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Portland ME…Kosherfest 2011, which will take place at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus NJ on November 8-9, will be a major showcase for the growing array of gluten-free products. The rapid expansion of the gluten-free products will be very much in evidence this coming Passover as kosher consumers will have a wide array of new products, including gluten-free matzohs. The global gluten-free market is set to grow by $1.2 billion throughout the next five years, eventually reaching $4.3 billion by 2015, according to recent research by Datamonitor. A majority of that market growth will come from the U.S. foodservice industry, which is expected to grow by more than $500 million by 2014. With the expanding population of Americans affected by celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, demand for gluten-free products and menus continues to climb. The market posted sales of $2.6 billion in 2010, according to Packaged Facts market research.
Kosherfest 2011 is already shaping up to be one of the largest ever. This year’s show is expected to sell out well in advance. In 2010, the show was sold out four weeks before opening day with more than 25 companies being put on a waiting list. Attendance is expected to top last year’s 16% increase, but most importantly, the number of key buyers is also expected to dramatically increase.
New York…The year began with the news that at least two Albertson’s stores that served kosher consumers in Florida would be closing. It is ending with the bankruptcy of A & P, which in recent months closed several Pathmark and Waldbaum’s stores, including a flagship Pathmark kosher store in Monsey. But there were also significant developments with independent kosher retailers, including the relocation of the Seven Mile Market in Baltimore to a 55,000 square foot facility, the planned entry of a major Israeli retailer and the increased kosher offerings by club and discount stores all over the country. The upshot of all of these developments is a three-tiered kosher retail mix that has changed the shopping habits of many kosher consumers and has resulted in stiff competition between the three types of retail grocers.
While the changing kosher retail scene may have been the biggest story for kosher in 2010, there were other notable stories. Kosher slaughter (schechita) continued to come under pressure in Europe and New Zealand. There were more well-known brands that became kosher, including Gatorade and Glenmorangie. Kosherfest 2010 saw a record 7,000 trade representatives attend with an increased number of gluten-free and spelt items. The ongoing recession put the squeeze on the lucrative Passover hotel business and on many upscale gourmet items. It was a banner year for kosher cookbooks with such notable authors as Joan Nathan, Gil Marks, Susan Fishbein and Jamie Geller and a significant book on the development of kosher by Sue Fishkoff (“The Kosher Nation”). There was a dramatic up tick in the role of social media in kosher sales. All in all, kosher sales increased by approximately 12%, at a time when the food industry in general will grow only by several percentage points as it did in 2009. Kosher grew by about the same percentage number in 2009 with the closest competitor being organic foods that grew by 5%.
Brooklyn, NY…Moshe Semel, one of a handful of remaining family-owned kosher food distributors, is still the man to see at the annual Kosherfest for many manufacturers looking for distribution. After more than three decades at the helm of Quality Foods, Semel shows no signs of slowing down even as a second generation of Semels and Soffers (children of his late partner Eli Soffer) are now part of the company. Gitel Liebler, Mr. Semel’s daughter, marvels at her father’s tenacity to stay the course in a business that has become “cut-throat” and dependant on extremely low margins. Kosher distribution has come a long way from the days when family owned distributors anchored their businesses as regional distributors for Manischewitz, Rokeach or Streit’s. While many of those distributors have long since disappeared from the scene or were swallowed up by large specialty food distributors, Semel and his family is still a leading kosher food distributor. To satisfy larger clients, particularly supermarkets, distributors of certain category foods expanded their offerings to what one competing distributor called “everything goes.” Distribution was no longer for a small breed of expert distributors. As one retailer put it: “Anyone with a truck became a kosher distributor.”
With more than 3400 SKU’s, Quality covers most of the Metro New York area, Pennsylvania and even markets abroad. The distributor has successfully made the transition from the traditional kosher foods of the 1970’s to today’s technologically enhanced products such as items that have an extended shelf life. Mrs. Liebler says that the distributor is very much on top of innovation, even stocking ingredients that are included in popular kosher cookbooks or being the first ones to distribute a new OU certified Tootsie Roll. Quality has also been extremely successful in marketing and distributing foods under such well-known labels as Noam, Chopsie’s, Ungar’s, and Snack Delite to name but a few. Industry sources speak of Semel as “one of the nicest guys in the industry,” and someone who helped many aspiring kosher food entrepreneurs with “credit terms he never should have offered.” After all, Semel was himself at one time a retailer with a popular Boro Park store that he owned together with his late Brother. For Liebler, a defining moment in Semel’s impressive career was a recent company meeting at which Mr. Semel finally found a few moments to attend. “There were all the family members and key salesman in one room with my father sitting at the head.”
