cooking meat and dairy together and only consuming products from animals that are kosher — generally cloven-hooved mammals that chew a cud, certain birds, and seafood with scales — and killed and prepared according to kosher rules.

In the days before widespread CPG food and drink manufacturing, it was relatively easy for observant households to be able to make choices based on those dietary laws, said OK Kosher Project Coordinator Ilana Klein.

As CPG-style food became more popular, different ingredients, additives and processes changed the ultimate composition of food and drink. It became much more difficult for individual consumers to know whether items met with their dietary laws. So, Klein said, kosher certification groups formed to visit manufacturing facilities, scrutinize and study ingredients and offer advice to CPGs and consumers about which foods, processes and ingredients were kosher.

OK Kosher has been certifying food products since 1935, and is one of the larger certification organizations today. The ingredients and manufacturing processes for every product that has the organization’s circled K on its packaging have been scrutinized by OK Kosher’s staff of experts. In addition to all of the CPG products OK Kosher has verified, Lando said there are more than 1 million ingredients that the group monitors.

“Any certification worldwide has their standards based on regulations that were developed by mankind, people who have come together and decided that this would be the standard,” Lando said. “The standard of kosher is the interpretation of the Bible, which has been in Jewish tradition for thousands of years.”

Kosher certification is not about ensuring food is high quality or healthy, Lando said. It attests certain processes related to safety and purity enshrined in Jewish law are followed. And it means that those who work with certification — many of whom are rabbis — continue to make site visits and investigate processes and ingredients.

“Any certification worldwide has their standards based on regulations that were developed by mankind, people who have come together and decided that this would be the standard. The standard of kosher is the interpretation of the Bible, which has been in Jewish tradition for thousands of years.”

Geller, who is known as the “Queen of Kosher” for her presence in Jewish lifestyle media — writing cookbooks, hosting online cooking shows and founding KNi — said that the halo of a kosher certification has deep roots. While it is important to consumers who only eat kosher products all year long, it’s also become synonymous in popular culture for something that is pure and honest. After all, she said, it’s not uncommon for people making any kind of agreement to talk about whether it is “kosher.”

“People have a lot of reverence for a religious set of eyes, which cannot be compromised,” Geller said. “So they really know that whatever is in the package is actually in the package — nothing more, nothing less. And there’s an independent board or body governing that process. That’s why it’s become so much more mainstream.”

Kosher continues to be top-of-mind for both consumers and manufacturers. According to Innova Market Insights, almost a third of all product launches in 2021 had a kosher claim. More than half of all dessert and ice cream launches were certified kosher, and 17% of the new kosher launches came from the bakery category.

Read More in Manufacturing
Roger Horowitz, author of “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food,” said that in this day and age, a kosher certification is almost a need-to-have. Unless a product is something that could never be kosher certified — for example, something containing shrimp — or it would be extremely expensive to create a kosher version — like a budget product that contains meat — the default is for it to become kosher certified.

In kosher we trust
While kosher certification began as a way to tell members of a religious community what they could eat, the symbol means much more to a wider swath of consumers today.

“If the product has a kosher symbol on it, it says … [it is] a company that invests in quality, a company that cares about the product they make,” OK Kosher’s Lando said.

Lando recalls something an attorney told him: Kosher certifiers answer to a higher authority. For that reason, he said, they don’t let things slide. When examining manufacturing facilities, kosher certification groups point out any issues and force the manufacturers to deal with them.

Because of the vital role a kosher certification plays to observant consumers, Lando said that transparency is key. The effect of that transparency, as well as the trust the community places in rabbis, adds to the deference that consumers give the certification.

The popularity of kosher certification is something that has snowballed through the years. Horowitz said that one impetus for manufacturers to get the certification is simply access. There are areas of the U.S. with larger Jewish populations — like the New York City region, as well as several other East Coast cities. Grocery retailers that serve those populations may prefer to put more kosher products on their shelves simply for those customers. And if these stores are part of larger chains, the kosher products will spread to new locations.

Geller said this begins a validation loop for kosher food. As there are more kosher certified products available throughout the store, she said, they become both more prevalent and prominent. The sheer numbers, she said, increase demand among consumers.

Kosher also has the connotation of being healthy, Geller said — though the certification has nothing to do with nutritional qualities. Kosher certifications are usually next to the other labels and symbols that show a product’s nutritional and ingredient qualities, such as “vegan friendly,” “organic,” “all-natural” or “gluten-free,” providing the association.

Kosher certification offers other helpful information to consumers, Horowitz said. If a consumer is lactose intolerant, for example, kosher certification can indicate whether a product contains dairy.

“People have a lot of reverence for a religious set of eyes, which cannot be compromised. So they really know that whatever is in the package is actually in the package — nothing more, nothing less. And there’s an independent board or body governing that process.”

The 2017 KNi study found that kosher products drive three times larger basket sizes among shoppers, though only 10% of those products come from specialty kosher sections that provide Jewish ethnic food. Geller said the reasoning behind this is two-fold. For consumers eating all kosher food for religious reasons, they follow other Jewish traditions, including weekly entertaining on the Sabbath. This is akin to having a Thanksgiving-style meal each week, she said, inviting friends, extended family and neighbors.

For consumers who have no religious reason to buy kosher food, the ones who pay close attention to the certification tend to be more affluent, Geller said. These people usually buy more at the store anyway, but they are also more apt to pay premium prices for the branded products they most want.

Because kosher traditions date back thousands of years and find their beginnings in a religious, ethnic and cultural community, Geller said that kosher presents a sense of authenticity. As people are embracing more genuine forms of food and drink, items that are kosher fit into that space for consumers.

