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Vineland NJ…Vineland Poultry, a leading producer of kosher poultry for more than 35 years, was acquired by Mehadrin Poultry for an undisclosed price, kosher food sources told Kosher Today. According to the sources, the Vineland plant will close while the Vineland brand continues to be produced at the Mehadrin Pennsylvania plant. Reached by Kosher Today on Thursday, Marvin Raab of Vineland denied the rumors. In an e-mail, he wrote: “This is totally not true. Mehadrin did not buy our plant and this is totally false.” But sources say that the transition is already underway. They say that Vineland, once said to be second only to Empire Kosher Poultry, may have fallen victim to the dramatic changes that have taken place in kosher poultry. In addition to Empire, the leader in the field for many years, and Alle Processing, Vineland faced increased competition from such relative newcomers as KJ Poultry and Mehadrin. KJ Poultry of Monroe NY is said to have captured a significant share of the market in a short time. The resurgence of the Agri poultry products under AgriStar also introduced more competition into the marketplace as did product from Canada, all of which had its effect on the low margins poultry producers were already working with. Located in Exter PA, the relatively new Mehadrin plant was damaged by a fire in February 2009, but is said to have fully recovered since.
New York…The story of a pending PepsiCo – Osem Hummus war first broke in Kosher Today last June but the first shot was fired last week by Tribe with an ad in Jewish weeklies “Not all Hummus is all Natural.” Tribe was apparently challenging the highly successful Sabra brand by taking on the salad giant with the natural claim. A Brooklyn gourmet supermarket has also been highly successful in promoting its own brand of “natural” hummus as opposed to the Sabra brand which includes preservatives and enjoys a much longer shelf life. Sabra USA is owned by PepsiCo. Osem, 54% of which is owned by Nestle, acquired Tribe in 2008, which is now Osem’s brand of salads in the US. Although it acquired the Sabra brand in Israel, it does not own the US brand and apparently cannot use the name Sabra. The US Sabra is credited with expanding hummus to mainstream consumers with a marketing campaign that includes the use of television. A spokesman for a major supermarket chain told Kosher Today that “hummus is hot and for the moment Sabra owns the category.” Tribe is obviously hoping that by playing the natural card, they will be able to cut into Sabra’s steadily growing dominance in the national hummus market. While Sabra seems to be devoting most of its attention outside of the kosher market, Tribe seems anxious to first carve out a strong niche in the kosher market.
New York…by Staff Reporters…When the temperature goes up, so do the number of new product launches that are frozen and kosher, with the objective always being to succeed year-round. One newcomer that has made a splash is the new kosher line of Chozen Ice Cream, recently profiled in the New York Times and stocked in stores like Pomegranate and Manhattan’s Westside Market. Created by the women in the Fisher family, the line uses innovative add-ins from the Jewish repertoire of favorite snacks – such as rugelach, matzah, and babka – in gourmet ice cream. Flavors include vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel coated matzah bits, and chocolate babka ice cream with babka chunks swirled throughout. In time for Rosh Hashanah, the company plans to introduce caramelized apple ice cream with honey chunks.
More sophisticated palettes may gravitate towards gelato, a frozen dessert similar to ice cream but with a lower fat ratio and lower sugar content. Gelato means frozen in Italian; the dessert originated in Italy. Aldo, a popular Israeli chain of gelato shops, opened in several locations last summer in the US – including famous tourist attraction Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and in the Upper West Side– under the name Screme. The gelato, which has 5% butterfat (typical ice creams contain up to 14%) comes in many classic and innovative flavors, including cornbread, Snickers, biscotti, cinnamon cookie dough, and chocolate brownie whiskey. With chic menu items comes chic prices – a single scoop of the gelato is $5. The gelato can be ordered under a freshly-made waffle as well. In Boca Raton, The Gelato Shoppe offers delicious kosher gelato certified by the Orthodox Rabbinic Board of Hollywood. The shop offers dairy, cholov yisrael, or pareve frozen desserts in such flavors as Belgian dark chocolate, tiramisu, panna cotta, Italian wedding cake, banana cream pie, persimmon, and basil.
