New York…2021 was a year of unprecedented challenges for the kosher food industry. Covid refused to die with the emergence of new variants Delta and Omicron. There were major supply chain disruptions and inflation took its toll on pricing at every level. Yet, led by the continued expansion of the network of independent kosher supermarkets, the slow re-emergence of travel, and the resurgence and even expansion of kosher restaurants, kosher not only survived but continued to display its dynamic growth. One major disappointment was the continued restricted entry to Israel greatly affecting travel, tourism and the hotel and restaurant industry there. Here are some of the highlights of what made news in Kosher Today in 2021:
Challenges: Labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, product shortfalls, weakening dollar - particularly in Israel, from where a significant portion of kosher food is imported.
Surprises Despite Covid: Opening of nearly two dozen new kosher restaurants, recovering Passover programs, and 80,000 Jews vacationing in Orlando for the holiday.
Europe’s Continued Shechita Battles: Israel Implores Europe to ease restrictions on kosher slaughter. A ruling by the EU’s highest court upholds ban in Belgium on producing kosher and halal meat, outlawing a practice whereby livestock is slaughtered without first being stunned electrically into unconsciousness., Greece was the latest country to ban kosher and halal slaughter.
Kosher Agencies: AKO rabbis say no to initial virtual inspections despite Covid-19. Kashrus agencies deal with trademark Infringement. Led by the CRC (Central Rabbinical Congress), they initiated a major initiative on insect infestation.
Mergers: Price Chopper and Tops, two chains with history in kosher, announce merger.
Wines in the News: Royal Wines (Kedem) launched many new wines from around the world despite Covid, even linking up with famed NBA All-Star Amare Stoudemire.
Impossible in the News: Most rabbis and consumers say no to kosher certification for the new “Impossible Pork.” They also say it is impossible to deny kosher certification to Ben & Jerry’s for their refusal to sell ice cream in Judea and Samaria.
Welcome Aboard: American Airlines became one of the last major US carriers to launch direct flights to and from Israel. To celebrate, the airline served many upscale kosher wines along with an upscale kosher dinner for Business Class.
Good News for Kosher: A new Pew study showed an increase in the number of US Jews eating kosher. The survey indicates that fertility among Orthodox Jews is at least twice as high as among non-Orthodox Jews. The survey seems to reinforce the notion that the core kosher market will continue to grow.
New Independent Kosher Supermarkets: The Grove Kosher Market in Cleveland, and Aisle One in Passaic.
Largest Kosher Supermarket: 80,000 Sq. ft. “Super-K” Kosher Supermarket in Panama City.
Kosher Heroes: Massive community response to Surfside disaster, led by the Chabad, The Shul. Many of the kosher eateries on nearby Harding Avenue also provided food to First Responders including the IDF unit that was working on the scene.
Blows to Kosher - The sudden closure of Gary Friedman Caterers, one of Johannesburg’s largest and much-beloved kosher caterers.
Fastest Growing Kosher Communities in 2012: Lakewood NJ with an estimated 75,000 kosher residents, Monsey with 42,000 kosher, Kriyas Yoel 28,000, Other are South Florida, Texas, followed by Las Vegas
Biggest Story: “Greatest Show Ever,” Kosher Food Experts Term Kosherfest ’21. Best in Show: Setton’s 100% Pure Pistachio Oil. Thousands follow Kosherfest ’21 on Social Media worldwide giving exhibitors biggest exposure ever; 150,000 Impressions on Kosherfest site.
Best News Out of Israel: Israel food exports to US at $788 Million continues to grow despite pandemic
Personalities the Industry Lost: Rabbi Zechariah Senter of the Kof-K Kosher Certification Agency, Rabbi Desmond Maizels of Cape Town Beth Din, Joseph Folger, Owner of Iconic Beigel’s Bakery, David Mintz, Founder of Tofutti, Rabbi Yisroel Pinchas Halevi Gornish, longtime authority on kosher, and Samuel Farkas, founder of Mehadrin Dairy and pioneer of “Chalav Yisrael.”
Kosher Miracles: Accidental post-Kosherfest encounter goes viral. It was a traffic accident after Kosherfest that led to a lucrative account.