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"Kosher" was the most frequently used claim on products launched in the US this year, according to figures from a global products database.
The "Kosher" label beat out "All Natural" and "No Additives or Preservatives," which were among the other most popular claims found on products in 2007, according to figures from Mintel's Global New Products Database, which monitors worldwide product innovation in consumer packaged goods markets.
This past year, 3,984 new kosher food products and 728 kosher beverages were launched.
The kosher marketplace has been growing 10-15 percent over the last 15-20 years, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, senior rabbinic coordinator at the Orthodox Union.
According to statistics in KosherToday, published by the organizers of Kosherfest - the annual business-to-business showcase of all things kosher - Americans spend $10.5 billion annually on kosher products.
The increase in the popularity of kosher products is not only because of a growing market focus on the needs of Jewish consumers.
In a survey conducted by Mintel in 2005, 55% of respondents who bought kosher foods said they thought they held a higher mark of health and safety than non-kosher items, 38% were vegetarians and 16% said they eat halal.
Mintel identified the demand for dairy- and meat-free products as the driving force behind market growth. Moreover, food that is certified as kosher is also suitable for Muslims who follow a halal diet.
"It is a misconception to think kosher is sought out only by Jewish people and observant people. It begins there, but the kosher marketplace in last 25-30 years has grown to meet the needs of many others," said Safran.
"In food, there is no 'Good Housekeeping' symbol, and in the minds of many, the kosher symbol represents another pair of eyes looking at the food," he said. "All the things that go into certifying a kosher product - consumers feel good about it, because not only the manufacturer but a third party oversees it."
A recent study conducted by WAC Survey and Strategic Consulting in late December and early January 2007 found the OU symbol of the Orthodox Union to be consumers' preferred kosher certification in the packaged goods marketplace. Jewish respondents consistently named OU their top choice for ensuring the food they purchased met the most stringent kosher certification, while non-Jews perceived the OU to signify the highest level of product safety and cleanliness.
The on-line survey questioned 1,730 randomly selected kosher food consumers about their food-buying habits and asked them to rate six kosher symbols on multiple attributes such as familiarity, reliability, freshness, quality and taste. Jews and non-Jews participated in the study, including Muslims, lactose intolerant and health conscious individuals who purchase kosher food on occasion.
Asked whether the perception that kosher food was healthier and safer than non-kosher food was true, Safran said that when it came to meat, it was.
"All the halachic requirements create cleaner meat products," said Safran. "As far as the rest of the products, we don't make the claim it's cleaner or healthier."
An informal study on the affects of OU certification conducted by Safran some years ago showed a 5-75% sales increase following certification.
GNPD figures also highlighted the differences between the sizes of the American and European kosher markets. The database contains around 14,300 entries for new products in the US and Canada in the last five years, compared to 740 in Europe.
The category of "All Natural" has also picked up speed in recent years, following a growing consumer move away from anything perceived as "artificial" as part of a general search for better-for-you products.
"All Natural" was the second most frequent claim made on food products launched in the US this year, appearing on 2,023 products. It ranked fourth for beverages, being used on 405 items.
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