“They really, really feel that it’s authentic, and from the source and it’s timeless,” Geller said. “…If you want to really learn how to make tomato sauce, I want an Italian grandmother to teach it to me. That’s the idea with kosher food.”

How to be kosher
While hundreds of thousands of products have kosher certifications, the right to bear a kosher seal is something that is hard earned. OK Kosher’s Klein said that the certification goes far deeper than filling out a form and checking boxes.

“It became more and more sophisticated as time went on, and it’s definitely one of the major pioneers in the United States and across the world,” Klein said. “Our organization is constantly upholding the standards, setting the standards, determining new standards, always examining the new technology and new practices.”

Lando said that earning kosher certification through OK Kosher is no different than working with any other regulatory agency. After a CPG manufacturer applies online, OK Kosher discusses product specifics with the company and visits its manufacturing facility. It puts together a certification plan and requirements, and schedules visits to ensure that the manufacturing lines remain in compliance. The manufacturer also signs a legal agreement to use the OK Kosher trademark.

It can take as little as four weeks for a product to get an initial kosher certification, depending on how ready the item and facility are. OK Kosher’s certification lasts a year, meaning all companies are subjected to at least an annual reinspection. However, Lando said, kosher inspectors do make unplanned visits to ensure companies are continuing to follow the proper procedures to maintain certification.

In his book, Horowitz wrote about some of the specific challenges CPG companies have dealt with as they sought kosher certification. Many involved single ingredients that were not kosher. Horowitz said that gelatin has caused problems through the years. The ingredient can be sourced from a variety of places — including red meat, fish and vegetables — but the mouthfeel varies depending on its source. Horowitz said that finding a kosher source of gelatin that does not impact the eating experience has been challenging, especially because the ingredient must be sourced from an animal killed in accordance with kosher law.

“If you’re a large manufacturer making large sorts of products, if you have to disrupt the assumptions and the habits of consumers by changing their product mix by changing the gelatin, it’s not worth it for you to do that,” Horowitz said.

“If you want to really learn how to make tomato sauce, I want an Italian grandmother to teach it to me. That’s the idea with kosher food.”

In the 1950s, Coca-Cola faced a similar ingredient challenge, Horowitz said. At the time, its signature soda contained a small amount of animal-derived glycerin, which is not kosher. However, industrial ingredient producers found that petroleum-derived glycerin is kosher, edible and less expensive than the animal variety, Horowitz said. All of those contributed to Coca-Cola — and other manufacturers — turning to the petroleum-derived ingredient.

Lando advises companies today to go into designing products and manufacturing processes already thinking of kosher certification. If a company has to make big changes in order to become kosher, or if attaining certification gets in the way of doing business, he often counsels them not to do it. For a food manufacturer to make kosher products, the ingredients, equipment and production lines all need to be certified. And it all needs to be kept in order — a non-religious person may not mind if a product with a kosher seal was made on a production line that did not undergo proper sanitization processes, for example, but it means much more to someone who is observant.

Like many trends today, KNi’s Geller thinks that kosher’s popularity has been magnified by social media. Historically, while many large CPG brands have offered certified kosher products for decades, not many had promoted it, and the certification seal itself isn’t especially prominent on packaging. Geller said manufacturers seemed to not consider kosher as an earned certification that every consumer would want to know about.

About 10 to 15 years ago, Geller said, that started to change. The ability to do specific marketing on social media helped drive the realization of how important a kosher certification really is to consumers.

“They started to actually target the kosher customer, and then saw that value expand out to … the international community or those that just see kosher as a symbol of approval,” Geller said. “Then the explosion really happened and the certification went mainstream.”

On KNi, the huge popularity of kosher food is evident. Geller publishes an array of KNi cooking videos featuring different cuisines and cooking styles, in which all of the recipes are kosher. The most popular videos are on KNi’s homepage — with 187.3 million views for a video on Middle Eastern dips, 74 million views for one on the Arabic dip matbucha and 44.2 million views for one on cheese-stuffed falafel.

“There are only 15 million Jewish people in the entire world,” Geller said. “People. We’re talking about men, women, children and babies. And we have videos with over 10 million, 15 million views.”

As far as certifications go, kosher is relatively inexpensive. OK Kosher is a nonprofit, Lando said, and most companies in North America pay somewhere around $5,000 to $15,000 for an annual certification. The cost is based on aspects like the location, number, size or volume of facilities where the food is made and the amount of supervision and monitoring needed based on the product type.

When manufacturers ask what the return on investment is for making a product kosher, Lando responds that they should also consider the “return on ignoring.” He noted that certification costs are a fraction of what a company pays for larger marketing expenses, like a Super Bowl ad.

“If you take off the kosher symbol, you will find out how many customers you chased away, and that is going to be a much more expensive lesson to learn,” Lando said. “…It’s not a mistake that companies large and small, have kosher symbols on their products year after year after year after year.”

Horowitz said studies have shown only about one in 10 consumers seeking a kosher certification on products actually follows a kosher diet.

“You’re talking about millions of people who are looking for a kosher label on products,” Horowitz said. “And if that label can be obtained for a relatively modest cost, then it becomes an asset to the marketing activities.”

Kosher certification organizations — and CPG manufacturers as well — all realize that a kosher seal on a package is like a “silent salesman,” Horowitz said. And while certification organizations have a primary interest of ensuring products with the seal truly are kosher, there is a secondary goal of encouraging consumers to buy the products.

“Kosher: It may seem ancient, but the people doing it are modern and in the modern marketplace,” Horowitz said.

Kosher Foods Industry Grows in U.S. and Globally

Posted on: January 17th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

The awareness regarding health and wellness is rising rapidly. This trend has caused the demand and availability for various types of kosher food to grow speedily in the past several decades. This growth is expected to continue to rise over the next decade and beyond.

