New York - One of the key points of discussion at the 2017 edition of Kosherfest, was new evidence of the growth of kosher which appears to have hovered around 12% over the past 12 months. What appears to be fueling the growth is what one expert called the “H Factor,” a reference to the heimish market (the definition of heimish, hamish, or haimish, is Yiddish slang for cozy and homey), a reference to the Charedi (strictly Orthodox) market. They say that this market is the core customer base for as many as 40 independent kosher supermarkets in many parts of the nation (i.e. Seasons and Gourmet Glatt) as well as several large destination stores (kosher stores within supermarkets). It is estimated that this segment of the market is growing at a much faster pace than the general US Jewish population estimated at 5.3- 6.7 million. Some social experts and demographers put the Orthodox population at 12% - 15% of the overall Jewish population but growing at a pace of about 7% a year.Kosher food manufacturers agree that the Heimish sector of the kosher market has fueled much of the growth, especially in markets with large independent stores with their extensive shelf space. Many of these stores have a minimum of 15,000 – 20,000 square feet facilitating the explosion of kosher items in these stores. With overall kosher sales of all foods believed to be at more than $12.5 billion, the H Factor sales could be as high as $3.2 billion. One manufacturer told Kosher Today that the surge in Heimish sales “more than makes up for sluggish or stagnant sales of kosher in some markets.” These are areas where the Jewish population is on the decline and where there is a soaring intermarriage rate. It is the Heimish market, say the experts, that has largely absorbed “an avalanche” of new products in recent years.