The Talenti brand of gelato was also recently certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. The gourmet line has sumptuous flavors like caramel cookie crunch, white chocolate raspberry, Caribbean coconut, and Sicilian pistachio. The Talenti line can be ordered online icecreamsource.com or purchased at Whole Foods. Gelati-Da is another line of gourmet gelatos, kosher certified by the cRc, that are found sporadically in retail stores throughout the U.S. Your best bet is to order it online, also at icecreamsource.com. Flavors include vanilla marsala, coffee fudge latte, and amaretto chocolate. Israel-based company G. Willie-Food International Ltd. is introducing a brand-new line of gelato manufactured in Italy, which will begin selling this month. For those who are strictly watching their waistlines and shun even the lower-fat gelato, there are new “diet” ice creams that satisfy the palette with much fewer calories. Strauss, the Israeli ice cream company, has a new line of low-calorie vanilla, coffee, chocolate and cherry ice cream bars and sandwiches, none exceeding more than 55 calories. And Klein’s line of Healthy Habits Dixie cups, bars, and push pops and Snapple Ices offers a variety of flavors and textures for less than 100 calories. As kosher continues to become synonymous with high-quality and gourmet, we can expect even more lines of inventive and delicious frozen desserts in summers to come.
Liberty NY…by Staff Reporters…There was a time when the kosher community simply accepted the reality that some 300,000 New Yorkers leave the city for two months, which essentially meant also accepting the fact that they were involved in a 10-month business. This year, many kosher retailers have simply followed their customers. Kold Kuts, the Brooklyn neighborhood establishment serving burgers, deli, hot dogs, and popular Shabbos dishes like cholent and kugel, opened a satellite in South Fallsburg, NY. Another Brooklyn mainstay, Jerusalem II Pizza, has undergone a complete renovation and is open under new management this summer. The store is located on Main Street in Woodbourne, and has soup, sushi, salads, a pasta bar, and ice cream on the menu. Pomegranate, one of Brooklyn’s finest purveyors of take-home foods, has many of their prepared line of dishes available in three locations upstate: Landau’s in South Fallsburg, Crunchies, in Center 1 in Woodridge, and Dougie’s, in Woodbourne. Some New York food establishments have turned their attention to kosher camp “care packages.” Many camp care package proprietors operate year-round, sending gift baskets for holidays or for the college student who dorm far from home. All agree that their sales in the summer, traditionally the slowest time for sending gift baskets due to the lack of holidays, are boosted by the camp care package component to their businesses.
Jane Mortiz, owner of the Westport, Connecticut-based Challah Connection and The Kosher Gift Box, two online companies that deal with kosher food gift packages, commented, “Sending food care packages are the parents’ way of reaching out to their children in camp with something delicious.” Though Mortiz said the majority of her business comes from holiday gift baskets during the year or college gift baskets, the camp care package part of the business, which she began five years ago, is lucrative enough that she keeps it going. “I have a lot of grandparents who purchase the care packages,” she said. Many who patronize her business are return customers year after year, she also noted. Challah is the biggest-selling camp care package item, she said, as parents often want to acknowledge Shabbos to their campers away from home. “Many of our customers are secular or not even Jewish,” said Mortiz, “and the ones who most often get traditional items like challah or babka for their children.” Oh, Nuts, one of Brooklyn’s finest candy and sweets shops, does a brisk business in care packages during the summer season, “enough to keep our business humming during July and August,” said Ari Tahover, a spokesperson in their marketing department. Oh, Nuts offers over twenty-five different varieties of camp care packages and free shipping on these camp baskets. Tahover said they ship a couple hundred per week to camps primarily in upstate New York. Eleanor Newman of The Chocolate Emporium said much of her camp care package business is generated by virtue of being located near Camp Stone in Pennsylvania. The Challah Connection offers several “Healthy Munch” boxes that include chocolate-covered figs; trail mix; crackers with peanut butter spread; and oatmeal packets. Karen Chazan of KosherCarePackages.com said her company also offers a “No Junk in the Bunk” version of their camp care packages, all big enough to feed a bunk size of twelve campers. Still, more popular with kids are their OK-certified freshly baked cookies and brownies and blondies.
Ashkelon…by Tova Ross, Kosher Today Feature Editor…A new generation of Israelis are making changes in their diets that would no doubt shock earlier generations who grew up on a Middle Eastern diet of hummus, tehini and falafel. Today’s supermarkets showcase healthier products, including many made with olive oil. Of note is Nature’s Bars and Snacks, a new kosher line of food products made by the Israeli company Tivit (www.naturesugarfree.com). The products are completely organic and gluten-free; made with all-natural ingredients; are low-fat, sugar-free and cholesterol-free; and vegan (can be an ideal addition to the diabetic diet). The unsaturated fats found in the products from the seeds and nuts are proven to help lower cholesterol. The low-carb bars, including an even more reduced-calorie version, include flavors like peanut brittle with honey; cashew and almond with berries; cereal, dates and cinnamon; cereal and chocolate; cereal with cashews and hazelnuts; and sesame, sunflower, and honey. Nature’s Snacks are bite-sized versions of the bars in easy, re-closeable take-along bags.
