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By Tani Cohn
(New York)—With the recent success of Groupon, an online group coupon site that delivers localized daily deals to millions across the nation, Jewish-oriented Groupon-style sites have sprouted up to capitalize on the lucrative kosher market. Several sites now compete for deals and diners, including Jdeal.com, KosherKouponz.com, Jewdle.com, and Jewpon.com. While some of these, notably KosherKouponz, offer mostly kosher food coupons, all of the above sites are attempting to capitalize on other aspects of the Jewish market by offering non-food services and products geared towards Jewish consumers. Indeed, a recent sampling of offers from the sites listed above included everything from restaurant deals, 50% off on children’s toys and clothing and a steep discount on short-term Israeli cell phones.
When it comes to effectiveness Groupon-sites are a mixed bag. According to one New York Times article, “Groupon is a beast,” as it holds both massive potential and risk for retailers. Seemingly, Groupon-style sites, such Jdeal and Jewpon, while not reaching hundreds of thousands like Groupon, still carry a strong potential and risk factor for those who use their services. According to AdWeek Advertising Magazine sites like Jdeal have memberships upwards of 5,000, so merchants who use the service are guaranteed a wide audience, if not actual costumers. Thus, Jewish Groupon-style sites seem to certainly hold the means to be effective advertising mediums, albeit actual results may vary. While Jewish Groupon-style sites are still in their nascent stages, their affect on the kosher restaurant market in major cities like New York has already been felt. Indeed, with restaurants and kosher food providers throughout the city and its suburbs offering discount deals on simchas, sushi and steak dinners, those who don’t jump on the Groupon bandwagon may be at a disadvantage. Seemingly then, Jewish Groupon-style sites hold potential to grow as membership naturally increases and to become an integral aspect of the kosher food market. Conversely, because of the localized and tight-knit nature of the Jewish community, restaurants and other food providers may not feel the need to use a Groupon-style site, since the ROI might not be worth it.
New York…by Staff Reporters…A recent announcement by General Electric that it has installed a “Shabbos mode” feature on hundreds of its popular cooking appliances, including wall ovens and electric drop-in ranges, is the latest development in the increased role of technology in the kosher kitchen. Like many other kosher innovations that are driven by technology, the new ranges are certified kosher by Baltimore-based Star-K Kosher Certification. The Shabbos mode can be utilized by those wishing to keep kosher or avoided by the non-Jewish customer. In a press release, GE said it was “the voice of Jewish consumers” that led company engineers to develop this feature. Ranges, which are usually equipped with a 12-hour shut-off feature for safety purposes, will have a Shabbos mode feature in which the 12-hour override does not occur, allowing food to be warmed continuously throughout Shabbos. Tones and timer sounds will be eliminated, as will display icons to permit temperature adjustments on yomim tovim. “With today’s advanced technology, and the ‘bells and whistles’ which are now standard features in almost every appliance on the market, it is difficult for Sabbath observers to be able to use their appliances in a halachically correct manner without the Sabbath mode,” notes STAR-K president, Avrom Pollak. “Although features such as door alarms on freezers are thought of as a bonus for the consumer, they are an annoyance for the Sabbath observer.”
Culinary Depot, located in Monsey NY, is a commercial kitchen equipment company that has worked with some of the leading kitchen equipment manufacturers to create a line of Shabbos-ready kitchen appliances for caterers, restaurants, synagogues, nursing homes, and other facilities where commercial-grade equipment is needed. Avi Fried, an online representative of the store, says “We’ve done a lot of business with major appliance manufactures, and we’ve noticed that there’s been a need for Shabbos-friendly kitchen equipment for kosher caterers, nursing homes, and hospitals.” Culinary Depot offers these facilities items like a Shabbos convection oven by Vulcan that has a standing pilot, and does not turn off lights or fans when the door is opened or closed and a Shabbos refrigerator/freezer made by Traulsen that has an LED display that can be turned off prior to Shabbos so as not to change the temperature numbers when opening the refrigerator or freezer door to remove an item. Fried said that the Culinary Depot shipped 20 of the Shabbos-friendly convection ovens to Uman in the Ukraine, and has shipped some to Pesach programs in exotic locations like Cancun. They’ve shipped equipment to Israel, Australia, and South Africa, though most of the orders come from across the United States.
