New York – It was not so long ago that kosher food industry prophets told Kosher Today that they did not foresee a future for on-line shopping of kosher foods. They felt that kosher consumers were simply not going to replace the shopping experience at a store for clicking on to foods on-line. Several ventures never quite reached their potential and ultimately shut down. Kosher.com valiantly tried to induce kosher consumers to shop on line, but say industry officials today, the market was simply not ready. Successful on-line sites like FreshDirect added many kosher products and to some extent they managed to attract kosher shoppers, albeit a small number.
Now it appears that on-line sales of kosher foods is finally taking hold, thanks to the successes of Amazon and Google as well as companies like Fresh Direct and, of course, the popularity of the Smartphone. The rapid expansion of kosher independent stores has also contributed to a new on-line model that utilizes these stores for fulfillment of on-line orders. In the general market, on-line grocery sales have reached 31% of sales, a dramatic increase of just five years ago. Products that have a long shelf-life and those not so easy to find in stores do best in the general market, but kosher sites like My Cloud Grocer, founded by Dan Daneshevsky four years ago, find that there are no longer any limits to what customers will order on-line, including perishables like meat and dairy. Daneshevsky’s model is different than the early versions like kosher.com. He actually builds a platform for supermarkets like Season’s, Rockland Kosher, Western Kosher and Breadberry. Sam Gluck of Breadberry feels that the site MyCloudGrocer built and maintains for Breadberry is very much an extension to his store’s theme of good food, ambience and excellent service. “It has been a blessing for people who can’t make it to the store and still want to be part of our unique shopping experience,” says Mr. Gluck. Sales have doubled each month and these days he is sending truckloads to the Catskill Mountains where some 300,000 Jews vacation.
Leiby Koplowitz, his brother Issy and Heshy Perlstein of EZ Kosher and his partners developed a concept of shopping on-line but where fulfillments and service comes from the local stores. His phone app for IPhone and Android system has revolutionized the kosher shopping experience in making shopping on-line a matter of convenience. EZ Kosher was heaven sent for stores since they are simply too busy to maintain their websites which EZ Kosher does as a matter of course. Israel-based Self-Point is also successfully building on-line platforms for such major kosher independent stores like Gourmet Glatt and Pomegranate. Zalmy Cohen of Self-Point says that the on-line business has grown without impacting in-store sales.
Most of the stores Kosher Today spoke to said that they definitely felt the impact but were not prepared yet to quantify the benefit. Sites like Kosher Family.Com did sales of about $80,000 before the holiday of Shavuos and as much as $70,000 on a regular week. One retailer guessed that on-line sales were as much as 15% of sales. From all indications, on-line shopping had definitely come to the world of kosher and it was very likely just the beginning.