July 13, 2009

Kosher Takes Center Stage at DPI, Fancy Food Shows

Chicago…As a major distributor of specialty foods, DPI sponsors an annual show of some of the categories it distributes, with a special emphasis on kosher. “At least 25% of the exhibitors were kosher,” said Christine Salmon of Diversified Business Communications, who is responsible for sales at Kosherfest, which had a booth at the show. What struck Ms. Salmon was the significant number of exhibitors who never appeared at Kosherfest, which is consistent with the findings by the Mintel Research Organization of the large number of new products that become kosher every year. Held at the Schaumburg Convention Center on July 8th, the show attracted a large number of buyers from the Midwest as well as from other parts of the country. The significant kosher business of DPI is headed by Joe Plueger, a veteran expert on the industry, who is also chairman of the National Kosher Food Distributors of America, affiliated with NASFT, sponsors of the Fancy Food Show.

Earlier this month at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, participants at a seminar heard a report that supermarkets like Price Chopper, Trader Joe’s and Costco are successfully catering to kosher shoppers with their corporate brands, while Whole Foods, with its 365 Everyday Value brand, leaves a lot to be desired. That was the consensus of kosher distributors and manufacturer participants in a roundtable discussion. Price Chopper (based in Schenectady, N.Y.) has its store-brand products certified kosher whenever possible, noted Marty Stein, an account manager for distributor Tree of Life. The retailer also advertises in local Jewish papers and cites the relevant certification body beside kosher products in its ad circulars. While most Trader Joe’s and Costco’s Kirkland Signature brands are certified kosher, about nine in 10 items in Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value line are not, noted Susan Berlin of Susan Sez it with Cake. Others agreed that the retailer is lacking in the store-brand kosher department. “I’ll take a look at a beautiful 365 Everyday flavored oil and 90% of the time I’ll turn it around, can’t find the kosher symbol, and it’s back to the shelf,” Berlin said. The Fancy Food Show this year was noteworthy for its large representation of kosher (nearly 500 booths), and more significantly, say industry sources, the large number of exhibitors who posted their kosher certification to attract kosher trade buyers.