October 20, 2014

Many New Products Take on Major Brands in Latest Kosher Trend

NEW  YORK — Major US food brands have long coveted their kosher certification as a means of targeting the lucrative kosher market. But in the rapidly expanding strictly kosher market with its numerous large kosher supermarkets, namely in major markets with large Orthodox populations, there is growing competition from the kosher brands that are expanding into almost every category of food. There no longer are any boundaries as one is apt to find cereals, spices, cooking spray, syrups, salad dressing, Oreo look alikes, baking chocolate, and more. And the players are Gefen, Taanug, Lieber’s and many other well-known kosher brands. The competition has even carried over between major kosher brands in what has become a race to fill the shelves of the large kosher supermarkets around the country. One example is soup croutons, once an exclusively Osem product but is now available from at least three other kosher brands.

There are even attempts to tamper with what one retailer called “the sacred cows,” referring to the Heinz, French’s and Hellman’s brands. For some strictly kosher consumers, there is a kashrus imperative in buying foods under the labels of major kosher food brands with their usual dual certification of a major symbol (i.e. OU, OK, Kof-K, Star-K and cRc) alongside that of a well-known Chasidic rabbi. The quality of these foods has greatly improved, say distributors, as the kosher brands have these foods produced by major manufacturers who also do private label. Each time a product is added, it is touted as “new,” frequently in large ads in one of several Orthodox publications although the product may have long been available by a major US food brand with a kosher symbol. Industry sources say that the major US producers are only now beginning to notice the competition although it is on balance insignificant in terms of their overall market share. Perhaps the news here is that they are beginning to peek over their shoulders at this new competition.