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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.
Jerusalem…Nikur (“deveining”) involves removing certain forbidden veins and fats from cattle. They are extremely prevalent in the hindquarters, and due to the complexity involved in their removal, this part of the animal is generally not sold as kosher. In an exclusive interview with Kosher Today, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar claimed that all kosher meat in Israel routinely includes the practice of Nikur. The Sephardic Rishon Letzion said that the nikur requirement was part of the steady upgrade of kashrus in Israel. The Chief Rabbi has a reputation of being tough on kashrus, a source told Kosher Today. “When he was rabbi of Tel Aviv, he withdrew certificates from establishments that were open on Shabbos, ending a practice that was known in some circles as the 6-day certificate.
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.
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.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we are pleased to bring you several breaking stories and many important new developments in the kosher food industry. For starters, the closure of 25 A&P brand stores is destined to create realignment in kosher retail in many markets. Read why kosher sources do not believe that this will be such a bad thing…I am pleased to share the very inspiring story of an Irish-American who may very well be the architect of the modern-day mega kosher food section in supermarkets…What a difference a year makes? Especially when it comes to kosher meat and poultry…Yes, we told you so. A hummus war is underway…FreshDirect is taking a new aggressive tact to attract kosher on-line shoppers…Tova Ross reports that if you eat kosher and are going to college this Fall, there may be a restaurant for you…A kosher cooking maven goes on line to network with others who enjoy kosher cooking…If you’re in a supermarket and see someone with a camera in the kosher section, it just may be KosherEye.com…A New Year deserves many good new kosher wines and we have the update from Royal/Kedem…In My Sixth Sense, I look at why the airlines still can’t get it right when it comes to kosher…Tova Ross in her New Product Showcase looks at the new Hummus from Tribe.
On behalf of all of us at KosherToday, Kosherfest, Diversified Business Communication, and LUBICOM Marketing Consulting, we wish you a Shana Tova, a year of health and prosperity.
New York…With the addition of hundreds of new kosher products comes a drawback that has many kashrus sources and ordinary consumers on edge. It seems that as the number of products increase so do the number of alerts that appear in Anglo Jewish newspapers, kosher certification agency newsletters, and the blogs that routinely cover such alerts. The alerts typically involve an unauthorized usage of a kosher symbol as was the case with Snapple recently when its certifier, OK Kosher Certification, alerted customers that the 24 pack – 20 oz plastic bottles of Snapple had been incorrectly labeled OK Pareve. It appeared that while most of the flavors were kosher, the Fruit Punch was not. Another advisory referred to JELL-O Strawberry Cheesecake Snacks produced by Kraft Foods which the OK does not certify because it contains gelatin. The issues with kosher certification are as widespread with larger manufacturers as they are with smaller ones.
Also of concern is changed status of restaurants and retail establishments. In Chicago, the cRc had to warn customers that it no longer certified many Red Mango stores around the country. Changes in certification at many eating establishments routinely occur but in many cases the stores are left without certification. Kashrus agencies say they are noticing an increased volume of calls to their consumer hotlines. One rabbi told Kosher Today that the calls begin the minute that there “is any kind of buzz about the kashrus status of a product or eating establishment.”
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.
New York…by Staff Reporters…Should a kashrus agency certify a kosher restaurant that also has a non-kosher restaurant by the same name? For one would-be diner the answer is a clear no as he almost ate at the non-kosher eatery just because a kosher restaurant Web site took him to the site of the non-kosher eatery with only a minor mention buried in the copy that they also have a kosher restaurant. The mistake was ultimately corrected but many who were involved questioned whether the major kashrus organization certifying the restaurant should have given the certification in the first place. A New York area Vaad’s refusal to certify a Dunkin Donuts franchise was criticized by some but the Vaad maintains that there is much that is not kosher in the franchise names that share space with the Dunkin Donuts. The growing role of the Internet as a major source for kosher restaurants is a new reason for tightening up oversight to avoid confusion, say several rabbis reached by Kosher Today. Said one: “I guess agencies and rabbis will now have to check Web sites and links to make sure that there is no confusion.” In as far away places as Buenos Aires, the potential confusion has become an issue. A group of American tourists in Buenos Aires complained that the glatt kosher McDonald’s is in a mall that has several other McDonald’s restaurants despite the fact that the kosher McDonald’s has a large kosher sign in the middle of the logo. The Buenos Aires McDonald’s is the only glatt kosher eatery of the international food icon. The potential for confusion, say kashrus sources, could be an issue with any brand that produces both kosher and non-kosher and even if the same is produced with different kashrus standards. While many were forgiving about the restaurant error, they were also hoping that kashrus certifiers would also take precautions so that such confusions do not occur.
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.
Woodmere LI…by Tova Ross…The Five Towns may be amongst the most affluent Jewish regions in the country, but it is also an area with an increasing number of Jewish families who are struggling, Kosher Today has learned. The Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns has had a kosher food pantry for nearly five years (thanks to funding from the UJA-Federation of New York) to provide struggling residents of the Five Towns with pantry staples and canned foods. But it was only recently that increased demand for assistance has necessitated a move from the JCC’s basement to a larger storefront on Central Avenue in Woodmere. Rina Shkolnik, the JCC’s executive director, said: “Five years ago, we served fifty, maybe sixty families a week. Two years ago, we served eighty five families. Last year we served 135, and this year, 150. With an average of four members to a family, that’s already over 500 people that don’t have enough food to eat.”
Shkolnik attributes the rising number of people in need to the still-struggling economy. “Many of these families that are suffering already have kids in yeshiva and mortgages to pay, and when those costs are taken care of, it often doesn’t leave enough for kosher food,” she explained. Basics like milk and meat are more expensive when they’re kosher, and when one member of the family lost his or her job, finding the money for things that have already been committed to doesn’t leave a lot of room to buy kosher meat or other typically more expensive basic foods.
The new JCC storefront – which opened in part by donations from the JCC’s board of directors – operates differently from the basement food pantry, from which community members could not frequent and only receive donation from deliveries. In the storefront, perishables and canned goods are still collected from both private donations and from bins placed in local supermarkets like Gourmet Glatt, Brach’s, and Supersol that ask shoppers to buy an extra item to donate, but the food is then stocked on shelves for those in need to come and “buy” as they “shop.” And, unlike its previous location, this storefront is equipped with freezers used solely to stock meat, so families who cannot afford kosher beef and chicken can still enjoy it. The storefront’s windows have shades to protect the privacy of families who come to “shop” there. The space is leased for two years, but hopefully, it won’t need that long for community members to get back on their feet.