December 20, 2016

2016: The Year of the Independents and Much More

New York - The year began with the opening of the huge Gourmet Glatt in Lakewood NJ and ended with the opening of the 70,000-square foot Bingo in Boro Park. Gourmet Glatt is one of the growing number of independent kosher supermarkets that have opened in the last few years in heavily populated kosher neighborhoods. Bingo is the US version of the Israeli Osher Ad chain, which can best be described as an all kosher Costco. Although there were more new openings than closings, there were a few notable closings. Kosher Korner in the Garden Fresh Market in Chicago closed. It was the end of an era for Brach’s in Lawrence and in Queens. In what was a shocking development, the specialty coffee chain Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf abruptly closed its 12 Manhattan locations. The network was the closest thing to being a national kosher chain, albeit that not all of it stores were kosher. Kosher wines continued to make waves, winning many international awards. Kedem celebrated 30 years of production of the coveted Herzog varietals produced in California.  Carmel Wines, one of Israel’s largest and oldest wineries, was acquired by a group of well-known Jewish investors and philanthropists.

Overall kosher sales in 2016 are estimated to have risen by approximately 12%, driven mostly by soaring sales in the Tri-State area of New York. Unilever USA stepped up its efforts in the kosher market with a more aggressive marketing campaign for its Lipton and Knorr products that are distributed by Kayco. More than 300 new items hit Passover shelves in 2016. Whole Foods continued to increase its kosher offerings, partnering with Kayco.  It carried many Kosher for Passover items. The kosher snack aisle has greatly expanded with some stores reporting as many as 125 items. 50 new kosher restaurants opened in the Metro New York area in 2016, according to Elan Kornblum, the President and Publisher of the Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine ( By comparison, the number of closings was only a fraction of the new launches.

Anti-schechita (kosher slaughter) efforts continued in Europe. Proposals by Dutch authorities to outlaw the export of kosher meat in 2017 were called “distorted and grandstanding” by Jewish community sources as the kosher slaughter for local use is minimal…There was a dramatic increase in kosher culinary charity events, a part of the growing number of kosher foodies who are actively promoting the upscale kosher culinary experience… Mylanta became the first major antacid brand to receive the kosher certification of the Star-K Kosher Certification… The closure of two more meat plants which produced kosher beef further compounded the kosher meat supply problem in the US in 2016… Parvella Chocolate Spread by Parvella International was named the Best in Show in the annual New Product Competition that preceded Kosherfest 2016. This year’s 28th annual Kosherfest drew more than 7,000 exhibitors and visitors.

The kosher food industry lost Rabbi Yisroel Belsky at the age of 78. Rabbi Belsky served as the halachic consultant to the OU for almost 30 years. The industry also lost Ben Reisman, 92, a survivor of Auschwitz, who sensed an opportunity to use his skills as a baker to launch Reisman’s Bakery, one of the largest wholesale bakeries in the country, died at the age of 92.