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Florida Begins Billing Itself As the Land of Sun and Kashrut

The state of Florida, long known as a haven for Jewish retirees, is now trying on a kosher image.

Bright stickers proclaiming “Kosher From Florida” are appearing in market windows and on products across the state.

They’re part of a new program by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which wants to “help all consumers to quickly and easily identify kosher foods that are produced in Florida,” according to a news release issued by the state.

“I think it’s very positive,” said Shlomo Stein, manager of South Florida Kosher Meats Inc. in Miami-Dade County. “The fact that the state of Florida is supporting the program says a lot” about the growth of the kosher industry.

Food marketing associations estimate that kosher foods account for $50 billion worth of food sales each year, according to numbers released by the state. More than 8,100 companies nationwide manufacture more than 36,000 kosher products.

While overall food sales are growing by roughly 1 to 2 percent annually, kosher food sales have increased more than 10 percent annually in recent years. Florida alone has more than 450 producers and sellers of kosher food.

Products produced in Florida and certified as kosher by a rabbinical organization are eligible to bear the “Kosher From Florida” logo — a colorful icon that features the sun over land and water.

In addition to product packaging, the kosher logo is appearing on shelf tags, display cards, store windows signs and other promotional materials.

The program is an extension of the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign which uses the “Fresh From Florida” logo to help consumers identify Florida agricultural products.

Merchants in South Florida, where the bulk of Florida’s Jewish population resides, approve of the program so far.

“I haven’t seen any down side yet,” said Moshe Koot, owner of Kosher World, a high-profile kosher market in Miami Beach.

“More promotion is always good. The signs are nice, attractive in the window. I think it will help.”

Koot said the promotional items may help bring in new people to the market and encourage current shoppers to explore new items.

It is estimated that about 30 percent of kosher foods are purchased by Jews. Another 20 percent are purchased by Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists and others who observe dietary laws similar to observant Jews.

One-half of all kosher sales are made by consumers for reasons that have nothing to do with religion, including those with special dietary needs, vegetarians, those in at-risk health groups, or those who perceive kosher products as cleaner or safer.

The program has been endorsed by the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami.

More information on the “Kosher From Florida” program is available at http:// www.fl-ag.com/kosher

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