July 11, 2011

Mainstreaming in Kosher Gains Momentum, But Some Opt Out

New York…Kosher has definitely gone mainstream in the sense that it is available almost everywhere, but some kosher purveyors told Kosher Today that going mainstream for them is fraught “with many headaches.” One producer of the higher kosher standard cholov yisroel dairy products says that despite producing a quality product, he cannot hope to compete since he cannot further lower margins because of the extra cost of the cholov yisroel. Several other manufacturers of pastry items and cereals say that they also cannot compete and as a result only feature the kosher certification of a Chasidic rabbi and sell mostly in strictly Orthodox neighborhoods. Several distributors told KT that the definition of mainstream also varies. “While some wish to follow the Sabra model (now available at airports and in supermarkets with little or no kosher fare), others are merely looking for shelf-space in supermarkets that in some markets means reaching secular Jews who frequent the kosher aisles. Making it with supermarkets can automatically spell greater penetration, but the distributors offer the caveat of “it depends on the item.” A Detroit supermarket that caters to Orthodox Jews estimates that nearly 30% of his customers are non-Jews. The numbers vary from store to store, but 15% - 20% does not seem uncommon. Kosher deli and takeout has emerged as a favorite with non-traditional consumers of kosher, largely out of a conviction that “the quality of kosher is simply better or less fraught with such issues as Salmonella poisoning,” say the retailers. “The irony,” say the retailers, “is that people are willing to pay the 15% premium “for the glatt kosher meat” for “safety reasons. Some distributors say that many products are rife for the broader market, even snack items, soup croutons, and sauces. The newest and most significant opportunity for mainstreaming is through the large discount chains (i.e. Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart), either through the kosher brands or even through private label. Irrespective of what your definition of mainstream is, opportunities seem to abound for expanding well beyond the traditional kosher consumer.