New York…by Kosher Today Staff Reporters…If you walked down a kosher aisle in 1989, the chances are that you would see many brands with names like Rokeach, Haddar, and Season’s in addition to the many brands that are still found today. It was the year of the first Kosherfest at the Passenger Ship Terminal in New York and a time when a researcher had accounted for approximately 16,000 kosher certified items. Other data listed 172 different kosher symbols. By comparison, the number of kosher certified items today is believed to number nearly 190,000, excluding ingredient items and the number of kosher certifications and symbols over 1300. Much has changed in the variety, quality, and character of kosher food products since 69 exhibitors first displayed their wares at Kosherfest # 1. There was some consolidation that resulted in Rokeach folding under the Manischeiwtz label. Others like Kineret found a new home under the Kedem banner. Some new brands made waves and quickly captured significant market share. One example was Gefen that became omnipresent in the kosher set. Israeli items were limited to a few items from Osem, Carmel, Tea Wissotsky and Elite, a far cry from the robust Israeli section today. And who would have believed that Sabra Hummus would be in the hands of Pepsico and become an $800 million category in the US. Several kosher distributors with brand names shunned their original designated foods such as snacks and expanded into all categories. A good example is Lieber’s and Bloom’s.
The number of Cholov Yisroel items in the original Kosherfest was limited to less than a handful, in contrast to the exploding Cholov Yisroel market today, thanks to major demographic shifts in the Orthodox market. Perhaps the biggest change was in the type of foods, particularly when it came to health. In 1989, the number of sugar-free and fat-free kosher items was insignificant. Today, thanks to advances in production and technology, that number is dramatically larger. Gluten-free was virtually unheard of and Jews who suffered from celiac were left to their own creativity to come up with a menu. Today, the number of kosher gluten-free items is estimated to be well over 1,000. The growth of quality kosher wines from all over the world is a story onto itself. In analyzing the dramatic changes, one could almost call it a “revolution” since very little of what the kosher aisle looked like in 1989 is still the same, with the exception of those who still harbor the old image. It may be time for them to change as well.