June 9, 2014

Dwindling Generic K a Blessing for Consumers

NEW YORK — The number of products that claim to be kosher with a simple “k” continues to decline as new age kosher consumers have little faith in products that do not carry a symbol of a major certifier. The k was at one time used as a bargaining chip with kashers agencies, enabling manufacturers to switch certifiers without the burden of replacing packaging and posting announcements about their new kosher certifications.

Major brands like Kellogg’s and Keebler are continuing to use the k on many of their products despite having certifications from such certifiers as the Vaad of Massachusetts and the OK Kosher Certification. Also using the k for some of its products, primarily the blended and those using gelatin is Dannon yogurt. There are several other major brands that still feature only a k on their packaging but few new products. Marketers are convinced that the k brands despite claiming to be kosher fall far short of their potential by not carrying a symbol of a major certifier.

Kosher consumers nowadays are educated about kosher symbols and in an age where kashrus verification may be as close as an app on a Smartphone, are likely to pass on products that rely only on a k that according to many rabbis is “kosher without a signature.” Kashrus experts say that the k lends itself to abuse of kosher standards and “little accountability.” With the exception of the major brands that find themselves on supermarket shelves in any case, most supermarkets catering to kosher consumers will not carry a generic k in their kosher sections.

Much has changed in the last decade, kosher distributors say, with the generic k in many categories becoming nearly extinct. “If anything, younger kosher customers in major markets are looking for tougher kashrus standards, and the k definitely does not cut it,” said one distributor.