January 22, 2013

Israeli Food Importers Avoid Early Missteps as Sales Continue to Soar

NEW YORK — Imports of Israeli food products continue to soar in the highly competitive kosher food market. With sales surpassing $200 million in the US, the Israeli foods are a significant segment of the lucrative kosher market. Kosher food sources credit the recent surge to the greatly improved quality of the foods as well as better packaging and more effective marketing. 

Retiring Osem USA executive Izzet Ozdogan remembers a day when many missteps were made by Israeli importers. Mr. Ozdogan was recently feted at the home of Ido Ahroni, Israel’s Consul General in New York for his 23 years of service as head of Osem USA. He and others recalled the narrow focus of the Israeli products in the early years “when we thought that only Israelis who live in the Valley and in New York would buy Israeli foods,” said one importer. Others thought it automatic that American Jews would buy Israeli products as a show of solidarity. 

It wasn’t until Osem and the other learned to compete for shelf space in kosher sections nationwide that they experienced success. Some simply became American importers of Israeli foods rather than representatives of Israeli companies here. The experts say that Israel has also made significant strides in producing quality foods, some of it due to the country’s formidable advances in using technology to produce quality and healthy foods. Many of the larger kosher manufacturers and distributers have also become major importers of kosher foods from Israel in what one describes as “an extremely receptive food market.”

In addition to Osem, some of Israel’s largest food manufacturers have aggressively courted the kosher market in recent years, including Strauss and Tnuva, not to speak of some of the leading wineries. With the early missteps largely a memory nowadays, Israeli foods are posies for even more growth in the years ahead.