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…A Flatbush mother of five says that she shops in at least four stores each week. She says that she changed her shopping habits two years ago from shopping everything she needed in one store. In interviews with shoppers and retailers, it is becoming apparent that many kosher shoppers are returning to the days of dividing their shopping chores, only this time it is not necessarily the baker and the butcher but the Club store and large independent kosher stores that offer special discounts on specific items. Even shoppers who have made the move to such high end stores as Pomegranate are also shopping other stores. The recession has changed the shopping patterns of shoppers everywhere. A joint study released by Deloitte and Harrison Group found that 92% of people surveyed have changed their grocery shopping behavior in the last two years. In particular, 89% said they have become more resourceful while 84% say they are more precise when they shop.
Some kosher shoppers say that they are being more resourceful in planning their shopping, buying many items in bulk at a Club store and taking advantage of specials at such discount stores as the Kollel store. The Club stores have added many kosher products in the past two years. One retailer told Kosher Today that the new shopping habits of kosher consumers has “created a price war where shoppers are actually comparing prices between stores.” He said that he knows that one of his shoppers has her husband shop at two different stores while she buys specific discounted items at his store. While the retailer hoped that these new shopping trends were recession related, he in the end was not so sure. For manufacturers, the most disturbing aspect of new shopper surveys is that American shoppers are for the first time preferring generic items that are cheaper rather than brands.
Articles are written by Menachem Lubinsky and his international network of correspondents to deliver the latest products and trends in the Kosher market.
South Fallsburg, NY…Pomegranate, the upscale kosher grocery in Flatbush, has found a new way to brand its products even while most of its customers are on vacation, the majority in the Catskill Mountains. In full page ads in several Anglo-Jewish newspapers, the store announced that its products would be displayed in three locations in the Catskills. At Landau’s in South Fallsburg, a Pomegranate showcase just at the entrance of the store features a full assortment of dips, salads, and cold cuts. A store official said that the Pomegranate display would soon include some of its acclaimed cuts of meat. Other Pomegranate displays are located in Crunchies in Center 1 in Woodridge and at Dougie’s in Woodbourne. For Pomegranate, the Catskills outposts allow it to make up for some of the lost business in the summer while continuing to brand the store’s upscale image. For the stores carrying the Pomegranate line, it offers them a cut from a proven seller. In Landau’s, whose Boro Park store was one of the pioneers in offering gourmet kosher foods, the Pomegranate display was virtually depleted right after the weekend. Pomegranate had pledged to replenish the showcase once a week.
New York…Kosher retailers in many parts of the country are faced with an unprecedented dilemma: What to do with the ever-increasing number of new kosher products. The retailers say that many of the new products are rife for placement in almost every part of the store — grocery, frozen, and refrigerated — but that finding the space is a daunting challenge. It appears that even stores with adequate space, stores that have at least 5,000 square feet are finding it hard to find shelf space for an estimated 300 new products that have been added to distributor lists in just the last six months. It is particularly stressful for retailers that are aware of the quest for the new products, whether a new whole wheat pretzel, a prepared dish with soy, new flavored sauce, or a new variety of couscous. There are many new snack foods in an already crowded snack aisle or flavored beverages in the shelf that often takes up the most space. The problem is compounded by the fact that most existing products have a stable customer base. Said a Queens NY retailer: “Who am I going to throw out to find out whether a new product can sell better than the product it has displaced?” Some stores are making arbitrary decisions, choosing new products that are heavily advertised or that already enjoy broad acceptance.” The retailer cited the Shibolim brand as an example. “I started out with one small display; now I have an end cap plus three shelves of the product. I cut out three flavored rice cakes to make room for the product.”
Retailers nowadays are much more accommodating to new products than in the past. Many of the products are quality items and as has been proven in the past, can add to the bottom line. New products helped the bottom line of many retailers this past Passover, although as is often the case, the products seldom survive the Passover season. What drives sales of new products, say the retailers, is the enormous interest by younger customers to experiment with new items. In many kosher sections throughout the country, an elaborate display of Sushi products has replaced other items.
New York…The dramatic expansion of kosher into Club Stores continues to be a big story in the kosher food industry. But of late, a leading kosher distributor told Kosher Today, “there has been a great deal of activity in drugstore chains.” In what appears to be a growing trend, drugstore chains are expanding their food sections, and in areas that cater to kosher consumers, they are including Chalav Yisrael milk, cheeses, snacks and candies, in addition to the normal compliment of foods like cereals and beverage. CVS is the latest drugstore chain to try to stake a claim for a bigger piece of the nation’s trillion-dollar food budget. The Woonsocket, R.I.-based company will double the size of food sections in 3,000 of its 7,000 stores by year’s end. The distributor says that kosher food is already available at many Wal-Greens stores in such cities as New York and Miami. He plans to add a salesman “to cover the drugstore world.” The drugstores offer consumers the option of quick shopping and convenient store hours, which is why the distributor believes that drugstores will become a major source for kosher foods in the next five years.
Rishon Letzion…It is a supermarket. It is a Club Store. No, it’s like a Whole Foods Store or perhaps a gourmet specialty store. The Chatzi Chinam (“Half Free”) supermarket is like no other in Israel and certainly without parallel in the US. Any kosher consumer would think of Chatzi Chinam as a Disneyland of foods. The aisles are neatly laid out to project an abundance of branded, imported and specialty items. Customers expecting to find produce at the entrance will be disappointed as the first aisle is full of housewares, kitchen utensils and detergents. There are aisles upon aisles of branded products, namely by Israel’s giants Osem and Strauss-Elite, specialty items like gourmet and organic items from around the world, fresh beef and poultry that is not packaged, its freshness obvious through a large showcase. There are prepared meals and an incredible array of cheeses and wines in what seems like an endless display of great looking foods. There are plenty of tasting opportunities as part of a general emphasis on customer service. In a relatively short period of time, Chatzi Chinam has become the model of the new-age supermarket, and everything is kosher.
