April 12, 2010

Kosher Food Sales for Passover a Mixed Bag, Survey Shows

New York…When all the numbers are in for kosher food sales, Passover 2010 may show an 8% - 10% increase, but there were some markets that were described as “soft.” In interviews with more than a dozen retailers, manufacturers and distributors, the big story appeared to be some of the subtle changes in the behavior of consumers. One noticeable trend was the move to healthier eating with more whole-wheat and spelt matzohs sold. The recession appeared to still have a hold on many customers as they avoided overbuying and shunned more expensive items. The grocery sources said they also noted a stronger demand for ingredient items, indicating more home-cooked items.

Sales were stronger in the New York area than they were in other parts of the country. Kosher sources say that natural growth and the addition of significant numbers of out of area guests contributed to a 12%-15% sales increase in some areas in New York. In some areas, new items again drove margins to offset losses on such loss leaders as Matzoh and grape juice. One Brooklyn retailer credited the calendar for his strong season “I love it when Shabbos is free-standing and in the middle of the holiday as it was this year, giving me three shopping spurts within the holiday. Sales of all categories of Matzoh were believed to flirt with the $90 million mark but some stores said that their biggest sales were not in specially produced Passover foods. One retailer said that he had sold a record number of full cases of potatoes, onions and eggs, as more families seemed to stay at home. But at the same time, operators of special hotel programs all over the country said that they had done far better this year than in the preceding two years, but were still shy of the numbers recorded in 2007. The market as a whole seemed to deal far better with the customary annual shortages than in the past, albeit that there were many reports of shortages of Matzoh, particularly whole wheat and gluten-free in the New York area.

Even those retailers that categorized their 2010 Passover sales as “soft” seemed to indicate that they had at least matched last year’s sales and one said that “he only realized a 2%-3% increase.” He blamed the weaker sales on the early Passover, which he says always effect his sales. Another retailer in the Midwest blamed the ongoing recession, while a retailer in the South said that every few years “there is an unexplained adjustment.” Distributors say that they believe that nationwide Passover sales will at least increase by 8%-10%.