Welcome to your ultimate kosher information guide, from the Atlanta Kashrus Commission.
We’re the biggest kosher certification agency in the southeastern United States, having certified brands like Jack Daniels, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Sysco, Monday Night Brewery and Purell.
Kashrus agencies like the OU, OK and Star K depend on us to be their eyes and ears in the deep south.
If you’re looking for a regional kosher certification with national reach, we offer you the perfect blend of easy oversight, competitive rates and wide approval.
Now, the guide:
The Definition of Kosher
Kosher is a biblical term that means “fit” or “proper.” Its most common usage is to denote the types of foods permitted to eat according to Jewish Law. Over time, it has been incorporated into daily vernacular to mean that something is genuine, legitimate, or official. Simply put...kosher.
What Kosher is Not...
One of the myths about kosher certification is that the process consists of a rabbi blessing the food. That’s not what happens.
So What is Kosher?
In fact, kosher laws are a clearly defined and immutable body of laws about what foods conform to a set of dietary specifications.
The sources for the kosher laws are Biblical, and further explained in rabbinic legislation. Included in these specifications are: what animals, fish, and birds may be prepared for consumption, the methods of preparing and processing them,
the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy products.
Given the complex and extensive nature of these laws, it is necessary for those who observe these them to rely on certification from an accredited rabbinic organization.
When a rabbi visits a kosher facility, he is insuring that the items produced there meet kosher requirements.
WHY GO KOSHER?
Is it worth becoming kosher? 150 of our clients think so - like Purell and Sweet Water Brewery.
Keep reading and get the facts about why more businesses than ever are considering kosher an essential part of their manufacturing and brand identity...both big and small companies...both industrial and consumer product manufacturers.
It’s A Big Market
According to the kosher stats from Lubicom Marketing, the kosher market is worth $12.5 billion. Driving this share are 12.3 million kosher consumers in the United States alone, and 35 million non-Jewish consumers worldwide. When you go kosher, you’re adding your product to a market of over 19 thousand kosher products from nearly 12 thousand plants and companies.
When you place a certified symbol on your product and put it head to head with a non-kosher product, the kosher product sells faster by up to 20 percent.
Scrutiny during processing leads to greater peace of mind at the shelf. A kosher product is widely considered to be of higher quality, and is safer for people with allergies.
Who Buys Kosher?
Jewish people who need to adhere to their religious standards.
Muslims who observe Halal dietary requirements. People who want more proof their products are high-standard, healthy and safe to consume. Anyone who is lactose intolerant and requires non-dairy goods. Vegetarians and vegans often seek out kosher products that are positively meat or dairy free.
Then there’s religion - not just Jewish people require higher standards on their products. Twenty percent of the world’s population are able to satisfy religious dictates on their products with kosher supervision.
Many consumers in today’s marketplace are more likely to make healthy and wholesome choices when the option is available. A sure way into this lucrative market is through kosher supervision. When you choose the AKC designation, you can easily cater to the large market segment that prefers a kosher symbol.
How To Boost ROI - Putting Kosher Certification to Work For You
Our experts will help you get the most out of your new certification. Once you produce a kosher product you can explain this in your advertising and appear in new venues. WIth the right marketing you will not only reap a great return on investment, you will get mindshare in new markets.
The Kosher Consumer Stats
12,350,000 - Number of Kosher Consumers in the US
21% - Percentage of Americans who either regularly or occasionally purchases kosher products because they are kosher (i.e. kosher hotdog)
Why Americans Buy Kosher:
(Note: Respondents gave multiple answers in the 2003, 2005, and 2009 studies)
55% - health and safety
38% - vegetarians
16% - eat halal
35% - taste or flavor
16% - met kosher guidelines
8% - good products
8% - keep kosher all the time
8% - looking for vegetarian products, either for religious or dietary reasons.
$12,500,000,000- Dollar Value of Market
$305,000,000,000- Dollar Value of Kosher Produced Goods USA
12%- Average Annual Growth (2010-2013)
What Markets Do We Certify?