My Sixth Sense…by Menachem Lubinsky
Lost in the aisles upon aisles of booths at Kosherfest was a group of exhibitors who you might say were the anchors of the show and icons of the kosher food industry. Despite mergers, acquisitions, and the demise of many brands over the last decades, there were the families that helped shape the kosher food industry. At the Kedem booth, there was David Herzog, his nephew Nathan Herzog and David’s son Mordy. Despite its meteoric rise, the family flavor has been very much retained. At the Streit’s booth, descendants Aaron Gross and Aaron Yegoda were showing off many of heir new products as they take the Lower East Side Matzoh manufacturer to a whole new level. Morris Setton still greets passersby with his fresh almonds, pistachios, and other nuts. Aba Klein of Klein’s Ice Cream had three generations of Kleins in his booth. Who would have believed that the kosher ice cream company would be producing 300 different products, some in conjunction with large food manufacturers. The Klein’s of Oh! Nuts were also represented by two generations of Kleins. There were many other families who we have come to love and respect over the years.
The newest family that is also hoping to build a legacy is Montreal businessman Hershy Friedman, who acquired the bankrupt Agriprocessor and has in recent weeks been applauded for the quality of his Aaron’s Best products. Mr. Friedman was an instant celebrity at the show, despite a long history of being a successful businessman and generous philanthropist. There were other kosher notables in the aisles like Rabbi Yehuda Perl, who has successfully taken Sabra hummus mainstream. One notable absence was speed-painter Morris Katz, who was a fixture at the show almost from its inception, and who is suffering from an undisclosed illness. Get well soon, Morris. We really missed you!
Tel Aviv…by Idele Ross, Kosher Today Chief Middle East Correspondent…Ori Fastlich left Kosherfest with a bag of surprises he could not have envisioned when he signed up for his first appearance at the annual kosher food trade show that took place last month. His company Hamim VeTaim took Kosherfest honors in the New Products from Israel Division with its Vegetarian Hot Dog in a Blanket, which is marketed in the US by Blue and White Foods. The Israeli-born businessman also had no clue that his company’s product was a kosher version of the popular American “pigs in a blanket” until KT explained it to him. It subsequently appeared in several press reports. Fastlich said he was interested in perhaps creating kosher versions of other popular foods.
Fastlich told Kosher Today that it was his first time at Kosherfest although his company always sends several representatives. Hamim VeTaim’s products include falafel, potato turnovers, vegetarian egg rolls, meat filled cigars. They are sold primarily to Israel’s institutional food services: hotels, wedding halls and so on. Fastlich said sales totaled some one million dollars. A recent deal signed with Greek importers Veropoulos was based on the company Mediterranean line of appetizers. The Israel Export Institute reports that an initial order is for 50,000 Euros and Hamim VeTaim estimates orders will come to hundreds of thousands of Euros annually. Hamim VeTaim is located in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv and employs 150 people.
Secaucus, NJ…”It was the best show ever!” “It featured the best quality buyers!” “It was the best attended show!” These were some of the comments from visitors and exhibitors alike who participated in the 22nd Annual Kosherfest. But the most encouraging comments came from veteran exhibitors who say that the show has “evolved into a real buying show!” Several exhibitors said that they wrote “substantial” orders during the two day show which took place October 26-27. Some buyers said that they were impressed with many of the new products at the show, particularly those that were gluten-free, a growing category in kosher. One distributor who has been coming to Kosherfest “since its inception” says that he picked up at least a dozen products that he will represent, including 5 new items “I like for Passover.” The success of the show resulted in an unprecedented rush to book space for 2011 (November 8-9, 2011, a reflection of the fact that this year’s edition was sold out weeks in advance of the show.
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.