The global kosher food market is expected to reach a market size of $28.85 billion by 2028, and project a CAGR of 4.16% during the forecast period, 2019-2028. The base year considered for the market study is 2018, and the forecast period is between 2019 and 2028.

Key factors fuelling the global kosher food market growth: High prevalence of lactose intolerance, the demand for kosher food products among non-Jewish consumers, and an increase in the number of health-conscious consumers.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency

 

In the 1990s, only 18 kosher certification agencies were functional across the world. With the expansion of the global kosher certification industry, the current number is estimated to be over 1,600 kosher certification agencies led by rabbis. Of this number, approximately 600 are found in the United States. Of the 600 kosher certification agencies in the U.S., the vast majority are run by Orthodox rabbis. Since the mid-2000s, a small number of U.S.-based kosher certification agencies have been started by non-Orthodox rabbis, including Rabbi Jason Miller of Michigan, the founder and kosher director of Kosher Michigan — KM Kosher Certification Agency, based in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Rabbi Miller’s kosher organization now boasts hundreds of clients around North America plus dozens more in India. While Miller faced much pessimism when he launched KM back in 2008, he was determined to grow his kosher agency, which is now the largest non-Orthodox kosher certification agency in the world.

What has fueled the growth in the kosher market?

This growth is primarily attributed to customer demands for allergen-free, clean labels, organic, and vegan foods. As companies are continually adapting to kosher certification, it has become mandatory for raw material suppliers to be kosher certified. This upsurge in demand for kosher food products around the world has renewed prospects for enterprises, including raw material suppliers and kosher food manufacturers.

The consumption of kosher food by non-Jewish consumers is also propelling market growth in the kosher segment. The snacks and savory, bakery, and confectionery product segments, under the product category, are estimated to witness a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period. Snacks and savory items comprise rolls, wraps, sandwiches, bread, nachos, crackers, chips, gushers, and peanut butter, among several others. Bakery and confectionary products like cookies, pies, pastries, and muffins are usually prepared using flour. The growth of these segments is driven by emerging and new market players, and assorted food items.

The North American region is estimated to be the major contributor to the global market in terms of market share. The United States is second to Israel in terms of Jews and is one of the most lucrative markets for kosher food manufacturers. Therefore, the presence of Jews in the United States and Canada bolsters the kosher food market growth in the North American region. Furthermore, the adoption of kosher food by the non-Jewish community, owing to its benefits, is anticipated to offer potential expansion opportunities for the market players in the region.

The global market is witnessing potential lucrative opportunities, owing to the rising presence of varied kosher food products. The professional culinary sector has emerged as a positive trend, increasing the popularity of kosher food. Chefs are the key cuisine trend drivers. Online shopping is one of the leading distribution channels for kosher food products as a result of consumer behavior, availability, and variety.

Former Boxing Champion Yuri Foreman Gives Kosher Certification to Donut Store

Posted on: December 9th, 2021 by Kosher Michigan

Fom the JTA

Yuri Foreman’s professional peak as a boxer arguably came 11 years ago, when he faced off against Miguel Cotto in a marquee boxing match at Yankee Stadium.

The match, dubbed the “Stadium Slugfest,” was a super welterweight title fight that had been promoted on huge posters at subway stops around the city. Foreman was a world champion who had won his belt the year prior. Cotto was one of the best boxers in the world, and won the fight by technical knockout in the ninth round.

For most boxers, it would have been a tough break. Luckily, Foreman had a backup plan: He was also studying to be an Orthodox rabbi. He was ordained in 2014 but kept training, fighting and teaching self-defense classes. Now, a decade later, he’s putting his ordination to use — with a twist.

Like many rabbis, he’s using his expertise to provide kosher certification to eateries. Unlike most rabbis, however, he’s only going to certify vegan restaurants.

Oh, and he’s also mounting a boxing comeback at age 41.

Yuri Foreman Kosher Certification

 

“People know quite a bit of the ‘sweet science,’ which is boxing because we’ve been punching each other for thousands of years,” Foreman told the New York Jewish Week when asked why he started a vegan kosher agency. “We know way more about the sweet science than the science of food…. It’s horrific, what people do to themselves. Even though we say Jewish law says ‘don’t harm animals,’ we’re harming ourselves every single day.”

Foreman’s journey to veganism was gradual — but now he’s a true believer. He likened it to his experience of becoming Orthodox after growing up in a secular family that immigrated from the Soviet Union. One transformation flowed from the other: learning to keep kosher, he said, taught him to be more selective in what he ate. That led first to vegetarianism and then veganism.

His conversion to veganism was due at least in part to the influence of his wife, Shoshana Foreman, a physician’s assistant who became vegan well over a decade ago while working at a health food store. Her secret, she said, is to ask someone what their favorite childhood dish is, and then make a vegan version of it. For Yuri, whom she married in 2018, she made vegan pelmeni, Russian meat dumplings.

In May of this year, the Foremans established VBR Kosher — which stands for “Vegan Boxing Rabbi” — as a limited liability corporation. Since then, the couple has certified one establishment: Dun-Well Doughnuts in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The small shop now bears a certificate in the window with Foreman’s signature, certifying that Dun-Well’s offerings are “strictly vegan, kosher and pareve.” Foreman hung the sign after checking the shop’s kitchen at the end of November, ensuring that all of the ingredients — hence all of the food being sold — met the standards of Jewish dietary law.

This week, Foreman helped Dun-Well co-founder Daniel Dunbar hang mezuzahs on its doorposts.

Around noon on a mild fall day, Foreman and Dunbar affixed the small case bearing a scroll to the doorpost of the red-brick building and recited the appropriate blessing word by word. It now hangs somewhat above a bumper sticker reading “LOSERS WEAR FUR TRIM.”

