Two years ago in this column, I wrote about the continued upsurge in “kosher consciousness,” particularly among non-Jews. Kosher products, I noted, were increasingly being sought by Muslims and Seventh-Day Adventists with religious dietary restrictions similar to kosher, by those with dietary health issues such as lactose intolerance, and by millions of ordinary consumers who regard the OU symbol as an assurance of wholesomeness and quality.
Now, a recent survey has corroborated not only these market trends, but also the superiority of OU certification over other kosher symbols in the packaged goods marketplace.
The Kosher Certification Symbol Study conducted by the New York-based WAC Survey and Strategic Consulting in December 2006 and January 2007, questioned 1730 randomly selected purchasers of kosher food nationwide about their food buying habits.
Participants were divided into three subgroups: the “core” was Jews who buy kosher food year round; the “fringe,” or Jews who buy kosher food on holidays only; and the “crossover,” consisting of non-Jews who buy kosher products. This last group was further broken down into Muslims, those with lactose intolerance, and individuals who consider themselves health conscious.
As this survey shows, the skyrocketing number of kosher certified products on supermarket shelves has not been lost on American consumers. Of those surveyed, an overwhelming 82 percent can recognize a kosher certification symbol, and 66 percent said they usually buy products bearing those symbols. Interestingly for retailers, six of ten respondents who do not buy store brands said they would do so if the products had a preferred kosher certification symbol.
And what is their preferred certification symbol? Jewish respondents named OU their top choice for ensuring the foods they buy meet the most stringent kosher standard. In fact, this group described the OU as “the standard” of kosher certification and purchases OU products over those with other symbols by a margin of four-to-one. Among non-Jews, OU was consistently a favorite, with lactose intolerant respondents choosing OU certified foods over other symbols by an impressive six-to-one margin.
With recent incidents of food contamination and tampering shaking consumer confidence, it is telling to note that non-Jewish respondents perceive the OU symbol to signify the highest level of product safety and cleanliness.
In another section of the survey, participants ranked attributes such as familiarity, reliability, freshness, quality and taste by the importance they attach to them. They then rated six kosher symbols on how well they deliver these attributes. Here again, the OU symbol shined over its competitors. The OU was time and again ranked highest on all important consumer marketing and positioning criteria, including public awareness, reliability, trustworthiness, familiarity and purchase interest. With no other symbols coming close to the OU’s ratings, the strong competitive edge conferred on products bearing OU certification was further born out.
This study adds another layer of proof to what thousands of companies already know: the OU symbol is a powerful tool to boost product sales and to expand market reach. In this age of heightened consumer interest in the content, quality and safety of the foods they eat, the confidence consumers place in the OU is a telltale sign that OU certification clearly enhances a company’s bottom line.