What do Paris, New York and Mexico have in common? Answer – kosher certification! Kosher certification has had steady growth over the past twenty years, by an average rate of 15 percent a year internationally. With thousands of products becoming kosher each year, the kosher consumer has choices that were not available to our parents and grandparents fifty years ago.
October through December were busy months for those of us in the food industry. With Sial, the world’s largest food show in Paris, Kosherfest, the International Kosher Food Show in New Jersey and the Internacional Kosher Expo in Mexico, it was a busy time for food manufacturers and kosher buyers.
Paris in October, when I was there, is unbelievably beautiful. The weather is crisp but not yet cold enough to have to bundle up. I was lucky to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world to promote kosher food certification. I love my job — who wouldn’t — getting to go to Paris for work, where on behalf of OU Kosher I would meet with over 6,000 food and ingredient manufacturers to explore kosher certification!
OU is the world’s largest, most respected kosher certification agency. With over 70 percent of the kosher retail market being OU certified, it’s no wonder the OU is the most sought after kosher certification by manufacturers, as well as consumers.
Consumers trust the reliability of the OU’s kosher standards, while businesses know that having the OU on their products enhances their marketability. The OU has grown into the world leader for kosher certification, certifying more over 500,000 products in over 80 countries.
My trip to Paris took me to Sial, one of the world’s largest food trade shows. There I met many OU certified companies as well as many international companies from countries like India, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Israel, South Africa and South America. I only speak English, Hebrew and a few words of Yiddish, while my colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Hollander from Belgium, speaks French, Flemish and English. Together we managed to communicate with people from all over the world, sometimes cryptically. The fascinating common denominator was that when we mentioned the word “kosher” or “kasha,” the food manufacturers would smile and exclaim “Ahh, kosher” and shake their heads in understanding.
“Kosher” has become an international word representing a high quality standard of certification right up there with “food safety,” “organic” and “natural.” Companies know that in order to capture a larger portion of food sales it is important that they attract a large consumer base with products that appeal to everyone. Recent studies have shown that there is a large segment of consumers outside of the traditional “Jewish kosher consumer,” who purchase kosher food for a variety of reasons, including, food safety, health and reliability.
Kosherfest, which took place at the end of October in Secaucus, NJ was an astounding sold out success this year. With a strong international presence from Canada, Argentina, and Israel, Kosherfest was the place to be for everyone in the kosher food industry. As I travel and meet companies who are interested in selling their products to the kosher market, I always mention Kosherfest as the premier trade event for them to introduce their products to the kosher market.
My next trip took me to Mexico. The first annual Expo Kosher Internacional in Mexico City was well attended by the Mexican Jewish community as well as buyers looking for kosher products. I met people from South America, Israel and the United States – all gathering together to promote kosher in Mexico.
There are approximately 60,000 Jews living in Mexico; Mexico City alone has 40,000 Jews, representing the largest concentration of Jews in Mexico. I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Jewish Mexican community.
Visiting Expo Kosher Internacional Mexico brought back memories of the first Kosherfest in 1988. At Kosherfest’s inception 22 years ago, the kosher industry in the U.S. was just beginning to dream of its eventual growth and development. The potential for growth for Mexican food manufacturers is strong, particularly for export. In addition, there is tremendous interest in kosher food from those in the Mexican Christian community who are seeking healthier, safer foods.
I can’t help thinking how the very core of being a Jew and keeping kosher has become a world phenomenon. Companies around the globe recognize the importance of kosher food as a business decision to increase their bottom line. And I’m always ready to meet with these companies at shows to tell them just how valuable OU certification can be for them.
Phyllis Koegel serves as the Marketing Director of OU Kosher based in New York City. She received her MBA from Pace University and resides in Cedarhurst, Long Island, NY.