“I like making a product that’s accessible to everybody,” said Dunbar, who is of Jewish descent and identifies as secular. “We get asked a lot, ‘Are any of your donuts vegan?’ and when we tell them they’re all vegan, they’re very excited. Now I get to do that with people that are seeking kosher options and it’s really nice to be able to say, ‘Yes, you can have anything in this shop.’”

Dun-Well may be the first vegan establishment certified kosher by the Foremans, but they hope it won’t be their last. After all, vegan dining is on the rise in New York City; according to Eater, a string of restaurateurs are opting to go vegetarian or vegan both to save money and shrink their carbon footprint.

The couple hopes to supplement the kosher certification with online content — videos, posts, a podcast — about keeping kosher and being vegan.

“Our goal is to put this content out there for people to see, and to teach by example,” Shoshana Foreman said.

Being vegan is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not popular among the couple’s Jewish friends in their Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Shoshana Foreman said friends were adjusting to their diet, though from time to time they need to decline invitations to meals on Shabbat.

“The short answer is, we stopped being invited,” Foreman joked.

At VBR Kosher, the Foremans are working with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, an Orthodox rabbi who works at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ synagogue in Manhattan. Moskowitz has decades of experience in kosher supervision and provided certification to Dun-Well several years ago before the certificate lapsed.

Because Dun-Well’s products contain no meat or dairy, kosher supervision is easier there than at many restaurants. But there are still things to look out for, like whether the food colorings and other ingredients are certified kosher. Dunbar said he had to switch out his soy milk to maintain the certification.

Moskowitz and the Foremans understand that some observant Jews may not recognize or trust their independent authority, as opposed to the imprimatur of a large and well-known kosher certifier like the Orthodox Union. But they’re confident that it will make a difference to some people.

“For people who feel that they know the people here involved and they trust them, then each person should do things that make them feel comfortable,” said Moskowitz. “I don’t feel kosher supervision is there to be persuasive. It’s meant to be transparent and educational and give people the opportunity to make informed decisions.”

Avrom Pollak, president of Star-K, a large kosher agency based in Baltimore, said that because the kosher certification can be so complex, a lot of kosher eaters may be hesitant to trust a new certification.

“A lot of the kosher consumers are very discerning,” he said. “They want to know who stands behind that certification and they want to know if a problem does arise, are they going to deal with it in an honest and forthright manner?”

For now, Foreman considers VBR Kosher something of a passion project and isn’t charging for the service. In any case, it’s not his main gig. These days, he wakes up at 5 o’clock every morning to run eight miles or lifts weights. He trains at a boxing gym in Sunset Park. He said he wants to get back in the ring because he feels good and doesn’t want to regret passing up an opportunity. And at a time when antisemitism is rising in New York, he added, he wants to show that Jews can be tough.

“I don’t want to be years ahead [and] be disappointed that I stopped doing this because a lot of people told me I’m old,” he said. “And partially, being a Jew, we need an image of Jews being descendants of freaking warriors, kings, priests. But we are definitely not a weak people.”

Foreman’s dual career does present a bit of a contradiction. How does he reconcile the violence of boxing with the rabbinic teachings that drew him to a peaceable vegan diet?

Shoshana Foreman  — who is also her husband’s boxing manager — pointed out that, in boxing, both fighters have consented to the potential bloodshed, which isn’t the case with animals at a slaughterhouse.

Plus, Foreman said that he’s an old hand at separating his work in the ring from his life outside of it. “I’m wearing two personalities,” he said. “In boxing, I have to be a different person. I cannot be a husband in the ring, right? Or a father in the ring. Otherwise, I’m gonna get beat up completely. So I have to be that person who is about to punch someone in the face.”

Kosher Food Industry Set to Expand Greatly

Posted on: November 12th, 2021 by Kosher Michigan

Kosher Foods Market to See a Big Increase in 2023 and Beyond

“There’s no question that the kosher food industry has already grown significantly and is on a path toward historic expansion,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, a Conservative rabbi and the founder of Kosher Michigan. Kosher Michigan is a kosher certification agency based in Rabbi Miller’s hometown of Metro Detroit, Michigan. Launched in 2008, Kosher Michigan (KM) has seen immense year-over-year growth in both the number of kosher clients as well as the shear number of food products KM has certified as kosher. An expansion to India and some Far East countries in 2015 has led KM’s advancement in the spice and dry foods industry.

Rabbi Miller, the kosher director of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency, referenced a recent competitive landscape summary of the “Kosher Foods Market” report that detailed the essence of what is driving the record numbers of growth in the kosher food industry. The report Rabbi Miller referred to evaluates historical data on the kosher foods market growth and compares it with current market situations.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency

 

Further information about the Kosher Food Industry report also focuses on market share, the highest growth rate of emerging players, business strategies, production, and prospects. The report provides data to the customers that are of historical & statistical significance informative. It helps to enable readers to have a detailed analysis of the development of the market.

The Kosher Foods market report provides a detailed analysis of the major market players with the overall market overview of their business, recent developments, expansion plans, gross margin, profit status, and strategies. Additionally, this report includes the current market opportunity of the market. The research report contains development restraints and challenges faced which can control the market growth and risk. The company profile discovers a business overview and financial information include economic growth and recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kosher Foods Market Segment and Scope:

The Kosher Foods market report growth depends on product application, type, technology, and region. This report covers a comprehensive outlook on market size, regional sales, growth rate, global opportunities, and manufacturing costs in the respective regions. It provides detailed information on emerging trends, leading competitors based on the technology-oriented innovations to demonstrate the Kosher Foods market growth and portfolio strategies. Each market segmentation allows readers to grasp the difficulties of the current market situations. Our report provides insights into the financial fluctuations of all the major players, along with its product benchmarking and SWOT analysis. The competitive landscape includes development strategies, market share, and market ranking analysis globally.

