Forbes might be a little behind the times. For millions of Jews, kashrut has been “the big thing” for a few millennia. But contributor Larissa Faw outlines the idea that food items obeying kosher dietary laws could soon see growth among non-Jews and non-kosher observing Jews, making the designation the latest to go mainstream.
Faw compares kosher’s possible path to another recent food trend: “gluten-free” foods. Less than 3 percent of the country is allergic to the protein found in wheat and other grains, but many now avoid gluten as a matter of course, saying they feel healthier. This may be a coincidence, as the gluten-free trend came quickly after the low/no-carb diet trend and there is much overlap in the two; regardless, where gluten used to be a practically unknown component, eaters can now find clearly labeled gluten-free products in supermarkets, and even gluten-free dishes in restaurants.
Already, a majority of kosher food is bought by those who don’t keep kosher. Faw quotes global market research group Mintel, which found that just 15 percent of those purchasing kosher products “do so for religious reasons.” More popular motivations include food quality, general healthfulness, and food safety.
Interestingly, these reasons all draw on perception. They might not even be entirely accurate perceptions, as a recent study found kosher chicken to be at a higher risk for E. Coli. But overall, kosher food does enjoy a reputation of being cleaner, more pure, and less processed. Hebrew National, one of the few kosher brands that effectively used its kosher status to market to the mainstream, famously declared that it “answers to a higher authority.”
Kosher might follow in the footsteps of “organic,” which is another food label that has grown beyond its original definition, and come to represent higher standards in public perception.
But to achieve greater success, the kosher food industry might just have to decide that it wants attention. Numerous major brands, including Heinz, Gatorade, and Coca-Cola, are already kosher certified–but don’t make this fact prominent.
“It seems companies spend millions to ensure their products are kosher, but keep this certification hidden from everyone but those who know how to look for it,” one industry analyst told Forbes.