In just a few weeks, Kosherfest will celebrate its 30th anniversary. After experimenting with a consumer event and then a combined consumer/trade event in New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, Kosherfest was launched as an exclusive trade show for the kosher food industry, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Let’s turn back the clock to 1989 at Giants Club in the old Giants Stadium. 69 exhibitors filled the rather small facility with more than 500 trade registrants. Many of the exhibitors are no longer in business or became part of other kosher brands. Some have gone on to become iconic brands in the meteoric rise of the kosher food industry. Looking back, you might say that the show looked very much like the industry was, small and focused on serving a narrow constituency. Most exhibitors used the provided pipe and drape. There were no booth structures. No designed displays. Products were stocked on tables and most of the offerings were the traditional foods: gefilte fish, kugel, stuffed cabbage, and chopped liver. Kosher wines were still mostly sweet wines and perhaps a smattering of imported wines.
When I tried to do an inventory of kosher items back then, I came up with about 16,000 items. If you would walk into a Jewish bookstore, you were apt to find a handful of kosher cookbooks (as opposed to more than 150 today). There were no large kosher independent supermarkets, certainly not the upscale markets of today. The big news of the time was that some supermarkets were adding kosher. I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture of where the kosher industry, if you could call it an industry, stood as we approached the ‘90’s. When I look back at this incredible journey, I have to single out the visionaries who like me believed that the best days for kosher were still ahead. Kosher was about to take a seat at the table with the best of what food has to offer. Our dream was about to be realized. Thank you to all those who helped make it happen. Congratulations on reaching this incredible milestone!