The global Kosher Foods market report provides a holistic evaluation of the market for the forecast period (2021–2027). The report comprises of various segments as well an analysis of the trends and factors that are playing a substantial role in the market. These factors; the market dynamics, involves the drivers, restraints, opportunities and challenges through which the impact of these factors in the market are outlined. An extended view of regional analysis aims to bring readers closer to market opportunities and risks. It also examines the economic scenarios with the impact of Covid-19 analysis is expected to grow the market on a large and small scale.

Geographical Analysis:

The global Kosher Foods Market research report provides compressive data of the current market, geographical regions, and sub-regions are worldwide. This report gives market size estimates and forecasts in different countries. The report focuses on quantitative records with applicable qualitative insights. The report highlights the significant regions are North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa, South America.

Some of the key questions answered in this report:

What will the market growth rate, growth momentum or acceleration market carries during the forecast period?
Which are the key factors driving the Kosher Foods market?
What was the size of the emerging Kosher Foods market by value in 2021?
What will be the size of the emerging Kosher Foods market in 2027?
Which region is expected to hold the highest market share in the Kosher Foods market?
What trends, challenges and barriers will impact the development and sizing of the global Kosher Foods market?

Why is 41% of America’s Packaged Food Kosher

Posted on: March 9th, 2018 by Kosher Michigan

Less than 2% of the US population is Jewish. So why is 41% of the country’s packaged food kosher?

By Deena Shanker

Considering how few people keep kosher in the US—Jews make up less than 2% of the American population, and only a portion of them follow Jewish dietary laws—it’s fairly astounding that more than 40% of the country’s new packaged food and beverage products in 2014 are labeled as being kosher. That makes it the top label claim on food and beverages, according to market research firm Mintel, beating out the ever-present “gluten-free” label and even allergen claims.

“Kosher” food meets the broad range of requirements of Jewish dietary laws. The laws define, for example, which animals are and are not allowed to be eaten (cows and chickens are ok, pigs and shellfish are not), as well as how the animals are slaughtered, and how their meat is prepared; the laws also lay out which foods can and cannot be mixed (no meat with dairy, for example), and even, when it comes to wine, who is allowed to touch it.

To be certified as kosher, food companies must work with certification bodies like the Orthodox Union (“OU”), which says it certifies an estimated 65% to 71% of kosher foods, an endeavor that involves both paperwork, on-site supervision, and payment to the certifying bodies.

In 2009, market research firm Packaged Facts estimated the kosher industry to be worth as much as $17 billion. And the label’s relative popularity seems to be growing: While it was on only 27% of packaged foods in 2009, in 2014 it appeared on 41%. New business for OU certifications grows by about 10% each year, according to Phyllis Koegel, the group’s marketing director.

But if less than 2% of Americans are Jewish, and not all Jews even keep kosher (an estimated 80% to 85% don’t), then who is buying all of this kosher food?

“[T]here are other consumer groups that buy these foods,” Amanda Topper, a food analyst at Mintel, tells Quartz.

Muslims are one such group, she says. While there are even fewer Muslims than Jews in the US, their numbers are growing. They now account for 0.9% of the US population, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 0.4% in 2007. Muslims have their own set of dietary laws, called halal. But “if they’re not able to find halal, they rely on kosher,” says Koegel.

However, there are differences between kosher and halal, and not everyone agrees with OU and Mintel’s assessment: “We have no statistics to indicate any appreciable number of Muslims seek kosher products,” says Roger Othman, CEO of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America.

Many consumers go for kosher foods for completely non-religious reasons. Some “gravitate toward kosher products for positive health or taste perceptions, or for vegetarian reasons,” says Topper. Others buy kosher to avoid certain allergens, like shellfish. But not all of these reasons are based on a correct understanding of what “kosher” actually means.

The word “kosher,” says Koegel, has connotations of healthfulness and cleanliness. But as she points out, plenty of kosher foods, like OU-certified candy, are decidedly unhealthy. As for cleanliness, she says, the OU does provide an extra set of eyes on a facility and wouldn’t certify a company that wasn’t meeting its standards. (But whether it upholds its own standards has been questioned.)

Some of the kosher market’s expansion has come from already popular, non-kosher foods making the switch, like when Oreos removed lard and got certified in the late 1990s. And now and then the kosher aisle will have a cross-over hit, like when Lil’ Kim rapped about Moscato wine in 2005, and Bartenura, a kosher wine company, became an unexpected favorite for hip-hop musicians and their fans.

David Kraemer’s Review of Roger Horowitz’s “Kosher USA”

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 by Kosher Michigan

From Treif to Treat: How Oreos, Coke and Jell-O Became Kosher

‘Kosher USA’ is a detailed account of the scientific and business-related aspects of the history of kashrut, including the battles to allow observant Jews to enjoy forbidden favorites.

By Professor David Kraemer
Haaretz Daily

 

“Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food,” by Roger Horowitz, Columbia University Press, 320 pp., $35

 
Not so very long ago, obtaining kosher food was a relatively simple affair. The food you ate was available in your garden or local market. Ingredients were seasonal, simple and few. There were no preservatives as such, so durable foods could be stored; perishable foods might be smoked, pickled or salted. In general, you acquired, prepared and ate your food all within a day or two.

By virtue of the transparency of such markets, there were no kosher signs or organizations granting formal kashrut certification; your meat had to be slaughtered by someone who was approved by the local rabbi, but nothing more was demanded.

