South Beach, Paleo, Atkins, low-carb, vegan – there’s no shortage of diets. But pretty soon, another diet could sweep Western palettes, and that’s the kosher diet.
Indeed, the kosher food industry is increasing by leaps and bounds.
The centre of the world’s kosher food sector is the US. For while only 2% of Americans are Jewish, some 7.5 million people, a study by the Quartz business news website found that 41% of all packaged food in the US is certified kosher.
Led by growing demand in the US, the global kosher food market is predicted to increase to almost $60bn of annual sales in 2025, up from $24bn in 2017. Given those vast figures, it is not surprising that a growing number of food businesses around the globe are seeking kosher accreditation.
For the uninitiated, kosher is a set of dietary restrictions for the Jewish people, as laid out in the Hebrew Bible, the Torah. Ix-ney on mixing milk and meat, no shellfish, kosher animals must have split hoofs and chew their cud (and be killed by ritual slaughter), and kosher fish has fins and scales.
Explanations for the allure in this peculiar culinary shift include a perception that kosher food is cleaner or healthier, or, people’s desire for assurance than a product does not include potential allergens such as shellfish. It also offers certainty for vegans, such as in the example of Oreo cookies, which prior to their switch to kosher in the late 1990s contained lard (pork fat).
Shlomo Assayag, who runs a Toronto-based kosher online meat company, Koshermeats2u.com, said that food producers are increasingly on board to tap into more buyers. “Most companies these days are trying to get their products certified kosher, as that opens up a whole new customer base for them. If their ingredients are all kosher anyways, then doesn’t make sense not to get certified.”
“As well, it is sometimes easier for companies to get shelf space if they come in as healthy, or kosher, than if they just come in as a regular grocery product, to compete with many others out there already on shelves,” noted Assayag, who also runs the largest Facebook group for kosher food discussion in Canada, The Kosher King, with more than 13,000 members.
Last fall, for example, exhibitors at the 31st annual Kosherfest in New Jersey, showcased everything from pizza bases made from cauliflower, to salsas, ice cream sandwiches, cider, beef empanadas, Italian sorbets, gins, charcuterie, and even a range of biscuits infused with cannabis oil.
The event was bustling with more than 6,000 attendees and nearly 400 exhibitors from every continent (except Antarctica.) Kosherfest touts itself as “the world’s largest and most attended kosher-certified products trade show.”
With the number of people attending up 800 from the year before, and 300 new products on display, Menachem Lubinsky, chief executive of event organizer Lubicom, said that demand for kosher food was growing strongly among non-Jewish shoppers.
“I think firms are coming from the basis that you can’t produce an ingredient anywhere in the world, and hope to sell it in the US, without being kosher,” says Lubinsky. “There’s a significant market, and firms want a piece of it.”
Proof of this was an array of food companies in attendance hailing from Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Italy.
And so, during these COVID-19 times, it’s likely more and more people are watching their Netflix… while doing a fair bit of kosher noshing.