Rami Offer, Tivit’s CEO, declared, “When incorporated into a nutritionally balanced diet, our unique products can contribute positively to a healthy lifestyle living.” Tivit is acquiring an increasing chain of distributors throughout the United States and Europe. Israeli food sources say that companies like Tivit are using cutting edge technology to develop healthier products that are replacing products high in saturated fats and sugars. Israelis often travel long distances just to visit farms that sell natural products. Food shows on Israeli cable TV are also of late focusing on healthier eating. Tivit and other companies that are marketing the healthier foods are betting that they may be able to get Israelis to trade in a half falafel sandwich for the healthier snacks.
Tel Aviv…Roy Gerson and his wife Sharon Moshkowitz thought their life was good together as IT specialists. When Roy began to “play” with chocolate in “an artsy way,” Sharon thought that it was a nice hobby to have. But when Roy began to share his artistry with family and friends, Sharon took notice: “I looked at the 1,000 boxes of chocolates on Erev Rosh Hashanah that all but filled my house, and thought that maybe Roy is right in that this could be a business.” Four and a half years later, the couple no longer debates the issue. They are partners in Israel’s most successful chocolate venture. The Tel Aviv store was termed Israel’s leading boutique chocolate shop by Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily. Roy is now a celebrity in his own right, including frequent appearances on TV. The Gersons now have 8 shops with a major production facility in Petah Tikvah. The shapes of his bottles, the themes of his chocolates, and the design on every piece of chocolate are so unique that people come from around the world just to taste a small sample. His chocolates, most certified by the Chief Rabbinate and some by the Badatz, are the gifts of choice on the eve of Jewish holidays. Roy’s celebrity status is not so much because of his retail success, but because of his constant innovation that ushers in many new products on a regular basis. Roy and Sharon are thinking about taking their successful chocolate boutique model overseas, perhaps to the kosher market in the US. As good as life was for the Gersons in their previous life, it is a lot sweeter after their major success.
Tel Aviv…General Mills, one of the America’s food giants, is looking for a partner in Israel, to emulate successes by other multi national food icons like Nestle, which has been steadily growing its partnership with Osem and realizing significant profits. A General Mills delegation recently visited Israel’s Food Industries Association in anticipation of finding a partner in Israel. Interestingly, Pepsico which partnered with Strauss put its emphasis on growing the Sabra brand in the US. It is in the midst of a national marketing campaign to brand Sabra’s hummus and other Mediterranean salads. The General Mills delegation, according to Globes, is officially looking for “possible future cooperation,” but an Israeli food industry source told Kosher Today that their objective may very well be to “copy Nestle.” General Mills is a Fortune 500 company, and one of the world’s largest food companies, with some $25 billion in sales. It owns such well known brands as Hagen Dazs, Pillsbury, Yoplait, and many well-known cereals.
Galilee…by Menachem Lubinsky…Avi Zithershpieler is by no means a physician, but yet thousands of Israelis have come to rely on his unusual collection of herbs and spices to stay healthy. It has been a half century that Avi founded “The Spice Farm” in what is known Bethlehem of the Galilee. As you approach the large atrium like store just in front of the farm, the aroma of some of the most unusual blends of spices from Israel and obverses will instantly identify your location. If it does not, driving up “Spicy Way” will. Of the 600 products, there are many grown in farms throughout Israel but other products are imported from places like Thailand and Turkey. So popular has the farm become that it now has 10 small outlets throughout Israel and of late an outpost in London. There were blends of herbs and spices to treat almost every medical condition but even more importantly for many Israelis was the benefit of adding the products to their ordinary diets as a means of wellbeing. Gourmet chefs and housewives come to the farm to buy just the right spice, herb, grain, or dried fruit that will enhance a salad, soup, meat and poultry and, of course, desserts. While one of the Farm’s main objectives is to satisfy the Israeli palate, the Middle Eastern touch is very much in evidence in such products as Syrian or Yemenite Za’atar. There are also a variety of granola flavors that almost every visitor seems to want to taste. On most days, Avi offers lectures about the farm and the health and wellness benefits of his products. It has become a leading tourist destination for Israelis and even for the many Christian tourists who frequent the area. While one of the staff people stresses that so much of what is displayed is natural, she also points out that the entire Visitor Center is certified kosher by the Rabbanut of Emek Yizrael.