Kosher USA Book - Roger Horowitz

Kosher USA Book – Roger Horowitz

 

Then, in the 20th century, kashrut changed forever. Increasingly, food production was industrialized, the sources of ingredients often distant and obscure. Whereas in earlier times you could see the grain or potato or onion you were buying in the market bin, and you knew what kind of fat you were using to fry or flavor your food – now everything was prepackaged, and ingredient lists, filled with chemical names and technical terms, did an inadequate job of allowing you to separate the kosher from the non-kosher. Only professional rabbinic overseers, increasingly employed by kashrut organizations, had the expertise to determine what you were permitted to buy. Kosher symbols on packaging became essential to the observant community.

Nowhere did this process occur earlier or more completely than in the United States, which also happened to be, and continues to be, home to one of the largest Jewish communities on Earth. The experience of this community, therefore, is of extraordinary interest to anyone interested in modern Judaism. Thus, Roger Horowitz’s “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food” is a rich account of its path through the transition just described. There is no prior book that documents the history of kashrut in America with such detail (though Sue Fishkoff’s “Kosher Nation” covers some of the same territory from a different perspective).

The story Horowitz’s book tells is a fascinating one, and he does a masterful job sleuthing and documenting the development of kashrut and the kosher food industry from the major waves of Jewish immigration in the early 20th century through the status quo of the early 21st.

After a cursory history of the origins and development of kashrut from antiquity, Horowitz begins his account with a discussion of the complications and controversies regarding the kashrut of Coca-Cola — not merely a soft drink but a symbol of American culture and power.

Recalling the important place Coke had on his seder table when he was a child, Horowitz reports that when he looked into the story of its kashrut, he quickly discovered that the standard account — according to which Atlanta Rabbi Tobias Geffen persuaded the company, in 1934-35, to change the drink’s formula to make it acceptable — is full of holes. He recounts that the controversy over Coke’s kashrut began before Geffen got involved, and continued until the late 1950s.

So what was the full story? The ingredient that rendered Coca-Cola — and many other processed foods — a kashrut problem was glycerin, derived primarily from the fats of unkosher animals. An earlier rabbi had declared Coke kosher, but didn’t understand the origins of glycerin. Geffen ruled that such glycerin was unacceptable, even in minute quantities, but he persuaded Coca-Cola to use glycerin of vegetable origin, and thus saved Coke for the kosher table.

Coca-Cola. Author Horowitz remembered how important it was at the seder meal and looked into the story of its kashrut. Bloomberg
However, an Orthodox chemist by the name of Abraham Goldstein, whom Horowitz views as the protagonist of the story, demanded greater stringency, insisting that Coke’s sourcing of glycerin was still suspect. He challenged the expertise of rabbis in rendering such opinions, insisting that, in the modern industrial context, only someone trained in chemistry, like himself, could make an educated judgment.

Goldstein was relentless in promoting this position, championing it through the increasingly popular publication, the “Kosher Food Guide,” put out by the Organized Kashrut Laboratories (aka OK Labs). Ultimately, it was his approach that prevailed, making scientific considerations central to kashrut decisions until the present day. Coke “remained” kosher by changing its formula to conform with Goldstein’s standards.

Glycerin wasn’t the only ingredient that created such problems. The kashrut of a variety of foods popular in the 1950s and ’60s, such as Jell-O and marshmallows, was subject to question on account of the gelatin that was essential to their manufacture. Gelatin might be extracted from various sources, kosher and unkosher, and earlier rabbinic authorities had mostly given it a green light, whatever its source, on account of the radical transformation of the original substance in the process of making gelatin. But during the period in question, gelatin came to be made primarily from collagen originating in pigs. This, Horowitz writes, was a “ticking time bomb,” because kosher consumers would never accept an ingredient with such a source, no matter how changed it might be.

Partly as a response to this reality, the rabbinic establishment came to accept the more restrictive view championed by Goldstein with respect to ingredients with unkosher sources. However, Horowitz perceptively writes, “such a dramatic change indicates that something more than a rethinking of kosher law was at work… something that closely touched basic issues of Jewish identity in postwar America.”

What was this “something?” In Horowitz’s view, the “Orthodox were becoming more stringent to ward off the challenge posed by Conservative Judaism.”
This may well be part of the explanation. But then why admit the crucial place of science in questions of kashrut, particularly since attention to science and other modern disciplines was part of what characterized the approach of Conservative Judaism in the first place? Besides, the rightward direction of kashrut practice was part of a much larger rightward inclination in Orthodoxy, as amply documented by Samuel Heilman in “Sliding to the Right.”

What was it about life after the Holocaust that might have influenced these trends? What about changes in the demographics of Jews in the U.S.? About what was happening in religious practice in Israel and how Israel affected the Diaspora? There is a considerable literature on all of these questions, yet Horowitz seems not to be familiar with it; in any case, it doesn’t influence his analysis, and this is an unfortunate weakness.\

One of the great strengths of the book is Horowitz’s discussions of business considerations in shaping the growth or shrinkage of the market for kosher foods (Horowitz, as a historian of American business, is the person to write this history). Energizing growth were such factors as the greater efficiency of manufacturing a single product for both observant Jewish and other markets rather than having different production lines — which led, for example, to the decision to make Oreos kosher so that they could be used in Cookies and Cream ice cream. This was the answer to many a Jewish child’s dream, as before they could only long for the popular but forbidden cookie!

Also crucial to successes enjoyed by kosher food manufacturers was the perception among gentiles that a kashrut mark was a sign of purity and quality, making kosher products more desirable. Kosher manufacturers consciously sought to take advantage of this broader market, and their advertising often targeted non-Jews directly. Hebrew National hot dogs, sold in super markets and not just kosher butcher shops, and advertised as “answer[ing] to a higher authority,” is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon.

