By Howard Blas
SECAUCUS, N.J. – In his keynote presentation entitled, “State of the Kosher Industry: The Transition of Kosher Foods to a New Level,” Menachem Lubinsky, President and CEO of LUBICOM Marketing Consulting, pointed out just how far the kosher food industry has come. “In the early years, there were nine booths with potato kugel. Then there were 10 or 12 booths displaying sponge cake. Now, there are gourmet and health products–change has come to the kosher food industry in a dramatic way!”
Lubinsky was referring to the rows and rows of booths at Kosherfest, the trade show for the kosher food industry, which took place Oct. 26 and 27 at the Meadlowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J. Kosherfest is the yearly gathering of everyone who’s anyone in the kosher food industry-manufacturers, distributors, certifying agencies, cookbook authors, magazines, camps, restaurants, caterers and more.
Lubinsky further notes that today’s kosher consumer is much younger, more health conscious, and has learned to navigate the retail map, shopping in a variety of stores –from supermarkets, to smaller independent kosher markets, to stories like Costco.
A walk through the aisles at the two-day show gave a glimpse of the 125,000 kosher products now available in U.S. supermarkets, produced in the plants of 10,650 kosher producing companies–all contributing to a market with a dollar value of $12,500,000,000.
Old favorites displaying products include Manischewitz, Streit, Tulkoff, Barton’s Chocolates, Gold’s and Osem. But even these companies came with new products and new packaging.
There were corporate “tie ins,” too. Cookbook author, Susie Fishbein, was promoting her new book, “Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings,” in front of the Kolatin kosher gelatin booth, and Jamie Geller, author of “Quick and Kosher Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing” and the new “Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes,” was distributing recipe cards at the Kosher.com booth.
There are many new, tasty products to look for on super market and specialty store shelves. Chocolate raspberry macaroons by Lily Bloom’s Kitchen, were voted both best new dessert/candy and Best In Show-First Runner Up.
Elite Natural 100% Organic Juices, with a plant in Ankara, Turkey, offers an assortment of juices, including pear, quince, honeydew melon and pomegranate. President, Ali Suman and Vice President Mark Rollino were happy to answer all of my questions, including number of watermelons it takes for one bottle of their watermelon juice (it takes 8). The juice was voted Kosherfest’s Best New Beverage; and, in case you wanted to know, it takes 20 or 23 pomegranates to fill a bottle of the company’s pomegranate juice and in development is a juice made of persimmons.
Kind Healthy Snacks offered samples of its six new all natural gluten free flavors (my favorites: apple cinnamon and pecan, and pomegranate blueberry pistachio + antioxidants). Big Apple Pretzels passed out soft pretzels. Freund’s Fish Market had sushi for the taking. Steve Katz, owner of Katz’s Bakery in Southfield, Mich. was handing out very tasty seven layer cake samples.
A record number of countries were represented — from Poland to Ecuador, Argentina, Canada, Lithuania, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Spain, Australia, China and of course, Israel. Osem chefs prepared Israeli whole wheat and tri-color cous cous. Vegetali vegetarian hot dogs in a blanket was voted Best New Fine Food from Israel (and they had many other wonderful vegetarian products–including Moroccan cigars). Neviot is hoping to soon bring their bottled water and flavored water to the American market; the Etz Hazait Collection of oils of Haifa, marketed as “The recipe for good health,” is also “not here yet but looking to be here,” according to Shirley Rocheli, company spokesperson.
Other items of interest include Sue Fishkoff’s new book “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority;” a new bi-monthly kosher food magazine, entitled “Kosher Inspired;” “New York Kosher News,” a free publication of Kashrus Magazine focusing on New York and New Jersey area kashrut news.
Howard Blas is freelance writer from New Haven.