Shoham, Modi’in…As the salad market continues to grow in the US kosher market and even in mainstream, Osem may soon find itself in a head to head battle with Sabra USA, owned by PepsiCo. Osem, 54% of which is owned by Nestle, acquired Tribe in 2008, which may very well be Osem’s brand of salads in the US. Although it acquired the Sabra brand in Israel, it does not own the US brand. Baruch Peled, the export manager for Osem’s core products, explained that Osem has been on a buying spree in recent years as part of its major expansion worldwide. In addition to Tzabar (Sabra) in Israel, it acquired such popular brands as Bonjour and Tival. With annual sales of $1.5 billion, it is the largest of Israel’s “big three” which also includes Tnuva and Strauss/Elite. Osem, says Peled, emphasizes initiative, excellence and “Israelisness.” Its world-class distribution center is by all accounts one of the most progressive in the world. With 12 plants in Israel and 9 overseas, its food lines now extend to 35 categories. Osem’s new moves in the US go well beyond its Osem USA business. In addition to Tribe, which Peled says offers consumers hummus without preservatives (as opposed to Sabra), Osem also acquired Veggie-Patch, which may very well be its expansion into the US market with products similar to those vegetarian items successfully marketed in Europe under the Tival brand. The large Bamba doll at the entrance to the plant has also been making news with some fascinating new products, including Hazelnut and Bamba Halva filled Bamba. Nestle has also been filling some of its cereals with cream, a trend it may take worldwide. If anyone had any doubts about the power of Nestle/Osem, they need only watch pallets moving from slot to slot without the benefit of human involvement, save for the computer programmers. There are more robots in the center, the size of at least two football fields, than humans. The Nestle/Osem group will no doubt be a company to watch in the years ahead in the kosher and general markets throughout the world.
Menachem Lubinsky is the founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, the annual trade event for the kosher food & beverage industry and is the editor-in-chief of KosherToday. Menachem Lubinsky is also the President and CEO of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting a firm that specializes in strategic business and not-for-profit planning and implementation.
Tel Aviv…by Staff Reporters…With his heavy French accent, Julian Atias, founder and owner of LIVEO (the O from Olive is at the end), speaks passionately of his high-end store on Rothschild Blvd that has taken olive oil to a whole new level. A few blocks away on Fryshman Street is another Olive oil boutique called Olia where Hila Venkert made a career change from the world of fashion to promoting exotic olive oil products. Many supermarkets throughout Israel carry several brands of olive oil, but not just bottles of the 100% virgin olive oil, but also jams, sauces, and mixes, which says Julian is all part of a new emphasis by many Israelis on wellness. Many of Hila’s customers, including the elderly, actually begin their day not with a cup of coffee or orange juice but with a cup of olive oil as a means of stimulating the good agents in the body. Julian’s olive oil comes from Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev with its 500 acres of olive trees grown under the best conditions. The kibbutz developed the technology to keep the salt underneath the soil to give the trees the ideal conditions for growing the olives. Julian’s store has nearly 100 different products made with olive oils, whether with the Israeli vintage olives Barnea or Souri or Italian Frantoio, a Tapendade spread that mixes parsley and sesame or a simple mix with sundried tomatoes.
Some of the customers are here to feel good while others are on an olive oil regimen prescribed by physicians to lower saturated fats. The various olive oil jams have become best sellers to Israelis looking for the blend of the sweet and the distinct olive taste. At Olia, Hila’s brother Nimrod is constantly producing new combinations at his plant in Nes Ziona, sometimes creating the conditions of foreign grown olive trees. The fusions at Olia “simply blow many tourists away,” says Hila. Blends like the Middle East blend with three different types of olives, infused figs that includes dried figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, green olives and shata pepper. Customers have become as discerning with olives as wine connoisseurs are with their fine wines. Both Olian and LiveO also offer a full line of olive oil cosmetic products that many customers have come to associate with healthier and “younger looking” skin. The products in both stores are under rabbinical supervision and there is a growing interest in exporting these olive oil gourmet products that are taking Israelis by storm.