To discover and share the availability and diversity of kosher certified products carried by Whole Foods Market, Lois Held and Roberta Scher, co-founders of KosherEye.com, went on a video shopping tour of the Briarcliff Road Whole Foods in Atlanta. This was not your usual shopping tour. The duo wanted to explore the availability of kosher products in the store, and demonstrate whether the kosher consumer could fill an entire shopping cart with the unique products carried by Whole Foods- not necessarily the typical brands.
With the cooperation of the corporate offices of Whole Foods Market, and along with their shopping cart, the pair walked the aisles and recorded their finds on video. The story of their kosher shopping excursion experience appears on their website, KosherEye.com, and the aisle by aisle videos are available for viewing on YouTube.com.
The KosherEye.com website was launched in November 2009. It has grown into a popular destination for the kosher consumer, retailer, manufacturer, chef and foodie seeking to “see all that’s new in kosher” including foods, wines, recipes, cookbooks, culinary gadgets and more. The pair is constantly on the lookout for unique new products for the kosher cook or food professional. They look forward to uncovering additional product introductions and networking with professionals in the industry when they attend KosherFest later this fall.
Kosher cooking enthusiasts who wish to share the joys of kosher cooking now have their own web site, thanks to JoyofKosher.com. Launched in time for Rosh Hashanah. The website offers opportunities for recipe sharing along with social networking, allowing everyone from the serious foodie to amateur cooks to post their own recipes, comment on message boards, search a comprehensive database of recipes, and share recipes with one another while making new friends who share a similar passion. Users can also customize their own cookbooks, upload photos of their dishes and download coupons. Created by Tamar Genger, a registered dietician, the new online community for kosher cooks comes after years of popular mainstream cooking websites and cooking shows, even an entire network about food. But kosher chefs are often excluded from these options, as they do not take into account every sensitivity to kashrus. This new online community was “created to enable members to share their favorite Jewish recipes with food lovers all over the world, create new friendships and preserve our most sacred family traditions, from matzo balls to mandel bread,” says to Ms. Genger .
“After getting off to a very slow start, the kosher world is still playing catch-up online, but there is a lot to be hopeful about,” explained Ms. Genger. “There is an explosion of online kosher supermarkets and specialty stores, well-written kosher food and wine blogs and innovative mobile applications for all things kosher. By embracing Facebook, Twitter and emerging websites like JoyofKosher.com, companies can directly engage their audience with coupons and promotions, receive immediate feedback and build powerful brand loyalty.”
New York…by Tova Ross, Kosher Today Features Editor…Keeping kosher is becoming easier, thanks to a number of high tech innovations. Kosher adherents can already use an Apple app “My Grocery Master” to search a database of over 100,000 specialty foods for kosher products in their closest grocery stores. Now comes a new invention: a stick that can detect the presence of pork in any dish. The uni-cultural plastic stick can alert both kosher and Halal eaters to the prohibited pig by using antibodies that react with the non-kosher animal’s muscle tissue. Invented by scientists at the Kazakh National Center for Biotechnology, the stick may not be so necessary for kosher consumers in the US, who rely on some of the 1000 kosher-certifying agencies and rabbis as well as the FDA to properly ensure their food is not contaminated with pork products. Yet the stick comes in handy for Muslims in Kazakhstan (Islam is the dominant religion there), where chefs often use pork in supposedly Halal dishes because it is cheaper than many other meats. Sources told Kosher Today that the stick may be handy for Jews who keep kosher and are frequent travelers around the globe, where food certification standards are not always subject to the strict ones in place in the U.S.
While the stick may not be a practical everyday aid, iBless Food 1.0 by the Davka Corporation can come in more handy. iBless Food 1.0 is a resource guide for Hebrew blessings (brachos) for over 500 different foods. It allows for easy scrolling on an iPod, iPhone, or iPad to discover what type of blessing should be made over fruits, vegetables, and popular snacks and appetizers.
The blessing – both for before and after the food being eaten – is shown in both Hebrew and English transliteration and chanted aloud with each word highlighted as it is said. Additional information about the customs of that particular blessing is also shown.