Florida billing itself as land of sunshine and kashrut

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

"I think it's very positive," said Shlomo Stein, who is the 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.

The Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami has endorsed the campaign.

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 window signs and other promotional materials.

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

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

"I haven't seen any downside 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.

Those consumers include vegetarians, people with special dietary needs and those who perceive kosher products as cleaner or safer.