The best question is what markets do we not certify. Odds are, your product is one that we already cover. We have hundreds of companies in every niche - from agriculture to silver polish and packaging.
LEARN ABOUT KOSHER REQUIREMENTS
What is the Difference between Meat, Dairy and Parve Foods?
Many kosher laws stem from whether a food or food derivative falls into one of these categories. Because of the strict limits set down by kosher laws, consumers have peace of mind that a kosher certified dairy product contains no meat, and vice-versa. Parve products must contain neither meat nor dairy ingredients.
What is Considered Kosher Meat?
Any meat or derivative will be given a ‘meat’ designation.
To be considered kosher, the meat must include the following standards:
The meat must come from an animal that both chews its cud and has split hooves. Many large domestic animals are kosher. Common kosher animals include cows, sheep and goats. However pigs, which have split hooves but do not chew cud, aren’t kosher. Neither are camels, rabbits or frogs - just to name a few.
Birds & Fowl:
There is a distinction between meat from large animals and from birds. Most fowl that are regularly eaten in the West are also kosher. This includes chicken, turkey, geese, duck and game hens. Birds of prey are never kosher.
All animals must be slaughtered by a Jewish expert called a shochet, in a specified manner using a long razor sharp knife.
- No blood may be eaten so meat is soaked and salted prior to being packed for consumers.
- Raw eggs that are used in production must be inspected to ensure there are no blood spots inside.
- Certain hind-quarter fats are not kosher. These sections must be removed.
- Not only must the meat be kosher and properly prepared, it also needs to be cleaned and packed with kosher utensils.
Any milk ingredient that finds its way into a product renders it ‘dairy.’ This means that milk, cheese, butter and sour cream or yogurt are all dairy products.
- To be kosher, the dairy product must come from a kosher species.
- It cannot contain any meat product, such as rennet.
- The equipment used to process the ingredients must itself be kosher.
What is Parve?
Parve refers to any food that is neither milk nor meat. It may be used in any milk or meat production, this includes fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, eggs, coffee, tea and most spices.
To be certified as parve, the product often must be processed on equipment that is neither dairy nor meat. Anything that is itself meat or dairy will render the parve product meat or dairy.
Fish, though parve, has it’s own surprising stringency - it cannot be mixed with meat. So bread that is made with omega fish oils cannot be used to wrap a deli sandwich.
Kosher certification requires there be no apparent insects or insect eggs present in a product. Many fruits and vegetables are common hosts to a variety of insects, and they must be washed, sometimes repeatedly, and checked.
Are Shellfish Kosher?
No! Shellfish are not kosher. And neither is shark or any undersea creature that doesn’t have both fins and scales. Common fish such as tuna, salmon and trout are kosher.
How to Make Wine Kosher
Nothing is more stringent in kashrus than wine. It requires the full participation of Torah observant Jews to prepare, regardless of the status of the ingredients used.
THE KOSHER CERTIFICATION PROCESS
Your Kosher Letter of Certification
People respond to a certificate of kashrus a bit like the diploma on the wall of their doctor’s office. It makes consumers feel more confidence in you and your product.
Once your business or product is certified, you will be given a letter of certification that you may display on premises to let people know that you are a kosher establishment.
You may also display the AKC symbol on your products and marketing material.
The AKC Certification Process
We make becoming kosher certified as easy as possible.
Every industry is different, and comes with its own requirements to achieve a kosher designation. In some cases the ingredients may be sent to the AKC and we can do much of the work off-site. In other cases we will conduct in-depth inspection to ensure everything is kosher.
All certifications typically require a site visit to establish a valid kashrus status.
1. Send Your Application
Once you’ve decided to move forward with certification, send us your application, which will give us a good understanding of what may be involved in making your product or plant kosher.
Ingredients and processes will be handled in strict confidence.
2. Speak With Our Rabbi
Each area of kashrus has its specialist, and we will team your company representative with our rabbinic expert in your field.
3. Meet the Rabbi at Your Facility
Before rendering a decision based on data or ingredients alone, our rabbinic expert will visit your facility and learn how you manufacture your product. Here is where the rubber meets the road -- we’ll advise you on any changes that need to be made while maintaining the integrity of your process and product.
