If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed and "Like" my fan page on Facebook. Thanks for visiting!
New York…So where will you be this Passover (eve of April 18th through April 26th)? Organizers of Passover programs throughout the world say that a large number of people have still not made up their mind. One promoter said that the “leap year can be your worst nightmare, since so many people believe they have time.” Travel sources estimate that as many as 50,000 people spend Passover in hotels which this year will include properties in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Lancaster PA, Asbury NJ, Orlando FL, Phoenix AZ, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Miami Beach FL, Poconos PA, Boca Raton FL, Stamford CT, Niagara Falls NY, and Palm Springs CA. International destinations include Israel, Italy, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cancun, and Crete. The lucrative Passover programs did take somewhat of a hit in the past two years due to the recession but operators expect a major rebound this year, hoping that the late date will play in their favor. Many of the programs are in world-class properties that this year includes the Westin Beach Resort & Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, which recently underwent a $160 million makeover. The program at the Westin is sponsored by Majestic Retreats, headed by Avi Faskowitz. Kosher purveyors say that they have already received larger orders than in 2010, another sign that the Passover hotel program is heading for a good year.
New York…by Netanel Cohn, Kosher Today Features Editor…With the Passover season rapidly approaching, major kashrus organizations were gearing up for “an avalanche” of customer inquiries, as one official put it. In interviews with the agencies, there was a general sense that kosher consumers are increasingly turning to major kashrus agencies for answers to questions they have about kosher certification, Passover and year-round. The consumers use the conventional switchboard, special hotlines and the Web, according to the kashrus agencies. Rabbi Chaim Fogelman of the Brooklyn-based OK Kosher Certification said that on average “we receive 40-50 kashrus inquires a day, split between e-mail and phone.” Mrs. Phyllis Koegel of the Orthodox Union said that its Kosher Consumer Hotline receives an average of 150 calls a day, sometimes reaching close to 170 calls on busy days. The OU also receives approximately some 50 -85 questions a day through its on-line Webbe Rebbe, according to the OU executive. During the final weeks before Passover, said Mrs. Koegel, the number of inquiries rises to between 300 and 500 a day. Mrs. Anne Senter, of the Teaneck NJ based Kof-K Kashrus said that its consumer hotline “receives about 850 questions a month divided approximately equally between e-mail and phone inquiries.” She added that “questions are usually answered directly by the Rabbi who deals with the specific company.” Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago-based cRc said that his agency receives “about 1,000 consumer inquires each month, but many more visit the website and use our ipod app.”
The agencies agreed that technology has played a major role in the surging number of inquiries. At the Kof-K site, one can go online, fill out a form and e-mail the question. The cRc developed a kosher app because “we’re thinking about the individual stuck in the supermarket who needs kosher advice,” said Rabbi Fishbane. At the OU, it’s the popular Webbe Rebbe that answers the on-line questions. The organizations also said that many of the inquiries are made by baffled consumers on who might be behind a generic “k” or the identity of an unknown symbol or rabbi. Other major subjects are the possible dairy content of a product, the credibility of a rabbi, or the kashrus of a product that appears to be inherently kosher.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York… While some stores were still restocking their shelves after Passover, SuperValu was already promoting Israeli products in advance of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state. Yakov M. Yarmove of SuperValu noted: “In addition to continuing the support of Israeli products, it always helps to have another sales program coming out of Pesach, when traditionally kosher sales slow down.” In a promotion with Osem, SuperValu launched an ad campaign for many of its affiliated stores throughout the country. Other grocers are gearing up for the upcoming holiday of Shavuos (eve of May 18th through the 20th) when in addition to the usual mix of holiday products, dairy items are highlighted. Some retailers say that the post-Passover period is a time for discounting many items and “keeping customers interested,” as one Midwest grocer said.
