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New York…Wal-Mart may be years away from opening stores in New York City, but the speculation about its effect on kosher has already begun. City officials say that the mega chain will find fierce opposition to opening in the five boroughs but some kosher food industry officials said that their arrival in the City “was only a matter of time.” A chain of Wal-Mart stores in New York would most likely mean a new major competitor for kosher. In the past few years, stores like Target and Costco have already changed the landscape as more and more consumers shop the club and discount stores. Some kosher food industry officials say that it is not clear which Wal-Mart will show up for kosher. They were apparently referring to the retailer’s mixed reputation with kosher consumers. While Wal-Mart carries kosher products in several hundred stores, it has not been particularly aggressive in pursuing kosher. Vendors say that its Monticello store which caters to some 250,000 vacationing Jews in the Catskills, has not measured up, leaving the territory to independents and chains like Shop-Rite.
Wal-Mart is mounting an aggressive campaign to open stores in New York. It is even willing to forego its traditional model of opening mega stores and instead opening smaller stores, a move that may also allow them to bypass City Council approval. Supporters are already drooling over the prospect of many new jobs, but opponents say that these jobs would only replace existing jobs of small businesses that will be forced to either cut back or go out of business. For kosher consumers a Wal-Mart in New York City with many kosher products may just be what they need, particularly for financially hard pressed families.
New York…by Tova Ross…Welcome news in this tight economy: Jewpon and jdeal are two new ventures that are capitalizing on the popular Groupon deals for city residents that offer amazing deals – this time, savings that cater to a Jewish and kosher audience. Jodi Samuels not only runs MetroImma, an online social network for working mothers, but she also has three children, is a frequent organizer of blogger and social media events, and is now the co-founder of jdeal. A wildly successful initiative offering “Jewish” coupons and deals to the public, jdeal follows the model of Groupon, which asks for a person’s city of residence, likes, and e-mail – and then sends them personalized discounts and coupons each day. Samuels explained, “My partner Allen Ganz and I were looking for business opportunities over the past year when I stumbled across the Groupon model. I thought it would be a great thing to the Jewish community.”
After much research and investing in the brand, they launched last month in the New York area. Since then, they have amassed over 3,000 e-mails of people interested in receiving great deals geared for a Jewish customer base. Jdeal has already built lists in other major Jewish cities and plans to launch soon in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, and in Toronto and Montreal. Samuels, who said she is averaging about three hours of sleep a night, said that many Jewish merchants are now realizing the potential of building a strong customer base by featuring a great deal on this particular site. “With Groupon and other similar not specifically Jewish coupons sites, many Jewish business feel that they won’t get repeat customers out of the coupon buyers ; rather, one-timer store patrons who just snapped up some great deal” she explained. “But with jdeal, if a kosher restaurant gets kosher consumers into their store for a deal, chances are, those people will keep returning if they like the food.”
The coupons that sell out the fastest? “This may be stereotypical, but the food-related discounts are always sold out within a few hours,” said Samuels. A recent jdeal offered $100 worth of groceries from Kosher.com for a mere $50. The vouchers, of which jdeal only had 100, sold out in under 2 hours. A link on the site invites merchants and business-owners to apply to be featured on the site.
Samuels explained, “I think this is an extension of marketing for Jewish businesses, what I call ‘on-steroids’ marketing using the power of social media. This is a way to see instant results of advertising – these businesses are spending money on marketing anyway, and this is marketing that you know delivers great and instantly-seen results.”
Zalmi Duchman, who recently founded Jewpon, came about his kosher coupon business another way. As the chief executive of The Kosher Diet, a diet delivery service based in South Florida that he founded with his brother several years ago, he was contacted by Groupon in 2009, asking for his business to be featured. “It was a super-successful move on our part,” recalled Duchman. “Being featured by Groupon generated half a million in sales.” Duchman and his brother had long wanted to offer a kosher diet delivery service, but when the idea was suggested to Groupon, the company wasn’t receptive. “They didn’t want to feature something that was only tailored for what is seen by some as a limited audience,” said Duchman. The two decided that there certainly was a healthy market hungering for great deals on kosher food, and so they decided to found a similar model of Groupon for a kosher audience: and Jewpon was born. “The response has been unbelievable,” said Duchman. “Our first deal featured Kosher Keepers, and our second deal, Cucumbers Café. One of our most successful ones we featured is BenZ’s Gourmet, a shop in Brooklyn.” Recent deals featured a kosher-for-Shabbos toothbrush from Kosher Innovations and a Judaica package from Aspaclaria Judaica, based in Florida. The service sends e-mails to about 3,000 people, 80 percent of whom are based in New York and the others in Miami, LA and Chicago. The service will soon expand to other cities nationwide and internationally, including, the brothers hope, in Jerusalem. Duchman said he and his brother are handling running one successful company and one burgeoning venture pretty well. “With the Fresh Diet, we have a lot of resources at our disposal,” he explains, “and we can use them as a great backbone to help us run this new business.”
