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MK Kosher goes vegan at Woolies



The Union of Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) Beth Din hechsher is the kashrut certification consumers see on most kosher products in South Africa, but the market is diversifying. Until now, MK Kosher Certification Agency, based in Montreal, Canada, has certified products for several small South African businesses, but it recently took a bigger leap into the South African market by certifying parev tofu, tempeh, and paneer products in the Woolworths new vegan PlantLove range.

In an announcement on Facebook on 19 September, MK Kosher said, “Exciting news alert! MK Kosher proudly certifies Woolworths’ PlantLove line of tofu and tempeh delicacies. Let’s celebrate this delectable fusion of flavours, ethics, and tradition with #KosherSouthAfrica!”

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, MK Kosher’s head of public relations, Kalman Emanuel, says, “The exciting journey of MK’s involvement with the kosher-certified products of the Woolworths’ PlantLove line is a testament to the remarkable support we’ve received from companies throughout South Africa.

“Woolworths recently introduced an extensive range of tempeh, tofu, and paneer products under the PlantLove branding, all proudly bearing the MK Kosher certification logo,” he says. “In their quest to expand their customer base, the producers of these products reached out to us. They sought our expertise to ensure swift and efficient kosher certification, aligning with the renowned high standards that MK Kosher is synonymous with.”

The range includes tempeh balls, rounds, and cubes which can act as meat substitutes in various dishes, a masala paneer, plain tofu, and tempeh blocks, scrambled tofu, herbed tofu, BBQ-marinated tempeh, and mini tempeh “sizzlers” (sausages).

“At MK, we pride ourselves on working closely with any company seeking kosher certification,” says Emanuel. “Several months ago, the company behind these products approached us with the goal of achieving kosher certification. The plant-based market is thriving, and Woolworths’ PlantLove line has gained immense popularity among consumers. By obtaining kosher certification, it was able to extend its reach to a broader market. We’re thrilled to be a part of this venture and to contribute to South Africa’s kosher community by expanding the range of certified products. Remember, MK certifies the tofu, tempeh, and paneer products only when bearing the MK Kosher symbol.”

As for what this means for MK’s expansion in South Africa, he says, “Our presence in South Africa has witnessed remarkable growth, and we owe this success to the countless consumers who regularly reach out to us with inquiries and suggestions for new kosher-certified products. With the certification of these Woolworths’ products, MK’s reputation as a premier choice for kosher certification in South Africa is strengthened. We’re also proud to certify products with the Pick n Pay label, further emphasising our commitment to the South African kosher market.”

Emanuel says it’s “absolutely” a possibility for MK Kosher to certify more Woolworths products. “We’re working with a number of companies across the country to bring an array of kosher products to consumers. There are some exciting developments on the horizon, including additional Woolworths products in the pipeline. To date, MK Kosher proudly certifies more than 350 products in South Africa. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the companies and consumers who have placed their trust in us.”

“The big winners here are consumers,” says MK’s kashrut co-ordinator for the African region, Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten. “When they see the MK brand, they are assured that the item is gold-standard kashrut. I’m delighted by the MK Kosher certification of Woolworths’ PlantLove line, and my commitment has always been to ensure that South Africans have a wide range of kosher options. That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the MK team, as we share a mutual dedication to working closely with food manufacturers and producers to uphold the highest standards of kashrut.”

In a statement, Woolworths said, “The decision which kosher certifying authority to use for our products is entirely at the discretion of the supplier. Consequently, the decision in this instance to use MK Kosher for the certification of the new Woolworths PlantLove products was made by the supplier. We’ve checked with them, and in this instance, the producer opted to obtain MK Kosher certification to broaden export possibilities in future. We understand how important this is to our Jewish customers, and will continue to be transparent about our certifications and display all logos clearly on our products.”

Rabbi Dovi Goldstein, the managing director of Kosher SA, a division of the UOS, says, “Woolworths, sources a wide array of products from local and international suppliers. Some of these suppliers are associated with different kosher hechshers including Kosher SA, Orthodox Union, and Kosher Australia.

“Kosher SA certifies thousands of Woolworths products, which you can find on our website, or customers can easily identify and access these of products by using the convenient “kosher” filter on the Woolworths website.

“Establishing and maintaining a strong and enduring relationship with Woolworths over many decades, we have daily communication between our respective departments and its compliance team, research and development, and procurement specialists,” says Goldstein. “We work with Woolworths on developing newly kosher-certified products, and regularly update the South African Jewish community of these newly certified products through our monthly newsletter and across our social media platforms.

“Woolworths shows an unwavering commitment to our community by introducing a multitude of new kosher-certified products to market each month,” he says. “This collaboration between us and Woolworths enables us to fulfil our mission of ‘more people eating kosher more often’. Evidence of this is the presence of our internationally recognised UOS Beth Din ‘diamond’ on the packaging of thousands of Woolworths products on its shelves and website.”

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