Passover 2010 will also be remembered for its unprecedented advertising. The number of full page ads in Jewish print media before the holiday was unprecedented. Some called it the “Pomegranate syndrome,” referring to the high-end Flatbush grocer that almost from its inception in August 2008 has been promoting the store through weekly full-page ads. It prompted many other kosher food purveyors and retailers to also go the full page route in the belief that the Pomegranate use of the large ads was a major reason for its success. But as it turned out, even Pomegranate went dark in the two weeks after Passover, although sources say it is expected to resume its advertising this week. One retailer said “I’ll be doing a great deal of advertising for Shavuos,” but then he joked: “My next Jewish holiday after that is barbecue.”
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…A blogger in Santa Cruz found regular matzoh on a Kosher for Passover shelf but “not a single box of Passover matzoh.” An inspector for the New York State Kosher Law Enforcement Bureau found many Passover shelves with kosher products that are not kosher for Passover. In New Jersey, a Kosher for Passover aisle featured non-Passover croutons. In Queens, there was confusion about cans of mushrooms on the shelves, some with the P designation and others without. Sources blamed the turnover of store personnel as a primary reason, particularly those stores that do not rely on distributors to set up the Passover shelves. “It’s really a case of the blind leading the blind,” said one distributor who described a store where a new manager with little experience in kosher giving instructions to a worker about stocking the shelves. In the New Jersey case, the daughter of a local rabbi complained to the manager who then asked her to go through all the products on the shelf to find any items that were not kosher for Passover. Distributors found it ironic that the stores would invest into a Passover program but then not go to the trouble of setting it up properly.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…When all the numbers are in for kosher food sales, Passover 2010 may show an 8% – 10% increase, but there were some markets that were described as “soft.” In interviews with more than a dozen retailers, manufacturers and distributors, the big story appeared to be some of the subtle changes in the behavior of consumers. One noticeable trend was the move to healthier eating with more whole-wheat and spelt matzohs sold. The recession appeared to still have a hold on many customers as they avoided overbuying and shunned more expensive items. The grocery sources said they also noted a stronger demand for ingredient items, indicating more home-cooked items.
Sales were stronger in the New York area than they were in other parts of the country. Kosher sources say that natural growth and the addition of significant numbers of out of area guests contributed to a 12%-15% sales increase in some areas in New York. In some areas, new items again drove margins to offset losses on such loss leaders as Matzoh and grape juice. One Brooklyn retailer credited the calendar for his strong season “I love it when Shabbos is free-standing and in the middle of the holiday as it was this year, giving me three shopping spurts within the holiday. Sales of all categories of Matzoh were believed to flirt with the $90 million mark but some stores said that their biggest sales were not in specially produced Passover foods. One retailer said that he had sold a record number of full cases of potatoes, onions and eggs, as more families seemed to stay at home. But at the same time, operators of special hotel programs all over the country said that they had done far better this year than in the preceding two years, but were still shy of the numbers recorded in 2007. The market as a whole seemed to deal far better with the customary annual shortages than in the past, albeit that there were many reports of shortages of Matzoh, particularly whole wheat and gluten-free in the New York area.
Even those retailers that categorized their 2010 Passover sales as “soft” seemed to indicate that they had at least matched last year’s sales and one said that “he only realized a 2%-3% increase.” He blamed the weaker sales on the early Passover, which he says always effect his sales. Another retailer in the Midwest blamed the ongoing recession, while a retailer in the South said that every few years “there is an unexplained adjustment.” Distributors say that they believe that nationwide Passover sales will at least increase by 8%-10%.
