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Brooklyn NY…It’s a well-known secret amongst kosher retailers that prepared foods are “profitable and an important part of a kosher grocery store or supermarket.” At Brooklyn’s Pomegranate, the prepared food section is positioned near the entrance of the store and by all accounts appears to be the busiest section in the store. Abraham Banda, the store’s owner, says he invests a great deal into constantly improving his prepared foods, even retaining a world-class chef to improve every one of his dishes. Upscale stores like Landau’s in Boro Park have also recently upgraded their prepared food sections in an effort to attract younger customers and to boost profits. In interviews with a half dozen retailers, Kosher Today has learned that the prepared foods section offers the retailers margins they do not realize in other sections of the store. One of the retailers said that prepared foods represent nearly 28% of his store’s revenues, up from 10% just five years ago. Other retailers gave figures of 15% – 25%. The retailers agree that they have experienced a dramatic increase in demand for a broad array of prepared foods by younger customers. “Their very busy lifestyle means that they will be dividing their week between home cooking, serving prepared foods, and eating out,” said one retailer. “We are also catering to a new generation of kosher foodies who covet themed prepared foods.” The retailers say that another significant change is the demand for a more diverse menu that goes beyond the traditional Shabbos foods. “I sell almost as much cholent on a Wednesday than I do on a Thursday or Friday, but the big news is how much of the exotic dishes I sell almost everyday” said one of the retailers. He admitted that markups often exceed 100% and are a good way to balance the tiny margins realized in other sections of the store. Some like Banda said that margins were still not great because of the high cost of research and development as well as labor.
In mainstream supermarkets, there has been a major shift towards healthier prepared foods. Whole Foods Market has recently stepped up its prepared foods offerings. Its new “Health Starts Here” initiative plans to offer healthier pre-fab options, limiting add-ons such as refined flour, sugar, oil and processed ingredients. If there is one complaint by kosher consumers it is that there are not enough “healthier” prepared food options. Convenience is a key driver for U.S. consumers who are increasingly turning to prepared foods purchased at the supermarket deli for in-home suppers, reports market research firm The NPD Group, whose recently released “DeliTrack” study finds easy at-home meals to be the top-ranked reason that consumers buy supermarket prepared foods. According to NPD’s “DeliTrack,” about one in five adults purchases a prepared food item in a typical week. When making prepared food purchase decisions, consumers’ top picks are chicken or turkey items, sandwiches, deli salads such as potato salad, and leaf salads. These four types of foods account for just over half of all deli-prepared food purchases. In kosher, the popular dishes include fish, dips, salads, and many side dishes.
Baltimore, Md…by Tova Ross and Staff Reporters…While the nation’s largest independent kosher stores opened here last week, a leading supermarket chain in the area also announced a major expansion. Industry sources say that the Baltimore developments are part of the latest turf wars for the ever-expanding kosher market. With 55,000 square feet, Seven-Mile Market in Pikesville, will eclipse such large stores as Rockland Kosher and Pomegranate, two other independents that have become part of the new standard bearers for spacious upscale kosher supermarkets. Both Rockland Kosher and Seven Mile Markets face increased competition from supermarket chains that are not conceding the territory to the independents. In New City, just several miles from Rockland a new Stop and Shop is touting a magnificent kosher showcase while Giant’s two Pikesville stores dramatically increased their kosher offerings. Brian Beaty, Director of Marketing and External Communication for Giant, which is part of the mega Ahold chain, said that the two stores in the area added more than 500 items with 130’ of dry goods, 24’ of refrigerated foods, and 24’ of dairy. In addition, Shoppers, a part of SuperValu, is also said to be increasing its kosher set. Industry sources that this new competitive environment is “a reality that here is to stay.” In the case of Rockland Kosher, for example, the huge store will also face competition from a planned new Yesh store, part of Israel’s Shufersal chain, that is scheduled to open on the site of the former Pathmark.
The new Seven-Mile mega-center is not merely a typical supermarket; it includes several franchise stores within a store, including a café, pharmacy, fish store, and flower store, among others. New display items include a salad bar, an expanded bakery section, and soon, a sushi bar and bulk items section. Herschel Bohem, the store’s owner, told Kosher Today that the opening day was “very busy, with a lot of customers exploring every display and shopping the entire store. “ He added: “Many of the customers pointed to the spaciousness of the place, and its clean and modern look.” Rikki Ambinder, a Baltimore resident, was one of those who just had to make it for the store’s re-opening. “The store is so big that you get a workout just walking the many aisles,” she remarked. “They have a much bigger selection than they did previously and have added many new sections, including one I enjoyed that was dedicated just to health foods. They also have a new section within their meat department, containing fresh bison and other kosher meats. The store is spotless and clean, and there were so many cashiers that even though the store was bustling, the lines were minimal. I had a very positive experience there and can’t wait to continue shopping at such an amazing place that is kosher and all one-stop.” Eli Schlossberg, a Baltimore resident and a veteran food official and consultant says that the big challenge for Seven-Mile will be to attract area shopprers for more than the obligatory twice a year visits, before Rosh Hashanah and pre-Passover. Schlossberg helped produce a one-hour video on the store (www.baltimorejewishlife.com).
