Monticello, NY…The rivalry between Shoprite and Wal-Mart, only a few hundred feet away, for the lucrative summer kosher business was turned up a few notches this summer just as record temperatures were plaguing many large kosher markets in the country. Both large chains appear to have heavily invested into attracting some of the 300,000 Orthodox Jews that vacation in the Catskills. After opening with a bang several years ago in Monticello and recording over $2.1 million in kosher sales in just 10 weeks, the Wal-Mart’s Monticello store was severely criticized by kosher purveyors and consumers alike in 2009 and 2010 for neglecting and “being indifferent to the kosher consumer.” But this summer, the Wal-Mart store appeared to get it right with a fully stocked kosher section, fresh meats, cheeses and even Cholov Yisroel products. Rival Shoprite just down the road also upgraded its kosher program as it did in its Liberty and Ellenville stores. It hired Zelig Krymko as its new liaison to the kosher community. Both chains even designated separate checkout counters for Hasidic Jews who demanded counters that were free of “offensive magazines.” But kosher sources told Kosher Today that the “mountains (Catskills) is as hot as ever for kosher as many local ‘independents also upgraded their kosher offerings, namely Landau’s with its new in-house Chestnut brand of salads and dips (replacing its Pomegranate offerings of 2010), the work of manager Joel Schoenfeld, Buy Rite with a summer superstore to compliment its year-round Woodridge store, and Mountain Fruit, a popular Flatbush grocer that expanded its offerings here. In addition to providing its summer service to vacationers headed to the Catskills with insulated boxes, Brooklyn’s Pomegranate also had a presence in the Center One mall in Woodridge, primarily with salads and dips. One distributor said he had already realized a 12% increase in sales over 2010.
In kosher stores around the country, there was a heavy emphasis on the summer barbecue season as well as preparing for the upcoming “Nine Days” (beginning on August 1st) with its dairy menu. Yakov M. Yarmove, Corporate Business Manager, Ethnic Marketing and Specialty Foods for SuperValu, shared an upcoming ad for the Jewel-Osco store in the Chicago area, considered one of the busiest “kosher stores” in the Chicago area. Other chains were also highlighting their kosher deli products for outdoor grilling as well as gourmet cheeses for the Nine Days. Special dairy and parve recipes also appear to be the order of the day for bloggers and other on-line sites by the growing network of kosher foodies.