New York…Israel’s largest food companies have been on the hunt for at least the last five years for new potential markets. With hopes for major penetration in Middle Eastern countries still on ice, the companies have turned to the US and Europe, but increasingly to Russia and other FSU countries. At least one large retailer has already announced plans to open a number of supermarkets in Russia. The Strauss Group is buying the LeCafe brand sold in Russia and former Soviet Union countries for $37 million. LeCafe had sales of $23 million in 2009 and $16 million in the first nine months of 2010. Mei Eden, an Israeli bottled water company, holds 16% of the bottled water market in Western Europe and 8% of the bottled water market in eastern Europe. Mei Eden’s third-quarter revenue for 2010 stood at €69 million, a 7% increase over the same period last year.
Israeli food industry officials say that Russia has become a preferred market because of its relative close proximity to Israel (as compared to the US and the Far East), the many Russian émigrés who live in Israel who can help negotiate the Russian bureaucracy and cultural nuances, and the interest shown by the Russians in Israeli technology as it applies to foods. One Israeli official said: “These companies are already at capacity with the Israeli market and have money to invest in expanding their business elsewhere.” The food sources believe that the Israeli-Russian connection will only increase in the coming years. Some of the companies say that they are also benefiting from their kosher certification which is desired by kosher consumers in Russia and the other countries in the FSU.
New York…The sale of kosher foods during the just concluded Chanukah season were “slightly better” than in 2009. In a survey of several retailers and distributors, it appeared that consumers spent more this year on gift items, largely because of a somewhat improved economy. Last year, a Kosher Today survey found sales to be “flat”: as compared to 2008 when the industry reported having a banner year. Industry sources say that the gift market has steadily increased in the past five years but that more younger consumers were involved in preparing Chanukah parties. Some retailers said that Chanukah sales are directly tied to the calendar, They said that they do “better” when the holidays of Chanukah and Christmas are closer together, which was not the case this year. Some of the items that did well included the traditional foods like doughnuts (leaders were jelly and caramel filled) and frozen potato pancakes.
Secaucus, NJ…Kosher food marketers that put in the effort to educate customers how to use their products fare considerably better than those who do not, a Kosher Today study found. Suzie Fishbein, the award-winning author of a series of kosher cookbooks helped Chez Eider of Kolatin educate trade buyers at Kosherfest on how to use the fish-based gelatin. Ms. Fishbein said that she is convinced that such education would help sell many more kosher food products. Gitel Liebler of Quality Foods, a Brooklyn based distributor, stocks ingredients that are included in books like Fishbein’s Kosher by Design and also believes that “dumping products on shelves” is no longer a good strategy. Many of the kosher food sources interviewed for this article were convinced that one of the reasons so many new kosher food products fail is because they simply “do not take the time to invest in consumer education.” A prominent chef said that he finds that certain products will not succeed unless there is “some kind of education.” He mentioned sauces as one of those items, adding: “Sauce in a bottle doesn’t look like much until it becomes part of a recipe.” Many Israeli supermarkets invest far more than their American counterparts in educating consumers. An important feature in most Israeli supermarkets is tastings and demos throughout the store, which are used a lot less frequently by US kosher grocers.
The education of kosher cooks is what is said to behind Kosher Inspired, a new magazine launched by Mishpacha, a popular weekly magazine. Competitors like Binah also devote considerable space to recipes, further stimulating demand for kosher ingredients. Kashrus Magazine, a kosher periodical that highlights kosher alerts and features an annual survey of kosher certifications has added New York Kosher News. Both Kosher Inspired and Kosher News were introduced at Kosherfest. The new publications are in addition to many on-line sources.