Horowitz’s discussion of kosher wines is particularly well done, weaving a story of both a growing and a shrinking market – a trajectory that, in his view, leaves observant Jews in a more marginal position than is commonly understood. Horowitz begins by recounting the growth of the market for sweet kosher wine — made by Manischewitz — among poorer minorities, who appreciated its lower cost and sweeter taste.

Correctly sensing a potential boon to its sales, the company enthusiastically promoted its product to this market. But — in some measure due to racist attitudes — Jews began to eschew the wine, and even led some to question its kashrut. Most Jews turned to other kosher wines, and, with the development of more refined tastes, to drier wines. But the need, in America, for wine that was mevushal (“boiled”) — so that non-Jews would be permitted to serve it at Jewish affairs (in general, the touch of a non-Jew renders kosher wine impermissible, but Jewish law permits it if is mevushal) — meant that the quality of kosher wines was compromised.

Unlike many other kosher products, kosher wine never developed a reputation for quality, and the market for such wines remains overwhelmingly limited to observant Jews. The final chapters of the book are devoted to the production and sale of kosher meat. Again, Horowitz offers a fine history of kosher slaughter in the U.S., along with the kosher marketplace and its changes. He describes how kosher slaughterhouses were originally a local affair, located, for example, on both the far west and far east sides of Manhattan (the meat-packing district and the present property of the United Nations).

Following World War II, when meat production was increasingly industrialized, moving to massive plants in the Midwest, maintaining kashrut presented a problem: To assure that the blood could still be extracted from the flesh through salting, carcasses had to be washed every three days while being transported to local markets. This was common practice in the 1950s and later, until the slaughtering plants began salting and packaging the meat themselves.

However, solving such problems created other issues, as animals came to be treated as mere meat-producing commodities, and cruelty to animals (in how they are raised and slaughtered) has led to disgust and condemnation. This is not problem unique to kosher meat, but it is particularly difficult to ameliorate, as kosher slaughter does not permit stunning before the knife is put to the neck.

Horowitz offers a fine history of both the ethical problems involved in kosher slaughter and the development of organizations that seek to improve conditions in the slaughterhouses. As a journalistic history of kashrut in America, Horowitz’s book is to be recommended. But its journalistic quality is both a strength and a weakness. Horowitz is a reporter who does superb research, and, as a business historian, he is very attentive to the dynamics of the market. But the market is never the full story, and his reportage is rarely accompanied by a fuller analysis. He almost never incorporates consideration of sociological or social-religious factors, and when he does, his analysis is cursory, at best.

There are, for this reader, other weaknesses that should also be mentioned. Seeking to render his discussion more accessible, Horowitz frequently cites his experiences with his own family and neighborhood. But his virtually exclusive reference to the life of Jews on the Upper West Side of Manhattan makes both the author and the neighborhood seem parochial, and leaves the reader asking, “What about the rest of Jewish America?”

Finally, I have some question about the author’s Hebraic proficiency: his translation of b’lios as “taste” (as opposed to “[material that is] absorbed”) is incorrect, if serviceable for his purposes, and he repeatedly — and incorrectly — refers to the “ethical kosher” organization Magen Tzedek as Magden Tzedek, an awkward error.

Despite these problems, I strongly recommend Horowitz’s books to anyone interested in the topic. His history is superb, and his work will allow others to offer their own analyses and interpretations. He lays a very strong foundation here, and for that he is to be commended.

 

David Kraemer is a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the author of “Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/books/.premium-1.722415

Conservative Heksher Can Expand Kosher Market (The Jewish Chronicle – July 23, 2012)

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by Kosher Michigan
Conservative heksher can expand kosher market, rabbis say
by Toby Tabachnick, Staff Writer

When Avi Olitzky, a Conservative rabbi, moved from New York to Minneapolis in 2008, he quickly became frustrated with the relative dearth of kosher offerings in the Twin Cities. The options he did find — a dairy café, a meat deli, a kosher market and a couple bakeries — were costly and limited. “I began to explore the scenario here,” said Olitzky, who is the junior rabbi at the 1200-family Beth El congregation in St. Louis Park, Minn. “I came to the conclusion there was no move to expand the kosher options in town. There was a split between those thinking it was unnecessary, and those thinking we don’t have a community to support it.”

What Olitzky found, though, was that both opinions were “erroneous,” he said. The proof is the success of Olitzky’s MSP Kosher, a free of charge, kosher certification organization that the rabbi founded in 2010 as an alternative to the Orthodox-run Twin Cities Community Kashruth Council. Olitzky launched MSP Kosher, “not with the goal of breaking the Orthodox monopoly [on kosher supervision],” but to lower the cost of kosher food, to increase the quantity of kosher food, and to create transparency in kosher certification in the Twin Cities, he said. While historically, local kosher certification agencies in most cities have been run by Orthodox rabbis, more and more Conservative rabbis are stepping up to the plate in order to expand kosher dining options for their communities.

Olitzky’s MSP Kosher began its work with the certification of Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream, “one of Minnesota’s real gems,” Olitzky said, noting that the ice cream maker was “invested in the cause,” and made  “a lot of serious changes” in order to gain the certification of MSP. “Their sales went up exponentially,” Olitzky said, “and they credit it with going kosher.”

Since then, MSP kosher has certified several establishments around the Twin Cities, including a kosher hot dog stand at Target Field, which Olitzky said could only afford to become kosher because of MSP’s policy not to charge for certification, and because MSP allows it to remain open on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays. “We got some flack in the press because it is non-glatt,” Olitzky noted, “but it’s kosher. It is open on Shabbat and yom tov, but we go in the next morning and blowtorch the grill. We know that with the arrangement we have, they can’t substitute in non-kosher products, but on the slight chance they do, we blowtorch.” Olitzky stressed that his goal in forming an alternative to the Orthodox-run Twin Cities Community Kashruth Council was simply to provide more kosher options in town.