4. Create Your Contract and Kosher Certificate
The contract ensures you get the most out of kosher certification with the AKC. Following the fulfilled contract, you will receive an official kosher letter for your process, and have official permission to print the AKC symbol on your certified products.
What Does it Take to Be Kosher Certified?
Every business is a little different, but generally you’re organization must be willing to work with the representative of the AKC, both via phone, email and during live inspections.
There may be changes recommended to your product or your manufacturing process to ensure there isn’t a non-kosher ingredient, or a mixture of meat and milk. These are very general ideas as the kosher laws themselves are quite extensive.
Even a person knowledgeable about kosher laws will only have a surface understanding when it comes to assessing the kashrus of a modern product or facility. Our experts have such an intricate knowledge--they can help certain plants and products attain fully accepted kosher status that a layman would assume cannot be kosher.
How the AKC Decides on Your Company’s Fee
Why are our fees lower? We’re not a business, we’re a small and agile organization. If you have any question about fees, please let us know and we’ll do everything we can to help you get your business kosher.
We don’t pin our rates on the size of your company, to the sales that you make or the value of your products. We’re more than competitive - we’re undercutting the big guys because we can.
That being said, our rates will depend on how intensive the certification requirements are. Your kosher program will be designed with a number of audits that are both in-person and off-site. The frequency of these audits will differ depending on what you manufacture and how. Other variables that affect the fee include how easily we can get our certification agent to where you are located.
What we want are more companies producing more kosher products, because that helps everybody.
Kosher Certification Requirements
These requirements will vary depending on the industry.
For example, honey is naturally kosher, however there is much certified honey, which ensures that a non-kosher element hasn’t been introduced into the process.
Every product is different, and requires the AKC rabbis to discover just what the issues are. However, this is isn’t happening from scratch - there are best practices according to the industry, and our rabbis are careful of your time and quickly reach decisions, much as a food safety inspector would.
The Kosher Certification Symbols
Why is it that you can find the AKC symbol on shelves in Florida, all the way to California?
Any food or product that has attained a kosher certification is eligible to display the symbol of the certifying agency. There are a dizzying number of agencies. A handful of them are large, national certifiers with global reach. Others, such as the AKC, work regionally but still enjoy national recognition.
In the Jewish world, the kosher symbol is called a ‘hechsher.’ Kosher consumers in this market will either already be aware of the standards of a certain hechsher, or actively seek current information about the organization’s kosher standing.
When you choose the AKC symbol, you’re getting a fully accepted and mainstream kashrus certification trusted by the biggest names and largest Jewish markets -- plus you’re getting it at a regional price.
The Certification Process
Complete the application, including information on what is produced by your company, as well as a thorough list of ingredients and processing agents, including those for which certification is not being applied. If certain items on those lists are already certified kosher, enclose kosher certification letters for those items. A travel and initial inspection fee may be required.
Once the application has been received, the AKC will review the application and discuss all aspects of the kosher requirements for the facility. The AKC will then set up the initial inspection at the facility. One of our Rabbinic Coordinators will visit each plant and determine what steps will be needed to grant and continue kosher supervision by the AKC. An analysis will be made to determine how frequently a local Rabbi must visit the production facility and what steps need to be taken to make the plant kosher. Potential fees will be reviewed and approved beforehand.
The AKC mails a contract if it is determined that the plant can meet our requirements for kosher certification. The contract will include all kosher requirements and any applicable fees. Some certification fees are as low as $100 a month. The fee depends on the complexity of the facility, the number of products certified, location and travel costs, and the number of visits required. AKC certification fees are some of the lowest in the kashruth industry. They are typically 30% to 50% less than some of the other national certifications.
A Kosher Certification Letter is granted upon receipt of a signed contract and payment, and when all of the stipulations of the contract are met. This then entitles the plant to include a registered symbol of the AKC on any products or facilities certified in the letter and to advertise that these products are certified kosher.