Secaucus, NJ…Most new kosher products never make it onto supermarket shelves, a survey of food industry officials visiting last month’s Kosherfest showed. But the distributors also said that new kosher products still fare significantly better than non-kosher products. As many as 95 percent of new products introduced each year fail, according to Cincinnati research agency AcuPoll. Despite the odds, hundreds of kosher products continue to be introduced and for those that make it, the pay-off appears to be extremely good. Marketing officials say that new products fail for a variety of reasons including quality of product, lack of marketing support, poor timing, inadequate shelf space, and poorly conceived packaging. Nearly half of products that won awards in Kosherfest’s New Product Competition in the past two years did make it in some form, say the distributors albeit in only some distribution channels. A winning product might, for example, find its way to a number of independent kosher grocers but not in supermarkets. ”It’s all about space,” said one distributor, who pointed to a frozen item. “This product will have a much better chance in a 40-50 freezer door store than in a 20.” At least one official mentioned the recession as a barrier for gourmet products that are more costly.
Looking ahead to 2011, food marketers see more new products that will use less sodium, sugar and high fructose corn syrup, a reduction in the popularity of natural and organic, more hybrid products, and increased use of retro as a way to make consumers feel more comfortable. There is a good chance that next year’s crop of new product introductions at Kosherfest will reflect some of these changes and the fact that 50% of Kosherfest’s New Product Competition winners make onto supermarket shelves should encourage the industry to continue to produce innovative new kosher items.
New York…by Tova Ross and Staff Reporters…It’s truly been a busy few weeks in kosher with many new restaurant openings, changes in the supermarket world, and more. Kosher Today has learned that Dr. Pepper will soon feature an OK symbol on its products. Tootsie Roll is being marketed in kosher stores with Quality Foods being a major distributor. Under the “far” category would clearly be the new kosher slaughter-house for chickens in the Black Sea port-city of Novorossiysk, near Krasnodar. The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS reports that the new slaughter-house will use chickens from Novorossiysk, perform shechita according to the standards of Chabad-Lubavtich, and then make them available to Jewish communities throughout Russia. Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan of Moscow will oversee the shechita process, and the chickens will officially be under the supervision of Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia. In West Hartford, Connecticut, where the news that Big Y will take over the Waldbaum’s and continue the kosher program there added to the news that the Jewish community will be able to shop for deli products at Crown Market that are certified glatt kosher by the Hartford Kashrut Commission (HKC). A new deli with glatt kosher meat will soon be up and running at the Market. Oklahoma State University’s Adams Market, of the University’s Dining Services, recently opened a kosher gelato shop to serve the university’s students and faculty. The shop, Scoops, serves Talenti gelato (formerly written about in Kosher Today), and offers flavors such as Dulce de Leche, Roman Raspberry, Blood Orange, and Belgian Milk Chocolate. The Talenti gelato is OU kosher certified.
Another product covered in Kosher Today (in the new product spotlight), Tribe Hummus (in the new product spotlight), recently won an award from Cooking Light’s Taste Awards, the Tasties. The all-natural hummus won the top honor in the hummus category. The product is available at major grocery stores throughout the nation and in many natural foods markets. In Israel, for the first time ever, Eden Teva Market, a natural foods supermarket chain, will be certified kosher by the Chief Rabbinate. The effort to get over 700 products – many imported from the Far East – kosher certified took a year and nearly $150,000. Despite the other products in the store being kosher, because those imported items did not have the proper certification, the chain’s stores were unable to be fully kosher-certified. The chain also opened up its own meat factory which will supply the stores exclusively with meat. Eden Teva has stores in ten locations throughout Israel, and plans to open an additional three stores in cities like Beersheva and Rechovot. The owners of Eden Teva project that sales will increase up to 8 percent with the new kosher certification.
New York…by Tova Ross…Colleges and universities with traditionally large percentages of Jewish students, such as Columbia, NYU, CUNY colleges, and the University of Pennsylvania, have always offered kosher food to their students, but now smaller colleges with typically fewer Jewish students are trying to bolster their Jewish population by offering kosher food in their dining halls for the first time. Muhlenberg College in Allentown PA has seen an increasing number of Jewish students attend its school, despite the fact that it is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church and named for the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America. To respond to the needs of kosher consumers, and to further push their growing reputation to the forefront of Jewish students, it recently opened The Noshery. Featuring two separate kitchens, Noshery North and Noshery South, meat or pareve/dairy meals are served to students and faculty at the college who keep kosher or have other dietary restrictions. The school plans to open the restaurant to the general public the following semester and to offer kosher catering. University spokesperson Mike Bruckner said, “Muhlenberg has an extremely active Jewish population, 37 percent of our student body is Jewish, and our college is very attractive to Jewish students from Maine to Virginia.” Rabbi David Wilensky, of Allentown’s Congregation Sons of Israel said that the restaurant will also be frequented by the community since there are no kosher restaurants in Allentown.
