by Staff Reporters
NEW YORK — When Mehadrin Poultry in Birdsboro PA closed its doors in early July, it also spelled the end for the Vineland brand it acquired just a short time earlier and which had been part of the kosher scene for decades. Concern that the closure would result in shortages and higher prices never materialized. Kosher poultry made more news in 2012 with word that the Board of Directors of Empire Kosher Poultry replaced Greg Rosenbaum, its Chief Executive Officer, with Jeff Brown, Empire’s Chief Operating Officer. The company also announced many new major initiatives. In Minneapolis, management issues and even outright theft caused Twin City Poultry, a leading distributor of kosher meat, poultry and other foods, to experience difficulty. In Postville, Agri Star, also a major producer of poultry, went through a major rebranding campaign and most recently promised even more change and more innovation.
2012 continued to spell even more growth for kosher. There was a record 20,000 establishments involved in some way in the manufacture, processing, and wholesale and retail sales of kosher foods. In New York, according to figures released by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the number is approximately 3,700 with some estimates that it is as high as 4,000. An estimated 5.5 million Jews throughout the world eat kosher, both year-round and on holidays and other times.
In the world of kashrus, a conference last summer sponsored by the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) reflected a new sentiment of cooperation between the major kashrus organizations and the Vaadim (local kashrus committees). In the category of transitions, the world of kosher lost Dr. Steven Praeger, a cardiologist who became a successful entrepreneur of kosher foods with his name being the brand name. A midtown Manhattan landmark for many years, Kosher Delight, closed its doors as it did its store in Boro Park. Its only remaining store is in Flatbush.
Amongst the new additions in New York was Kosher Butcher & Bake Shop (on Second Avenue off East 81st Street) a new upscale butcher store and bakery by Joey Allaham, whose three upscale New York City kosher restaurants are rated amongst the finest upscale kosher eateries in the nation. There was much expansion in retail, including a major new kosher section in the new Winn-Dixie in Plantation Fl. Fairway added the certification of the Kof-K and a new kosher focused store in Passaic. A new Gourmet Glatt Market, an independent kosher supermarket, opened in Boro Park. The store includes some of the features of its Cedarhurst store, notably the inclusion of “brand” stops including Ossie’s Fish Market, Schwartz Appetizing, Steinberg’s Homemade Bake Shop, Simply Sushi Café, and Nesher Fine Foods. Hod Golan, a major kosher deli brand produced by Yehiam in Israel, was involved in a strategic merger with Abeles & Heymann.
In other major 2012 stories, the kosher food industries in the US and Israel were put to the test this fall with the disaster of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast and the Gaza War in Israel. Flaum Appetizing Corp ended a long-standing labor dispute with a $577,000 settlement. Sales of Cholov Yisrael products soared (as much as 20%) as natural growth continues to drive demand. European Jews continued to defend the ancient ritual of animal slaughter, as schechita continued to come under attack, even in Poland which had become a producer of kosher meat. Poland has also emerged as a leading destination for Jews, according to Kosher Delight Poland, a major restaurant chain and caterer in Poland. In Israel, consumer boycotts only temporarily affected prices, which seemed to rebound after initially succumbing to a movement driven by social media.
There were more than 300 new items for Passover, including many Gluten-free, a major trend in kosher. Social media keeps picking up steam in the kosher community as kosher bloggers and social media experts gathered at major events, including Kosherfest. Kosher sales over the Internet continue a slow climb with the latest addition being Kosher Godiva (www.lechocolatieronline.com)