June 1, 2009

Less than 5% of Kosher Certified Products Abandon Kashrus Symbols

New York…The announcement by Johnson & Johnson that it was dropping the Kof-K symbol from its Listerine Pocketpaks is a rare occurrence, according to kashrus agencies. Less than 5% of all manufactured products that are certified kosher ever drop their kosher symbols, say the agencies. Kashrus officials say that the most frequent reason for the termination of a kashrus symbol is when it falls under review by company executives that have little knowledge of the market. “These reviews,” a kashrus official told KosherToday, “often look for whether a kosher certified product reached sales projections that were totally unrealistic in the first place.” The official said that Listerine consumers should not automatically assume that the ingredients are kosher.” The product is viewed as a food item falling under the purview of kashrus and it contains kosher sensitive ingredients (i.e. can be animal derived) such as Polysorbate 80 and Glyceryl Oleate. Once a kosher product is no longer certified, the company is allowed to obtain ingredients from non-kosher sources. The Listerine case is an extremely rare case of a large company dropping its kosher symbol. In fact, agencies were hard-pressed to identify other large companies who had taken similar action. One source recalled that Welch’s had obtained and then dropped the kosher symbol, but there it was “because they realized how entrenched the niche competitor was with their target market including being loyal to the taste differentials.” Kashrus officials also wondered out loud how a company like Johnson & Johnson could expect an appreciable bump without allocating any marketing dollars. One official said that the way they treat kosher is almost as if to say: “OK, we’re kosher. Let G-d take care of the rest, something they would never do for their other products.”