New York…by Zechariah Mehler…Vodka on Passover? This year Alef, a new vodka made from grapes rather than from grain, will be available for the holiday, thanks to Avi Petrov of LeChaim Enterprises. “There’s still room on liquor store shelves for a high-end vodka.” says Avi, who immigrated to the US from the Ukraine in 1991. His LeChaim Enterprises was an effort to introduce products that were so much a part of his life and culture in his old homeland. After trying many of the leading brands of high end Vodka, Avi concluded that there was a need for a new brand of premium vodka that was not at all similar to those that were already on the market, but with a twist. “We knew that only an authentic drink with a distinct identity would survive,” he says. This led to his creating a premium vodka made from grapes. The spirit market in general featured only a limited number of grape vodka, mostly French, such as Cîroc and Idôl, but none of them have kosher certification. Being the first kosher grape vodka, Alef is hitting the shelves just in time for Passover. Avi has received an enthusiastic response to his new vodka with its distinctive Hebrew Aleph letter on beautiful blue as well as clear bottles.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…”Passover is definitely in the air,” a Brooklyn food distributor said as he surveyed the aisles of one of his customers. He and two workers were stocking two aisles with Pesach groceries as the manager was covering one register for customers already buying foods to get a head start on cooking for Passover. Most retailers throughout the country are by now into the Passover season. In Cedarhurst LI, Gourmet Glatt has opened a special Passover store directly across from their year-round store. In recent years, a number of stores opened the separate stores. The Orthodox Union opened its annual special Web site, www.oupassover.com, featuring laws of Passover, holiday recipes, cleaning tips, and informative articles. The site compliments the OU’s popular Passover guide. Most of the other major kashrus agencies also publish special guides for the holiday as well as special features on their Web sites. The cRc in Chicago this year published a 56-page guide that was available in both a hard copy and in a downloadable version. A Kosher Today reader wrote: “I cannot believe the number of recipes that are available this year on-line.” As an example, she cited food writer Eileen Goltz who is out with many recipes for the holiday, including one for pizza.
While most industry sources are predicting a record year for sales of Passover foods, the number of people relying on assistance from Jewish charity has grown significantly, according to the Metropolitan Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty. SuperValu (with stores like Jewel’s, Albertson’s and Acme) have teamed up with Manischewitz (Rokeach and Mother’s products are included) in a charity drive to help the United Soup Kitchens in Israel, according to Yakov Yarmove. Manischewitz now has OU-P whole wheat matzah meal and whole wheat matzah farfel, both made from Manischewitz OU-P whole wheat matzah. In fact, the SuperValu stores are offering a free 5lb. box of matzoh with the purchase of $50 or more of Passover products. The OU now certifies Aviv, Osem, Yehuda, and Rishon matzah products from Israel as well as the Yanovsky bakery in Argentina. The Matzah can be washed down with OU-P Coca Cola which will again be available in 2 liter bottles with its distinctive yellow caps. And for those who may be wondering, Barton’s is back this year after a one-year hiatus.
New York…by Eda Kram…As supermarkets around the country open their Passover 2010 sets, consumers will find an unprecedented array of new foods and wines that will make this holiday “more interesting than in recent years,” according to one source. Many of the new products are designed to bring the Passover taste closer to that of year-round items while others are simply meant to add the broad array of items already available for Pesach. There is also an emphasis on healthier products. In its exclusive annual review, Kosher Today looks at an impressive list (that is far from complete) designed to preview what is being described as “one of the most exciting groups of new products in a long time.”
This year’s list of new products includes many new sauces, condiments and oils for Passover. They include Leiber‘s Macadamia Oil, Taanug Olive Oil Spray (Lantev Distribution Corp.), Gefen Sauerkraut and Chrayonnaise, Chili Sauce, Mustard, and Spicy Ketchup from Blanchard; 100% Fruit Spreads (no sugar added and in a variety of flavors- from Beit Yitzhak, Israel), Ein Harod’s Pure Honeys in 5 varieties, and Tishbi Wine Jellies and Preserves (upscale line of wine jellies and preserves by Oshra Tishbi, available in such varieties as: Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet; as well as Fruit and Wine Preserves combinations such as Strawberry Merlot, Apple Cabernet, and Passion Fruit).
In the category of drinks, juices and sauces are such new items as Chamomile Peppermint and Senna Leaf Tea (Taanug), Lemon Juice and Apple Sauce (Mishpacha), Clover Honey Squeeze Bear (Manischewitz), Gift set ofWissotzky line of teas (now distributed by Kedem), and Kedem’s new Peach and Blush Grape Juice flavors. There are many new soup related items on the shelves this year, including Osem Mini Crouton Soup Mandel, Telma Reduced Sodium Chicken Consomme Mix and Telma Reduced Sodium Chicken Consomme Cube, and Halperin Jerusalem Matzah Ball Mix and Kneidle Mix. In prepared foods, Osem introduces its Mashed Potatoes N Onion, Streits is out with its Quinoa Original and with Garlic, and Sugat (one of its many interesting products which are distributed by Osem) introduces its White Quinoa Royal, and Savion Falafel Mix.