New York…by Staff Reporters…Students who eat kosher at Temple University in Philadelphia now have Café 613 to eat some kosher certified matzoh balls. But not too far from the campus is a Whole Foods, the gourmet and healthy culinary mecca, which recently announced that it would begin carrying chicken and turkey (just in time for Thanksgiving) from The Kosher Valley, which is certified by both the OU and K’hal Adath Jeshurun. Kosher chicken broth can be found, from the Pacific Natural Foods brand. Whole Foods also now carries popular kosher product such as Streit’s gluten-free macaroons, cakes, and stuffing mixes, Elyon marshmallows (perfect for vegans who abstain from the gelatin found in non-kosher marshmallows), and Chanukah gelt from Divine Chocolate – the familiar chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, but this time, with Fair trade imprints. The chocolates have a Triangle K symbol. Kashrut-observant NYU students who frequent the Union Square locale of Whole Foods now have a quick and inexpensive way to obtain additional kosher staples off-campus.
The range of products available in Philadelphia are also available in many other Whole Food stores. The organic kosher chicken broth from Pacific Natural Foods was specifically developed for Whole Foods Market, since it meets the company’s strict quality standards. It is made from free-range, grain-fed chickens that are carefully raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones, and are processed according to kosher standards. Additionally, Whole Foods Market customers will continue to find an array of kosher products from Streit’s, the only family-owned-and-operated matzo producer in the U.S. For shoppers who have special dietary needs, Whole Foods Market offers other Streit’s kosher products, including vegetarian and gluten-free macaroons, vegetarian cake and stuffing mixes that are free of hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives and MSG.
Jerusalem…by Idele Ross, Kosher Today Middle East Bureau Chief…Eden Teva Market, Israel’s first chain of retail groceries specializing in organic and whole foods, is now certified kosher under the supervision of the Israeli rabbinate. The markets are owned by Guy Provisor, the businessman who founded the chain in 2003. He told the Index website that they never had kashrut status because most of the products were imported from the Far East. During the last year, the company has acquired 700 new items which are now certified kosher - mostly dairy products and Oriental foods such as seaweed and sushi which are imported. He said the kashrut certification will cost the chain $150,000. Provisor emphasized that Teva market branches were never open on the Sabbath. Even though there was no kashrut certification, they never sold products containing seafood or pork so going kosher was natural. There are 10 Teva markets throughout the country. Provisor said the company plans on opening several more branches through 2011.
Jerusalem…by Idele Ross, Kosher Today Middle East Bureau Chief…The Israeli demand for organic produce and whole foods is clearly more than a passing trend as major supermarkets are now offering more than a few pesticide-free vegetables and fruits in their produce section. Major food retailers are now realizing that the organic and whole food sales are potentially a multimillion dollar market that is on the rise in Israel. The Super-Sol supermarket chain has just opened its first organic foods department under the name Super-Sol Green. The first branch of the new retailing format, which opened inside the Super Sol Deal branch in Ra’anana, is a store within a store. The venture is intended to compete with the Eden Teva Market chain which opened seven years ago and has stores throughout the country. Haaretz reports that the Super-Sol Green department at the Ra’anana Super Sol Deal has about 1,500 products for sale over about 90 square meters of floor space. It features health foods, organic products, wine and cheeses and special gluten free products. Super Sol plans on opening three additional Super Sol Green locations in the center of country by the end of the year. These will be supplemented in the next two years by similar natural food departments at other Super Sol deal branches and at Super Sol big locations.
Chicago…Just a few short weeks after it re-opened its flagship kosher store in Evanston, Jewel-Osco this week re-opened yet another store, this time in Lakeview, not your typical kosher neighborhood. For kosher consumers in the area, the redesign and reopening of the major supermarket in the area was an opportunity to influence management to open a kosher store within the store, albeit not as extensive as the Evanston store which serves the Chicago kosher market. With the help of Yakov Yarmove, in the Ethnic Marketing and Specialty Foods division of SuperValu, the community’s wishes came true. Under the supervision of the Orthodox Union (OU), the store features a dedicated kosher gourmet cheese section, packaged meats and other products, kosher dairy, bakery and fish. After meeting with members of the local Jewish community, Yarmove was surprised to learn of the 400-500 kosher families living in the store’s vicinity, who were tired of trekking to Jewel’s kosher havens in Evanston and Highland Park. “No one likes to schlep,” Yarmove said.
New York…Mayer Gold will focus on service as he takes the reigns of the newly acquired Supersol kosher supermarket in the thriving Jewish neighborhood of Kew Garden Hills. In an interview with Tova Ross of Kosher Today, Gold said that his special relationship with his customers is already on display with a rare invitation to help name the supermarket. The winner of the contest will receive $100 of groceries each week for a year, over a $5,000 value. Gold, who previously served as manager at Pomegranate as well as other kosher supermarkets in Brooklyn and Queens, said that he has even asked customers to pick the items that they would like to see on shelves. “We will not be stocking our shelves based exclusively on the advice of product salesman and vendors, but also on the advice of our valued customers,” Gold told Ross. He is passionate about his latest venture. “I have partnered with some fellow food gourmands to put this project together, and in addition to being an owner, I will also be acting as the General Manager. I believe that my greatest qualifier is the effort I put into vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of my customers. I shop in my own stores, and take people’s shopping lists to do trial runs, noting the ease or difficulty of finding products, and where aisles are getting congested with carts and how product placement may be the cause. I’ve waited on line in my own stores during different times of the day and week to experience what my customers do.” The contest for the name of the supermarket, which has thus far generated 2000 responses, ends on Friday, which will begin a new era for Gold.