Secaucus, NJ…Kosherfest 2010, the 22nd edition of the International Kosher Food Trade Show, opens here on Tuesday (October 26th) at the Meadowlands Exposition Center for two days in what organizers say will be the largest and most impressive showcase in its history. Produced by Diversified Business Communications and co-produced by LUBICOM Marketing Consulting, the show will feature some 350 exhibits and host more than 7,000 food professionals from some two dozen countries around the world. The number of products with kosher certification has reached 125,000 in an industry valued at nearly $13 billion in sales, topped only by Israel with an estimated $17 billion in sales. With 13% annual growth amidst the continuing recession, the industry has reason to be optimistic. The show was sold out weeks in advance of its opening tomorrow. The 2010 edition of Kosherfest will mirror some of the latest developments in kosher, including the expansion of kosher in such countries as Canada and Argentina, the rapid rise of healthier kosher foods (i.e. spelt, gluten-free, natural and organic), a much younger market with its demand for many new specialty foods and even targeted cookbooks, and an impressive list of new and exciting products, highlighted by this year’s winners of Kosherfest’s highly coveted New Product Competition.
By Menachem Lubinsky
As preparations for Kosherfest went into high gear this week, all eyes are on the New Product Competition scheduled for October 13th. Hundreds of new products were submitted in what has become an important event for kosher food manufacturers. The conventional wisdom, and indeed the evidence supports it, is that winners benefit from being designated best in a given category and certainly when receiving the honors of being “Best in Show.” But to my surprise, I learned that several winners in the past few years are no longer on shelves. What was thought to be automatic is perhaps not so automatic.
In discussing this surprising finding with several distributors, I was relieved to learn that the new product winners that did not make it were a distinct minority. They pointed to several products including at least one “Best in Show” that literally turned around a business. So is there a formula for success? Is there a message for those products that will be crowned winners? It appears that being the winner is only part of a broader marketing effort that includes merchandising, advertising and public relations. Too often a product is left to rest on its laurels without recognizing that the ultimate judge is not the panel that decides the best product but the consumer. Recognizing that simple fact can make the producer of a new and innovative product a true winner!
Secaucus, NJ…The popularity of kosher cookbooks is seen by experts as one of the major factors in the continued growth of kosher. At this year’s Kosherfest, which opens at the Meadowlands Exposition Center on October 26th for two days, at least five new important kosher books on cooking kosher will be introduced and profiled. Noted author Gil Marks will introduce “The History of Jewish Food.” In a presentation at the show, Marks will cover some stories of the early days of kosher. Kosher supervision began in 1870 when, under the counsel of a Lithuanian rabbi, Israel Rokeach created kosher soap and later brought his soap to New York. In 1923 the H. J. Heinz Company began offering a kosher pickle, and by the 1980s manufacturers were using kosher tanker trucks to haul oils and corn syrup for prepared foods which meant that almost any product could be easily converted to kosher. After Entenmann’s placed its entire line of baked goods under kosher supervision, many other major American food manufacturers followed. Joan Nathan’s who is a pioneer in melding Jewish culture with Jewish cooking is out with “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous, My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.” Ms. Nathan is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications. She is the author of numerous books including Jewish Cooking in America and The New American Cooking, both of which won the James Beard Award and the IACP Award. She was the host of the nationally syndicated PBS television series Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan, based on the book. Paula Shoyer’s “A New Era in Pareve Desserts: Introducing The Kosher Baker: 160 dairy-free desserts from traditional to trendy” is expected to be a big hit. Ms. Shoyer will be discussing her book at Kosherfest and explain why she wrote The Kosher Baker. She teaches classes in Jewish cooking and baking and French pastry in the Washington, DC area and around the United States. She has appeared on NBC Washington’s “Quick Bites”, WGN Chicago’s “Lunchbreak,” Martha Stewart Living Radio and The Kosher Baker has been profiled in newspapers, magazines and websites from coast to coast. Suzie Fishbein, the award-winning author of the Kosher by Design series is out with her newest book “Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings. Susie’s wildly successful series has already sold over 400,000 copies worldwide and has led to hundreds of appearances by Susie from coast-to-coast and Canada. She has been the featured celebrity guest on cruise ships as well as at a week-long culinary adventure in the Galil in Israel. Profiled in the New York Times and on CNN, Susie has been named one of the 50 most influential Jews by the Forward.