Amazingly the chain is the third largest sales without having the number of stores of its key competitors. Cousins Zaaki Shalom and Mordechai are not stopping there. They continue to open more stores but are also in an acquisition mode, including the well-known Binyamina Winery which they acquired in 2008 for $13.5 million.
Fairlawn, NJ…by Zechariah Mehler…The great Hammantashen debate? It was a debate raging amongst Israelis last year on whether the triangular shaped frequently prune filled pastries for Purim (February 28th) could ever compete with the sufganiyot (donuts) on Chanukah. In the US, at least at Zadies Bakery in Fair Lawn NJ, the clear winner is hammantaschen (named for the evil Haman who sought to destroy the Jews in ancient Persia). Zadies is popular for Purim celebrants because they do not only fill their dough with prune. Apricot, sesame and strawberry are crowd favorites but it’s the truly unique creations that keep them coming back. Among the standard flavors are Hammentaschen that are filled with brownie and pudding. These wonderful cookies are the creation of Josh Steinberg, one of Zadies owners. “We like to experiment with new ideas as much as possible” Josh said. “We are working at something new for this year too. Maybe apple. We’ll see”. As one of New Jerseys biggest distributors of baked goods, the pressure of keeping up with demand can take its toll. “Unlike a lot of places, all of our hammentaschen are hand made and not by machine. Some days demand is so great that all I do is make hammentaschen.“
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…Jewish newspapers are suddenly flush with full-page image ads by kosher supermarkets, health food stores, and even poultry manufacturers as many seek to imitate the extraordinary marketing success of Pomegranate, the upscale Flatbush kosher supermarket. This has almost overnight created a bonanza for cash starved Jewish weeklies who are the direct beneficiaries of the “full-page war,” as one advertising executive termed it. “They believe that the colorful ads with those gorgeous food shots have helped make the store (Pomegranate) a real success,” he said. He added that in the past just to get some of these stores to advertise at all was like “pulling teeth.” Many of the stores now stress their wide aisles, parking, and fresh meats as part of an image campaign that is vintage Pomegranate. There are photos of owners and butchers, all in an effort to project an image of upscale as opposed to price sensitive. Many of the stores and purveyors who are now part of this media war admit that they may not be able to sustain this effort long-term. In fact, marketing experts predict that even Pomegranate will at one point “tone down” its advertising, out a conviction that it has already won the market share that it could have hoped for. In the ongoing poultry war, the winner is clearly the consumer, but in the end the consumer may win the retail war as well.
By Menachem Lubinsky
Brooklyn…A Kosher Today story that the closure of Fruit Palace on Avenue J was due to the mounting debt of credit extended to customers in what is known as the “book,” was immediately challenged by local merchants, investors, and at least one distributor. The culprit, say the food officials, is Pomegranate, which has sharply curtailed traffic on the Flatbush commercial strip. One source told Kosher Today that most of the food stores “on the Avenue” were down between 30% – 40% since the large gourmet upscale supermarket opened only several blocks away in August 2008. An investor with Food Palace told Kosher Today that “orders on a typical Friday were down by nearly 40% in most of the food stores on Avenue J.” Yet, one source also noted that the book may have been a factor, noting that one account at Fruit Palace owed the store more than $70,000. A source close to nearby Blue Ribbon said that his book totaled more than $200,000. Another Flatbush store put his number at “somewhere between $140,000 – $160,000. But the food sources say that the book is not the reason for the doldrums at some of the stores as those payables have always existed. “It is clearly Pomegranate that has simply cut traffic on the avenue significantly,” said one source that has been on the avenue for over a quarter of a century. He added: “Look, we are trying to help our customers and when you wrote about the book, you neglected to mention how much free food we all give away. That’s what hurts so much. We’ve done so much for this community and suddenly many of them are gone, just like that.”
New York, NY…by Elie Appleson… Wholesale suppliers such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s have attained market popularity by providing consumers with discounted prices in exchange for buying in bulk. Recently, Costco has been carrying new products which are creating a new convenient and more current image for this mass retailer. With its vast and expanding kosher availability, Costco has recognized its loyal customer base, and in addition they have begun carrying kosher organic products. As of December 1st, 2009, Costco became a supplier for “Truly Organic Baking,” a company that produces affordable and convenient organic and baking products. Some of their most popular merchandise includes organic banana bread mix, muffin mix, pancake mix, and pizza dough mix. All the products are certified organic by the CCOF and USDA and the Organic Trade Association and certified kosher by the Star K Kosher Certification, based in Baltimore Md.
By Menachem Lubinsky
Baltimore, MD…Baltimore area kosher consumers voted Wasserman & Lemberger, the area’ leafing kosher retailer, as part of the 2009 Baltimore area kosher survey conducted by Kosher Community Surveys. David Chu’s China Bistro was tapped as the best kosher restaurant while Goldman’s Kosher Bakery took the honors for the area’s best kosher bakery. The 2009 winners were also voted the leading kosher establishments in 2008. Other establishments with strong showings include: Pariser’s Bakery, Umami Bistro, and Shlomo’s Kosher Meat Market. Neil Rosenbaum, President of Kosher Community Surveys said: “Baltimore kosher consumers continue to demonstrate greater interest in providing feedback to the area’s kosher establishments. Approximately 430 people participated in this year’s survey – an increase of over 100 surveys.” Kosher Community Surveys LLC conducts consumer surveys of kosher restaurants, bakeries and stores across the country including Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Cleveland.