February 4, 2013

Despite Rising Costs, Demand for Hand-Made Shmurah Matzoh Continues to Rise

NEW YORK — The buzz in the kosher food industry is that there will be some price increases for many items, particularly those affected by significantly higher commodity prices. But even if there is some uncertainty whether such price increases will be applied across the board, one thing is for certain – the cost of handmade Shmurah Matzoh continues to rise. 

Shmurah refers to “matzah made from wheat which is guarded from the time that it is harvested (Chabad.org)”. Due to the seriousness of avoiding any chametz on Pesach, shmurah matzah is meticulously safeguarded to make sure it does not come in contact with water.  The wheat is reaped before the sheaves have completely dried out, the kernels are carefully examined to make sure that there are no grains which have split or that are sprouting, and the harvest is carefully supervised to make sure that it does not become damp until it is ground into flour. Because of the painstaking process of producing shmurah matzah, price per pound remains extremely high, hovering around the $23 lb. mark, and is rising each year. The price of $14 of just a few years ago is but a distant memory.

Tzvi Davidowitz of LakewoodMatzoh.com, a site that markets all-inclusive lines of handmade wheat, gluten free oat, and organic spelt shmurah matzah, maintains that hand-made matzah prices are rising primarily because of manual labor. “It is getting more and more difficult to find people interested in working at this profession,” he remarked. “There was a time when European and Russian immigrants provided an abundance of labor- now, that work force is almost non-existent. In addition, prices of commodities such as wheat have increased tremendously over the past 5 years.”

Does this mean demand for shmurah matzah has been dropping? No, says Feige Bensimon of MatzahOnline.com. Mirroring recent trends in the kosher market, Bensimon sees increases in sales of the healthier grain matzah. They’ve also been selling more to army bases, hotels, shuls, and prisons around the world- places that up until a few years ago, may have not even considered purchasing shmurah matzah.

“Although prices are rising every year, I see tremendous growth. Shmurah matzah isn’t just for the Chareidi communities anymore. Jews all over the world are looking for authentic matzah for their seder." Despite rising costs, people are as anxious as ever to fulfill the commandment of eating the hand-made matzah on Pesach. 

Photo courtesy of LakewoodMatzoh.com