Likewise, Conservative Rabbi Jason Miller founded Kosher Michigan in 2007 in order to offer more kosher options in the Jewish community of Metro Detroit, where kosher certification previously had been dominated by its Orthodox Vaad Harabbonim. Miller now certifies some 30 businesses as kosher, including bakeries, spice companies, and ice cream parlors, and oversees kosher catering for Michigan State University.

Having an alternative kashrut certification agency brings many advantages to a community, Miller said.

“It brings the cost of kosher food down significantly. When there is a monopoly, there is price gouging, and it’s not good for anyone,” he said. “The goal is to provide some competition to local certification without lowering standards, to make it easier to manufacture kosher food, and to create more dining options for those who keep kosher.”

Kosher Meals MIchigan State UniversityMiller entered the world of kosher certification as the year-round rabbi and kosher supervisor of Tamarack Camps, a large Jewish camping agency.

“Once I started doing that, businesses began calling me,” he said. “Some were not certified kosher because they couldn’t be — the owner was Jewish, but Reform, or open on Shabbat, and the Vaad wouldn’t certify them. There was a kosher butcher that was certified by the Vaad, but there were too many restrictions. They had to pay a mashgiach $15 an hour, even if they were closed. They couldn’t keep the keys to their own establishment.”

While the food these businesses were providing was indeed kosher, the business owners found it difficult to meet other requirements of Detroit’s Vaad — such as closing on Shabbat — and contacted Miller.

“There really aren’t any differences in standards [between Kosher Michigan’s supervision and that of Detroit’s Vaad],” Miller said. “The subtle difference is that I am more eager to certify Jewish-owned businesses open on the Sabbath.”

To do so, a document is created that sells the business to non-Jews during the 25 hours of the Sabbath. “This is a document used by the Orthodox as well,” Miller said, “although they are less apt to do so.”

The Rabbinical Assembly set up its own Conservative regional kosher supervision agency in the Mid-Atlantic region about 40 years ago, Rubin said, and it operated until last year.

“There was a need at the time,” Rubin said. “ And it grew. We had about 15 vendors. We were involved in kosher supervision for some time. Forty years ago or so, there was a pretty large Conservative community [in the Philadelphia area], and it was a more natural fit. Today the kashrut world has changed, and gotten more complex.”

And so kashrut supervision in that region is now, for the most part left to the Orthodox.

“We realized over time it was a bigger project than we could handle,” Rubin said.

Conservative rabbis did not really enter the world of kashrut supervision until the 1990s, said Rabbi Paul Plotkin, chair of the subcommittee on kashrut of the Rabbinical Assembly’s committee on Jewish law and standards.

“When I was at seminary as a student in the early ’70s, there wasn’t a lot of time allotted for training in kashrus supervision,” Plotkin recalled. “The attitude was, ‘don’t worry about it, the Orthodox will handle it.’ But by the time the ’90s came, I came to see there were all kinds of times Conservative rabbis were called to do supervision, but many of them didn’t have the practical training. So I argued for a number of years that we had an obligation to teach our colleagues who were called on for kosher supervision.”

In 1990, the Rabbinical Assembly ran its first kosher supervision-training program. Eighty rabbis came from all over North America to take the four-day course.

“It proved what I’d been saying,” Plotkin said. “There was a need and a demand for it.”

The purpose of the training was to teach Conservative rabbis how to supervise kashruth operations when there was not an Orthodox alternative in a given community.

“In the ’90s, Chabad didn’t have the footprint it has now,” Plotkin said, “so in a lot of towns, the Conservative rabbi was the most traditional rabbi in the area. That’s how it started. It was never the idea that this would be a big, national thing, and I don’t think it ever will be. If you want to produce a product, and sell it all over, I am not doing you a favor by having you hire me. Most people won’t accept me in the market you want to use me. If everyone will eat O-U, and 10 percent will eat Plotkin, why use Plotkin?”

Plotkin currently certifies two facilities: a Dunkin’ Donuts, and Ben’s Deli in Boca Raton, Fla. Unlike many kosher certifiers, Plotkin does not charge for his services, but instead does it to “enhance life for my community,” he said.

He was contacted by the owner of Ben’s, Ronnie Dragoon, after Dragoon saw an article Plotkin wrote for United Synagogue Review, in which he argued against the imposition of more stringent kashruth standards that work to limit kosher options.

“I wrote we should have a new certification: K-E, for ‘kosher enough,’ ” he said. “There is a segment of the population that wants to make more rules, and make keeping kosher more costly. They’ve blackballed everyone else, with the attitude that ‘if you don’t rise to my level, we won’t take you seriously.’ If we continue this, we will have less and less food, at more and more outrageous prices.”

Plotkin agreed to certify Ben’s, although Dragoon already had an Orthodox certification. Even so, it took Dragoon three years to work through all the changes Plotkin insisted upon before the Conservative rabbi would certify Ben’s as kosher.

Dragoon has maintained the Orthodox certification alongside his certification from Plotkin, in order to satisfy an Orthodox clientele that will not rely solely on a Conservative rabbi.

“I have had an increase in business with Rabbi Plotkin, because he is very well known and respected in South Florida,” Dragoon said. “But I’d be less than candid if I said I’d be comfortable with only a Conservative heksher, because I know some Orthodox people wouldn’t be comfortable with it. But Rabbi Plotkin is at least as strict as the Orthodox rabbi.”

 

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