OU Kosher Strengthens Canadian-American Trade Relations

05 Mar 2012


Close both in proximity and culture, Canadian and American businesses have long enjoyed excellent trade relationships. Looking to build on this history, OU Kosher, a New York based not-for-profit, is helping Canadian businesses increase exports to the U.S. at the same time as it cooperates with local Canadian non-profits.

OU Kosher is a division of the Orthodox Union, an educational and social service agency based in New York. Its charitable and social service programs have been felt all over the world, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.

One of the interesting differences between Canadian and American consumers is reflected in a report called the Edelman Trust Barometer .) According to its findings, American consumers are more skeptical of major institutions than their Canadian counterparts.

It may be partly because of this American skepticism that the United States kosher food market is growing at a 15 percent annual rate. In a groundbreaking study by Mintel, it was found that, although kosher is originally a Jewish custom, many non-Jewish consumers look for a kosher symbol before purchasing a food item. In fact only 20 percent of American kosher consumers are practicing religious Jews. Kosher certifications require that inspectors visit food production facilities. Research shows that many consumers believe that kosher certification indicates that the food is healthier or safer than non-certified alternatives.

Looking for a leg up on the competition, many Canadian manufacturers have noticed the growth of the U.S. kosher market. OU Kosher currently certifies 20,000 products in more than 400 Canadian factories. Luc Tardif, International Marketing Director for Great Northern Maple Products in Quebec, explained, “Great Northern is an export driven company. The majority of our sales are outside of Canada, we export to over 35 countries around the world. We sell in many countries where consumers look for kosher products. This does not only apply to consumers who follow specific dietary guidelines, but many who perceive kosher products as better quality. The OU logo is instantly recognized and seen as the best certification to have.”

Within Canada as well, the OU kosher symbol is recognized as the highest standard of kosher certification. In fact, in a survey performed by OU Kosher among kosher consumers in Ontario and Quebec, consumers more often listed OU as a trusted symbol than they did any other kosher mark.

“OU was the right route for us. It was important for us that our kosher certification would be equally respected in Canada, the U.S. and abroad,” stated Michael Schaffer, President of Tastefully Yours Bakers, in Toronto.

Eric Lamshoeft, Vice President of Kasseler Foods in Mississauga, ON said, “The OU Kosher certification has helped us greatly in marketing our own hand-baked Kasseler preservative-free natural rye breads to the kosher industry in Canada. Canadian consumers immediately recognize and trust the OU kosher trademark.”

At the same time that it is helping Canadian businesses gain greater access to kosher markets, OU Kosher is partnering with local Canadian kosher certifiers. In cases where products are already certified by local Canadian agencies, and their producers are looking for an international kosher symbol to boost exports, OU Kosher will partner with those Canadian certifiers to co-certify the products. This way, OU Kosher ensures that it does not intrude on the business relationships that their Canadian counterparts have with their own clients.

Perhaps the best example of OU Kosher working with Canadian kosher organizations, in 2009, OU Kosher began a strategic partnership with WK kosher certification in Winnipeg, when that local community organization was having trouble. In so doing, OU ensured that local kosher consumers could continue to access kosher food, and that the businesses certified by WK would have a world-class kosher certification backing their kosher programs.

Of course kosher certification is but one part of a larger marketing strategy that Canadian food manufacturers are employing. In an increasingly global and competitive marketplace, manufacturers are looking for every possible advantage. With help from trade commissioners within the Canadian government, Canadian producers have many options available to them.

Beth Pomper, Trade Commissioner at Canadian Consulate in Philadelphia explained, “We offer commercial solutions for Canadian exporters to the U.S. market. By matching Canadian companies with specific trade events and industry buyers, we are able to help them enter markets abroad and expand export opportunities.” Regarding kosher certification’s place in the basket of available solutions to businesses she noted, “The OU has been instrumental in assisting many Canadian food manufacturers enter the U.S. kosher market.”

For more information about OU Kosher in Canada, contact Rabbi Mordechai Merzel at merzelm@ou.org.

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