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Quality, health image pushes kosher food market

The kosher food market is soaring, but it's not because everyone has decided to become Jewish.

Mintel, the Chicago market research firm, found in a survey that people purchase kosher food because they believe it's a higher-quality product. Kosher

In the survey of Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, 62% cited quality as a reason for purchasing kosher food. The second-most-common factor cited was "general healthfulness" (51%), and the third was food safety (34%).

Only 14% of respondents said they purchase kosher food because they follow kosher religious rules. About 10% buy kosher because they follow some other religious rules with eating restrictions similar to kosher rules.

Of the 2,500 adults surveyed, 13% said they intentionally purchase kosher foods.

"Kosher food has gained the reputation of being more carefully produced and thoroughly inspected than non-kosher food," said Marcia Mogelonsky, 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."

The market for kosher food is strong and growing. Mintel said that sales of certified kosher foods totaled $12.5 billion in 2008, a 64% increase since 2003. 

Mintel, which tracks new product launches, said that 28% of new food and drink products launched in the U.S. last year bore a kosher symbol. Kosher has been the top individual claim on new food and drink offerings in the U.S. since 2005.

Many foods have a symbol certifying that they are kosher. The most common is a circle with the letter U on the inside, which certifies that the food has been inspected by the Orthodox Union. Other common certification organizations include OK (a circle with a K inside) and Star-K Kosher Certification (a five-pointed star with a K inside.)

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo: A kosher cut of meat carries the certification mark of Orthodox Union rabbis. Credit: Associated Press.

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It's amazing and at the same time concerning, that food consumers (all of us) are not confident in the safety of typical products, both processsed and fresh, in our grocery stores. Kosher does not mean safer but the idea of another level of inspection and scrutiny is something consumers are willing to pay for. Food manufacturers and marketers ought to take notice of that.

That seems so backwards to me that people see kosher as healthier or higher quality, although it's a positive trend if people are seeking healthier, better meat. But remember the agriprocessors scandal this past year? Here's more details on it: http://www.lavidalocavore.org/showDiary.do?diaryId=232 - it was a kosher plant that had undocumented workers (some so young they hadn't gone through puberty yet) working in it under miserable conditions. Kosher doesn't necessarily mean better. For truly better meat, check out http://www.eatwellguide.org


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