While more and more supermarkets sell Shmura Matzohs, the shelves will be decked with all kinds of new Matzah and Matzah related products, including Holyland Handmade Shmura Matzah, Halperin Jerusalem Egg and Whole Wheat Matzah, Yehuda Mini Matzah, Streits Oat Matzah, Osem Whole Wheat Israeli Matzah, Negev Matzah, Aviv’s Whole Wheat Original, Mini Egg, Mini Egg N Garlic, Mini Egg N Onion, Egg, Egg N Onion, Egg N Garlic, Honey, and Wheat Bran and Rye Matzos, Halperin’s 18-Minute Matzah Farfel, Halperin Jerusalem Cake Meal, Streits Spelt (part of an increased number of spelt Passover items), Matzo Meal, Whole Wheat, Original and Cake Meal, Manischewitz Matzo Farfel . Yehuda Matzo Crackers and Yehuda Mini Matzo. Streit and Gefen are out with Chow Mein Noodles, as well as a thin and medium version of all-natural, Gluten Free and Chow Mein Noodles.
There are many additions for breakfast and desserts, including Gefen’s Honey & Fruity Flavored Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, and Chocolate Flavored Cheerios, Savion’s Crispy-O’s Fat-Free Frosted, Sugat’s line of baking products include Baking Powder, Imitation Vanilla Extract Sugar, Sesame Seeds Hulled, Coconut Flakes Sweetened, Glick‘s Chocolate and Vanilla Cookies and Glick‘s Chocolate Brownie Cookie, Klein’s new Viennese Ice Cream Cake, Zelda’s Sweet Shoppe’s Chocolate Chip Mandel breit, Cinnamon Almond mandel breit, Chocolate dipped vanilla meringues ,Vanilla meringues Raspberry Jelly slice, Apricot Jelly slice, Chocolate Dipped macaroons and Chocolate Chiffon cakes
In the meat and fish category, Abeles & Heymann (now of Super Bowl fame) is introducing a Premium Sliced Turkey line and Smoked Turkey Mini Sausages. Remember Season? They’re back with their 100% Premium Quality Solid White Albacore Tuna, available in both water and olive oil. Also back are many new items from Haddar, a brand that used to be a basic staple on Passover and was recently reintroduced by new ownership.
In the sweets department for both adults and kids are a number of new products from Mishpacha, including a new line of macaroons (Coconut, Chocolate and Chocolate Chip), Grab n’ go all-natural apple sauces, lemon juice, and delicious pineapple products, Magic Max Cotton CandySoft and Fluffy, Magic Max Pink Cotton Candy, Manischewitz Dark Chocolate Almond Bark, BBM’s Swiss Selection Premium Chocolate, and from Streit’s- Lollypops in Assorted Flavors, Peach Yogurt Hard Candy, Strawberry Hard Candy, Butterscotch Hard Candy and Cappuccino Hard Candy, Chocolate & Coconut Macaroon in Travel Pack, Streit’s Raspberry Jelly Rings, Savion Marshmallow Cream, Elite’s variety of flavored Lentils, Mini Chocolate Mixes and a Milk Mekupelet Bar, Carmit has new Chocolate Balls in Dairy, Pareve and White Chocolate, Gedilla Ice Cream Cups - gluten-free alternative to the traditional ice cream cone and Klein’s Premium Sorbet Lemon in a Quart and Pint size.
In addition to foods, many new novelty items will be on sale in time for the holiday. They include Kar-Ben’s three new Passover Haggadahs for families, Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah; Sammy Spider leads the Passover Seder,
Rite Lite’s Passover Pleasers (child friendly cookbook), My Passover Haggadah (for the youngest of children), and Melamine Childrens Plate.
(Please note that the Passover Wine Review will be in our March 8th edition.)