March 22, 2010

Discount Chains Edge Closer to Passover Sections, but the Largest is Said to Lag

Miami…The Costco store which serves Jewish residents of Miami Beach, Ventura and other Jewish communities in South Florida featured a pallet of kosher for Passover cakes from Schick’s Bakery in Brooklyn, part of several such displays in the store which naturally included the obligatory Kedem Grape Juice. Chaim Braunfeld of Schick’s said that his Passover cakes were displayed in 22 Costco stores. Other discounters like Trader Joe’s and Target are also displaying many Kosher for Passover items. The Passover effort is part of an aggressive move by the discount chains to court kosher consumers. Trader Joe’s is even marketing its own private label kosher items, including meat (albeit not glatt). One distributor said that the discount stores “are just beginning to appreciate the significance of Passover.” He said: “They are still learning the ropes and it may take time for them to understand the value of a kosher set.” One chain that has come in for recent criticism over its handling of kosher is the Wal-Mart chain, which leaves many distributors with questions on the chain’s commitment to a kosher program.” One kosher manufacturer told KosherToday that Wal-Mart “had completely dropped the ball” in its Upstate Monticello store and it was not uncommon to see half stocked kosher shelves in other areas as well, including those serving significant Jewish communities in the Miami and Lakewood areas. A supermarket executive with many stores in Jewish neighborhoods said: “We are certainly grateful that Wal-Mart is not seriously competing with us for the kosher business.” Supermarket chains, however, stepped up their Passover programs with noticeable improvements from chains like Wakefern (Shoprite) and Winn-Dixie. The chain’s key executives recently traveled to Chicago to see the Passover sets at the Jewel-Osco stores. Industry sources say that Passover sales of kosher foods represent 40% of their sales, which some have estimated at nearly $2 billion. Whole Foods also stepped up its Passover program with many natural and organic Passover items, including chicken from Kosher Valley.