November 21, 2016

It’s a Small World at Kosherfest: Many Government-Backed International Exhibitors Finding New US Stomping Ground

Secaucus NJ - Walking through the huge exhibitors’ hall at Kosherfest this year was like visiting the United Nations, with an increased number of exhibitors from a multitude of countries around the world. The winds are changing as food manufacturers from the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka are jumping on the kosher bandwagon, displaying their offerings at Kosherfest. Joel Weinberger of PS Kosher Food Works brought representatives from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. He works with each country’s export agency to identify the products most in demand by the US kosher market and helps secure their kosher certification. On display were spices from India, coconut products, chocolate and tea from Sri Lanka, and coconut oil and banana chips from the Philippines. Pablito F. Aquino, Managing Director of the Philippines Organic Coconut Products Corp., said, “our products became kosher certified under Star K in 2010/2011 and we have already benefited greatly.”

The Czech government’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is also backing locally produced kosher certified products. Mr. Jan Kubata, Director of CzechTrade in Chicago, represented the Ministry at the Czech Republic’s booth. “We are looking to get into both the American and Israeli markets, and Kosherfest is a great opportunity to present our water to the kosher market. Our water is cleanest on earth, infused with minerals that make it super healthy for both mothers and children; perfect for kosher families,” said Todd Bentley, the Overseas Trade Director for Fromin, a local Czech water company.

Right next to Mr. Bentley at the Czech Pavilion stood Ladislav Smejkal, co-owner and founder of Betula Pendula, an innovative Czech-based company that produces cholov yisroel freeze-dried goat colostrum capsules and skin care products. The Betula Pendula concept came about approximately five years ago when Smejkal’s daughter, a competitive swimmer, was frequently experiencing respiratory problems. Goat colostrum, the first milk from a mother goat after birth, was recommended as a remedy, and it worked wonders on Smejkal’s daughter, which became the impetus for a successful business.

As it seems to be the trend this year, Kosher Korea is backed by the Korean government as well. Following a meeting with President Park Geun-hye, officials announced plans to provide “administrative and technical support” to help kosher and halal food and cosmetics makers set up shop in Korea and qualify for kosher and halal supervision, the Korea Times reported. Ziporah Rothkopf, a native Korean and now a practicing kosher Jew, is producing traditionally Korean food under the OK Kosher Certification. Her offerings of Kimchi, Gochunjang (red pepper paste), Doenjang (soybean paste), and Korean style-soy sauce, received enormous recognition. “I used to make kosher versions of these foods in my own kitchen, it would take months due to the fermentation process. I wanted the kosher world to be able to share in these delicious and very healthy foods, so I decided to mass produce in Korea,” says Rothkopf, CEO of KOKO. “Now I spend much of my time in Korea ensuring that all the production is going smoothly, and I’m thrilled that the Korean government is supporting me in my endeavor.”

Aisle 7 featured two booths displaying Japanese products, Kosher Japan and Lequious Japan. Kosher Japan under Rabbi Binyomin Edery, has worked for the past 3 years to secure kosher certification for as many Japanese manufacturers as possible. “We provide kosher certification for two types of manufacturers. Those who are already exporting to the US, and those who are looking to export to the United States,” said Koba, working alongside Rabbi Edery at their Kosherfest booth. Products with Kosher Japan certification include sake, green tea, frozen sweet potato, gluten-free pasta, and nori. Competitor Lequios Japan featured matcha powder and tea, as well as ramen noodles all certified under the OU. “When we were originally looking to enter the US market we held a booth at another trade show. The number of times we were asked if our products were kosher was astonishing, so we decided it was imperative that we secure kosher certification,” explained Alexander Stevenson, Lequious’ Sales Manager.