With their large families and soaring birth rates, the Orthodox represent 20% - 25% of Israel’s 6 million Jews. Some social scientists are predicting that the community will grow to nearly double that size in the next decade with more secular Israelis continuing to project a low birth rate. Thus, if you do the math you can see there are simply more mouths to feed kosher. Israel’s food market is believed to be at about $20 billion with nearly 80% being kosher. The growth of kosher has implications for the global kosher market. Israeli manufacturers are increasingly looking to add to their robust industry by exporting abroad. Ingredient manufacturers worldwide are actively looking to penetrate the Israeli market, which means that they have to secure kosher certification. That in turn also gives them an entree to the American kosher market. Global economy? Kosher is a great example of that!
I recently came upon a study that said that nearly 70% of Israelis eat kosher, although many do not necessarily keep a kosher home. The study indicated that the numbers were declining as many immigrants from the former Soviet Union as well as secular Israelis are opting out. Yet, the numbers for identifiably kosher certified products are growing by as much as 15% - 20% a year. Perhaps last week’s huge prayer assembly where an estimated 600,000 Orthodox Jews assembled in Jerusalem to pray for a reversal of a controversial law to draft yeshiva students. They would be considered criminals if they failed to report. But the huge gathering is an indication of the demographic trends in Israel and perhaps an explanation for what is happening in kosher.