Co-Authored by Shelly Owens

Rabbi Aharon J. Brun-Kestler, Rabbinic Coordinator at Orthodox Union in New York, says the $200 billion market for certified kosher food is growing by 15 percent each year. The demand for kosher certified tea is also burgeoning.

The tea leaf in its natural state is Kosher by nature. Problems arise when it is processed. To earn kosher certification,  processing equipment and facilities,  tea, blending ingredients, additives and other materials must be inspected by rabbinic certifiers.

“People perceive kosher certification as meaning [it’s produced] to a higher standard,” Brun-Kestler said. Informed consumers are in the habit of checking product labeling for third-party certification of organic foods, and a growing number are checked for kosher certification.

Demand is coming through the supply chain as well as consumers, he said. Retail chains know customers are looking for kosher certification and they demand it from their suppliers.

Kosher certification is sought out by Muslims, vegans, lactose-intolerant individuals and other consumers. In fact, consumers who are not Orthodox Jews drive 80 percent of the demand. They  want food processed using equipment that has not been used to process meat. They want foods free of additives derived from dairy or meat production. Three hundred fifty eight tea brands are currently certified. More are applying each year, states Brun-Kestler.

Now in its second century of service to the Jewish community of North America, Orthodox Union’s kosher supervision label is the world’s most recognized kosher symbol and can be found on over 400,000 products manufactured in 80 countries around the globe.

Flip over a box of a store brand tea and you will often see the familiar symbol of Orthodox Union certification, a U circled by an O. In the United States over 50 symbols are used to designate kosher products. Symbols generally include a capital K in some format in their logo. For more information about kosher certification, visit Oukosher.org. A listing of kosher symbols can be found at Mazornet.com.