A Slave to Trends

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25 Jan 2011

I’ve always been a slave to trends. In the 1970’s as I was growing up, I was fascinated by the latest trends in fashion, hairstyles, makeup, and music. I was a young child when hippies and flower power were all the rage, but I grew up loving fashion and always wanted the latest handbag, makeup and trendy hairstyle. My friends and I were slaves to costume jewelry and straightening our hair. We loved the Beatles, Seventeen Magazine and Archie Comic books.

We were first generation Americans, most of us children of Holocaust Survivors who were living the dream of the “gold’ene medina”, as our parents struggled to begin again and give us a life free of pain and fear.

Food was something I could never get away from. As my mother constantly reminded me, they had starved in concentration camp, and how could I not finish every morsel of food on my plate. Didn’t I know it was a sin to waste even a drop of food! As you can well imagine food became one the most important influences in my life. That probably explains why I not only love food, but work in the food industry!

It came as no surprise that my next fascination with trends naturally progressed to food. Food trends have been tracked for the past few decades as food industry and culinary shifts have created a more sophisticated consumer e who wants healthier, better quality, simpler food. Consumers are shopping smarter seeking foods rich in vitamins, minerals and of course, taste. Manufacturers are paying attention to food trends and to specific niches of the food industry. Organic, Natural, Gluten Free and Kosher are just a few trends that have experienced a boom in the last decade.

At the OU, we get to see the latest food trends before they hit the market, as companies know that one of the most valuable marketing tools is to have the OU kosher symbol prominently displayed on their package.

The OU is front and center at the launch of many trends we’ve tracked over the years.

The explosion of kosher across all food categories has been growing consistently at a rate of 15% a year since the late 1980’s. From the very first OU kosher product, which was H.J. Heinz in 1923 to the certification of Tootsie Rolls and Gatorade in 2010, the kosher industry today has approximately over 70,000 kosher certified products in your average mainstream supermarket. Of the 70,000 kosher products, the OU is proudly displayed on over 65% of those products.

With the OU the clear leader in kosher certification, I was off to the Winter Fancy Food show in San Francisco to meet proud OU clients as well as potential new companies who want to jump on the “Kosher Speedway” to success.

As usual, the Fancy Food show never fails to disappoint. Of the multitude of trends spotted this year there were; exotic citrus flavored products; gluten-free foods; good for you foods; grains, nuts and seeds; Indian flavors; nostalgic foods; squash, and pumpkin and sweet potato flavored products. Jelly Belly, proudly displaying their OU sign, introduced their new line of dark chocolate covered jelly beans. There were cuisines and products from all over the world including: Canada, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and of course the U.S. Many of these international companies were OU certified, as they recognize the power of having the OU symbol on their products, particularly when exporting to the U.S. and Israel. Others were interested in learning more about obtaining OU certification for their products as they understood its added value for helping them market to consumers and increase sales.

As always, I came home from the Fancy Food show exhausted but enthused about the potential new companies I met who want OU kosher certification. Ethnic trends continue to grow with OU Kosher a strong front runner. People are always asking me, what will become Kosher next? Well……stay tuned for an exciting and delicious 2011!

Phyllis Koegel serves as the Marketing Director of OU Kosher based in New York City. She received her MBA from Pace University and resides in Cedarhurst, NY on Long Island. 

OU Kosher Industry’s Winter 2011 Magazine, Behind the Union Symbol, is now available online!

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.