Art for the Taste Buds: OU’s Kosher Year in Review
Food! For some people, food is just fuel to keep their bodies going. They may have several foods that they like and eat on a regular basis, and that’s okay as long as they are reasonably healthy. Other people, like me, consider food to be more than just fuel. To me, food is like art for the taste buds. I find food to be the perfect friend and companion. A friendship is defined as a relationship of mutual affection-well that about sums up my relationship with food!
In my role as marketing director for OU Kosher, I am introduced to new products from around the world as companies seek kosher certification by the world’s largest and most recognized kosher symbol, the OU. Food manufacturers understand the importance of kosher as a way to enhance their marketability to the consumer. As 2015 came to a close, I looked back and felt a great sense of culinary satisfaction. I worked on a lot of new projects for OU Kosher last year, and I’ve sorted through the OU’s most notable food moments of 2015. Please join me as I take you on a journey through the foodie highs of 2015.
Stronger flavors were definitely on the menu in 2015. McCormick & Company, one of the OU’s prominent certified clients, developed the hottest new spices in 2015, including; McCormick’s Japanese 7 Spice and Shawarma Spice Blend. These globally-inspired flavors truly enhance any dish.
Salt also played a significant role in 2015. Salt brightens the intensity of any food. This year, the OU certified many artisanal salts, such as 424m Below Sea Level’s unique Garlic Salt with Dill, Grinder Salt with Organic Rosemary and Spinach or Hot Chili Pepper Salt. Also new to the kosher spice category, and sure to add sizzle and flair to any creation, the OU-certified Spice Island’s Himalayan Pink Salt, and Chipotle Salt Blend.
Pumpkin and Ginger Spice popped up in almost every food category. From latte’s to baby food, to snacks and preserves, these spices found their way into the kosher category with the OU certifying Peachy Pumpkin Spiced Amaranth Organic Baby Food by Baby Gourmet Plus; Pumpkin Pie Flavored Taffy by Anastasia Confections; and Pumpkin Praline Muffins by Atlanta Bread. Blakehill Preserves created a unique line of jams including Summer Peach & Ginger Conserve, and Celestial Seasonings introduced Simply Balanced Ginger Green Tea K-cups.
2015 also saw consumers showing a preference for dark, bitter notes in their food, especially in the chocolate and coffee categories. Even classic cocktails were crafted with old-fashioned bitters as one of the essential ingredients. At the OU, we saw many new flavors and products emerge, such as, Amella’s sea-salt caramel chocolate and Asher’s peppermint vanilla-crème drop. The kosher industry also saw a caffeinated caramel milk chocolate bar from Awake—sure to keep you going for hours.
Another important category in 2015 was coffee. Coffee is more than a morning ritual for some people – it’s a social thing. Coffee brings people together—neighbors, spouses, co-workers on line at the local café. There’s a reason the term “coffee klatch” came into our vernacular. Coffee is naturally friendly and is consumed by at least 54% of Americans over 18 every single day, including me! With new varieties of flavors such as Mocha Java and Hawaiian Kona Hapa by Barrie Coffee Roasters, and Community Coffee’s, Vanilla Crème Brulee, Mardi Gras King Cake and Pecan Praline flavors, coffee lovers everywhere had exciting new flavors to choose from. And of course, we can’t forget cocktails. Following the trend, cocktails saw an increase in apple, chocolate and coffee flavors as well as a surge in strong, robust and bitter flavors. Honey was big in the spirits category this year, with a new Honey flavor from Absolut Vodka, along with Bitter Cherry and Smokey Tea options.
Chocolate and beverages were not the only foods that saw stronger flavors. Vegetable products were also in resurgence. Mezzet brands introduced Stuffed Zucchini, Stuffed Cabbage Leaves and Eggplant in Tomato Sauce. Cauliflower was mashed, roasted, eaten raw or steamed. It was even crafted into a gluten-free pizza crust by Absolutely Gluten Free.
While we’re on the topic of gluten-free, there were literally thousands of gluten free products that obtained OU kosher certification in 2015. Allie’s Gluten Free Goodies were certified with mouthwatering flavors such as Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake Brownie and Red Velvet Cake. All But Gluten brands introduced their gluten-free Chocolate and Vanilla cupcakes, along with their amazing gluten-free pizza shells.
Another key flavor this year was anything smoked—the demand for smoked foods added sizzle and new flavors to proteins, vegetables, butters, cheeses and even cocktails. Agri Star produced a delectable line of smoked deli meats, while Amira Foods developed a new line of smoked basmati rice. Cal-Snax created a unique line of Tangy Smokey Barbecue Kale Poppers. The deep flavor of smoked foods made them a unique delicacy among gourmet-inclined consumers in 2015.
And finally, nutritious and fermented foods saw a rise this year with foods such as yogurt and tempeh, which contain live cultures and aid in digestion. Chobani, certified by the OU since its inception, created exciting new flavors like, Low-fat Maple and Plum Flavored Greek Yogurt. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my personal favorite, the decadent Non-Fat Strawberry Chocolate Truffle Greek yogurt.
There is a lot to look forward to in 2016 for food trends. We can expect to see more foods that fit our fast lifestyle as well as more natural and less processed food and drink as consumer demand motivates companies to remove artificial ingredients from the foods they manufacture.
Getting back to basics has boosted ancient grains and superfoods such as quinoa and chia. We should continue to see growth in these categories, as well as products in the sports nutrition, energy, and protein categories. As people become more health conscious and active, companies will create products to appeal to this growing population.
Social media is also shaping how we look at food. I have dozens of friends who post every dish they make or enjoy at restaurants on an almost daily basis. As the world becomes more diverse and global due to social media, people everywhere want what they see their friends are having! They want more high-quality food they can feel good about putting in their bodies and posting online.
So stay tuned, 2016 is gearing up to be an exciting year for kosher food.
Phyllis Koegel serves as Marketing Director at OU Kosher. Residing in Woodmere, N.Y., Phyllis graduated from Pace University with an MBA in Marketing and has traveled the world for OU kosher seeking out new and exciting food manufacturers eager to obtain OU kosher certification.