Chicago, ILL…The Grand Reopening of the Jewel’s at 3487 Howard Street in Evanston, IL on Thursday October 7th was a celebration of a new era for kosher, according to the many kosher purveyors who attended the ceremony. The store, which is part of the SuperValu chain serves the dynamic and growing kosher market in the Chicago area. It is for all practical purposes a kosher superstore that features many stores within a store. Beautifully designed and showcased according to categories, it includes special sections for kosher deli, kosher pre-pack and chumus, kosher cheese from around the world, smoked fish and nova, kosher fish, fresh meat (cut on premises), poultry, sushi (made in the store), a full dairy case, bakery (6 local bakeries represented), 35 freezer doors of kosher, Taste of Israel, party goods for kosher consumer, 200 linear feet of kosher grocery, and a wide assortment of wines. The store also includes the Tein Li Chow kosher restaurant. The store has its own kosher manager, Levi Lefkowitz, and a team of kosher supervisors from the Orthodox Union, headed by Rabbi Yosef Weinhaus. The store opening included many promotions and food demonstrations. A number of leading kosher food manufacturers attended the impressive grand opening ceremony that included a ribbon cutting ceremony. The major expansion of the Jewel’s store is the brainchild of Yakov M. Yarmove, Corporate Business Development Manager – Ethnic Marketing and Specialty Foods for SuperValu. Although he is responsible for the development of kosher sections in dozens of stores throughout the SuperValu chain, the Evanston store is clearly the flagship store and now a model store for the entire industry.
New York…FreshDirect, a highly successful home delivery food service, has stepped up its efforts to target kosher consumers. Now In its eighth year, FreshDirect opened its “kosher store” in 2003, according to spokesperson Melanie Banks. “Two years ago we stopped cutting kosher meat/poultry in house and transitioned to some of the most notable well known brands in the industry like Empire Kosher and Meal Mart.” She added: “We have since expanded our offerings to include Kosher Valley and Teva.” The latest initiative to advertise FreshDirect’s kosher offering in Jewish newspapers is to “educate” the community about FreshDirect’s broad kosher offering, available at everyday low prices. While FreshDirect offers a wide range of kosher meats and other kosher items, customers buying kosher products from FreshDirect can take advantage of their home delivery in convenient 2 hour delivery windows.
FreshDirect uses a direct distribution model with in-house, overnight production that cuts out the middleman and helps it offer farm-fresh food at everyday low prices. FreshDirect is an online shopping experience that is highly personalized with smart shopping features that help customers track their favorites, remember missed items, shop from previous orders and receive recommendations on new foods they might like. Thanks to expert daily ratings, FreshDirect customers can easily shop for best of the season produce and seafood as well as a full line of household products, health and beauty items. Kosher consumers can also avail themselves from similar delivery services from kosher.com.
Monsey, NY…Groceries around the country are increasingly sharing ideas of some of the most successful kosher programs in an effort to better serve their kosher clientele. Last week a management team from Jewel visited stores in the Metro New York/New Jersey area to see some of the “best practices” in kosher. Led by kosher expert Yakov Yarmove of SuperValu, the group visited amongst other stores Rockland Kosher, one of the nation’s largest and best designed kosher stores. Grocers from around the country have visited the store because of its spacious aisles and large selections of food categories that includes gourmet cheese, meat, and sushi. Rockland Kosher has become a model of the new “kosher superstore” that now exists in many large Jewish neighborhoods. Jewel’s is preparing to reopen its flagship kosher store in Evanston, IL next month with many new additions to its kosher offerings.
Winn-Dixie Stores will help shoppers get the Jewish year 5771 off to a “delicious start” with cooking demonstrations and in-store sampling before Rosh Hashanah at select stores throughout South Florida. “These demonstrations not only allow shoppers to learn quick and easy recipes, but also provide them with an opportunity to sample and learn more about Winn-Dixie’s more than 1,000 kosher-certified corporate brand products,” noted Deborah Shapiro, specialty foods category manager at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie. Culinary designer and author Chef Doris is starring in the live cooking demos, which will be carried out under the kosher supervision of Star-K and ORB. Among the recipes to be prepared are gefilte fish patties in tomato sauce and Israeli couscous with mushrooms.
With less than three weeks before Rosh Hashanah, some retailers have already begun their advertising in Jewish publications. Retailers are expecting a banner year despite the early start of Rosh Hashanah, largely because of three periods of “3-day holidays” (two days of the holiday plus one day of Shabbat) that fall in September and early October.