November 18, 2013

Future of Kosher Foods is Multi-Faceted and Headed in Many Directions, Experts Say

SECAUCUS, NJ — The 25th anniversary of Kosherfest was cause for reflection on the status of the kosher food industry, including projecting future trends. At the opening keynote section on Tuesday (November 29th), several experts predicted that kosher would continue its strong growth and diversify in many different directions such as gourmet, health, and convenience. Menachem Lubinsky, founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, reflected on the industry’s astronomical growth which he believes “has not yet even peaked.” He predicted continued double digit growth over the next few years. Noted cookbook author and New York Times columnist Joan Nathan said: “I am sure there are many products out there that show the multinationalism of Jewish food and because women are working they are using processed foods. I am hoping that the next wave will be going back to sustainable food that women who are working a lot can use quickly. ”

Timothy Lytton, the author of “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food” said that kosher food has become “a model for reliable food certification.” He added: “Kosher agencies consumer alerts and internal records indicate a low-incident of adulteration in misbranding of kosher foods.” Yakov Rusinov, who began his Kosherfest career in 2001 with a booth selling challahs known as Jake’s Bakes, has since headed the kosher buying at Wakefern, the parent company of ShopRite, before joining Kehe distributors. He sees a combination of more products and stricter kosher standards.

At a subsequent session, another group of experts shared in the optimism of a very diverse and exciting kosher shelf. Gil Marks, the noted author and a recipient of the prestigious James Beard Award, said that kosher certification gave manufacturers a notable edge in competing for shrinking shelf space. He recounted that one such company that reaped the benefit of its kosher certification was Entenmann’s. “What they discovered was there is a value and scarcity for shelf space at the supermarket. Kosher gave Entenmann’s one leg up on the competition because it was more universally accepted and sold more widely to a variety of ethnic groups.”

Kevin O’Brien, Vice President of Sales at Manischewitz recounted his vast experience with kosher which began as a store manager at the Monsey branch of Pathmark. “Staying on top of the trends today is very, very important. What’s topical out there, functional foods today, health and wellness, healthy eating, comfort foods, international foods that are kosher.” Mordy Herzog, Executive Vice President of Royal Wine/Kedem, said: ‘In our mind the kosher consumer has become more sophisticated, the kosher consumer has a better palate than it ever had.”

Ron Wise, Osem USA, said that the mega producer of Israeli foods has to be selective in what it markets in the US. ” There is a cost factor to it. You have to have a product that the American public will enjoy to eat. There are a lot of items in America that won’t sell in Israel and there are products in Israel that just won’t sell in the United States.”

Yakov Yarmove, ethnic marketing and specialty food from Jewel Osco said that “there is no doubt that health and wellness needs to grow and it’s a huge trend free from allergens, such as nut allergies, milk allergies or oxygluten allergy.”