Also in Pennsylvania, Dickinson College’s new kosher vegan eatery, innovatively called The KOVE, serves dishes such as falafel chicken, spicy corn chili, and lentil and brown rice casserole, rather than the stereotypical matzah ball soup or potato kugel. All the food is certified by the Star-K. 10 percent of Dickinson’s student body is Jewish. Stephanie Balmer, Dickinson’s Dean of Admissions, stated: “Given Dickinson’s strong Judaic-studies program, Hebrew language and study abroad offerings in Israel and extraordinarily active Hillel chapter, we thought a certified-kosher dining option would further enrich Jewish life at the college.” West Virginia University (WVU) Dining Center started offering kosher food to students for the first time this semester, at the request of Sharon Sinay, the first student at the university to ever request this particular type of food. Sinay told WVU publication The Daily Athenaeum that “kosher is part of the Jewish religion…this is a big part of the American culture. I think it should be in every dining room and in every dorm so everyone will be able to eat.” Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois, has also begun offering kosher food to students this semester. Rabbi Eli Langsam of Chabad, was enlisted to be the kosher supervisor at the two new kosher kitchens, one for meat and one for dairy. The food will also be available to the 700 Jews who reside in the city of Peoria.
Copenhagen…by Menachem Lubinsky…Although Denmark is not a particularly leading European destination, you wouldn’t know it from the crowds the Chabad of Copenhagen draws on a typical Shabbat in the summer for some real homemade kosher meals. Rabbi Yitzi Lowenthal and wife Rochel were hosts to some 220 people, nearly 150 waiting to embark on a kosher cruise on Sunday. The cruise crowd was served in a large dining room and courtyard on the main level while other guests enjoyed good Shabbos food and traditional songs on the upper floor. Rabbi Lowenthal says that the Shabbat meals often attract many notables. On this particularly Shabbat, it included Jewish Week publisher Gary Rosenblatt and his wife. Nearby, the small Orthodox Machzikei Hadas Synagogue also welcomes some of the visitors as does the Great Synangogue, under Chief Rabbi Brent Lexner, about a mile from the Chabad center. Rabbi Lexner certifies an impressive number of food establishments in the country assisted by Mr. Gershwald, a producer of gourmet Havarati kosher cheese. Although the community does offer some kosher food for sale, Gershwald often travels 10 hours to Antwerp to fill up his car with kosher goodies. The country is said to include about 8,000 Jews including some more recent Russian émigrés, but the number of people who eat kosher is relatively small. Still the main synagogue averages about 150 people on a typical Shabbat and makes arrangements to sell kosher food.
In other countries on the Baltic Sea, kosher is available but sparingly. In Tallinn, Estonia, kosher food is available in the main synagogue. Few of the estimated 2500 Jews who live there eat kosher but the synagogue has attracted many tourists in recent years. In Helsinki, Finland, a small kosher deli is situated right near the main synagogue. Tourists often load up on the few Israeli goodies that are on sale, including chocolate covered pretzels and halvah. In a remarkable story of accommodation, a new Radisson Hotel built right in front of the synagogue was built in two wings with a ground level bridge so that the dome of the shul can be seen from far. Stockholm too has its share of kosher food, again associated with the Jewish community center in the city. In St. Petersburg, Russia, there are some choices that include the Le’Chaim Restaurant in the Choral Synagogue. Manager Alex says that the summer has been good for business. On this summer day, LeChaim served more than 250 meals with homemade chicken and potatoes, a basic staple on the menu. He has also been called on to do a “growing number of catering jobs.” The new Shalom Restaurant is also a key attraction for many tourists who visit the beautiful city. Chief Rabbi of St. Petersburg Menachem Mendel Pewzner also certifies a growing number of plants with many of the products slated for export.
Tel Aviv…Greece is emerging as a growing market for Israeli foods, particularly in light of the improved relationship between the two countries after the flotilla fallout with Turkey. Israeli ready-meals company Hamim VeTaim and Greek food distributor Veropoulos have signed the first ever food-distribution deal between and Israeli and a Greek food companies, Mazon reported. According to the website, Veropoulos will import a line of Hamim VeTaim ready-meals specifically formulated for the Greek market. The initial order is for €50,000, and Hamim VeTaim estimates orders will come to hundreds of thousands of Euros annually. Trade between Israel and Greece was estimated at under $500 million. Israeli food sources are hoping that Greece will emerge as a major client for Israeli foods in the years to come.