December 2, 2013

Experts See Growth of Kosher Beyond Traditional Kosher

SECAUCUS, NJ — The kosher food industry is in transition, certainly when one considers the changing demographics nationwide. That was the consensus of many experts at a major seminar at the recently held Kosherfest (October 29-30, 2013). They agreed that many markets are experiencing decline as older kosher consumers pass from the scene and are not necessarily replaced by younger consumers who may have intermarried and do not frequent the kosher aisle, even on Passover. 

For  Kevin O’Brien, Vice President of Sales at Manischewitz, the promise of future growth lies in the new product mix of kosher. He said that the opportunities to reach out to a broader audience are “far and in-between.” He cited gluten-free as a possible breakthrough category that may go beyond the traditional kosher set.

Mordy Herzog, of Kedem, who represents a new age management of kosher was extremely optimistic about a successful transition. “If you’re looking for the growth of kosher organically within the sole attribute of it being kosher, I think we’re going to see an explosion around the Orthodox and the Conservative world, especially in the kosher observant areas.” Herzog added that he thought kosher would “explode” even beyond the rapidly growing Orthodox population. “I think you’re going to find increased availability as kosher continues to grow and as supermarket chains bring items in. We currently have 180 stores in Chicago with three or four that do a bang up job with kosher every day 365 days a year. Because of that we’ll bring items into other stores as well. I think you’ll find chains that because they’re focusing on those high demographic areas will still bring kosher into the secondary stores as well.”

For Ron Wise of  Osem USA, there is an opportunity to win over nontraditional kosher consumers, but secondary markets simply do not have the space to showcase the many new products that are in the market. “You have your core large areas that are going to support kosher completely but when you get outside of that you have people called holiday Jews that only celebrate the holidays. Those are the ones you want to try to go after but you just don’t have the space to do it with all the items that you want to.” 

Mr. Herzog put potential growth into perspective by defining growth as increased spending. “In terms of the observant consumer we don’t necessarily look at the 10 percent growth in people who are observing kosher, despite the large families in the kosher market. If you look at the loss the kosher community is having in the reform or conservative markets keeping less and less kosher so we don’t think there’s a growth in observance of 10 percent but the consumer spending is going up and that has a lot to do with the innovation. The 10 percent is more of a contribution that has to do with the spending of the kosher observant consumer versus an actual population growth in kosher observance.” 

Mr. Obrien opined that “the growth of kosher foods will happen in alternate formats, not just the traditional retailer – club store, drugstore, other mass merchants – they’re all looking to do more and to attract that Jewish consumer which is a good spend for them. That’s an area where the kosher food growth will come from in the not too distant future.” 

Yakov Yarmove, ethnic marketing and specialty food from Jewel Osco said that opportunity is locating the areas that need kosher food. “There are a lot of people who don’t have variety, that don’t have a kosher butcher, that don’t have a kosher bakery, that don’t have a kosher deli and it’s identifying those areas and saying how can we go in there as a retailer and give our kosher consumers an opportunity to give them everything they need from soup to nuts.”