April 22, 2013

Many Large Food Manufacturers Still Shy Away from Passover Runs

NEW YORK— The distinctive yellow caps on Kosher for Passover Coke and the special KP on Pepsi have become as much a fixture on Seder tables as Matzoh. With the exception of California, most of the nation’s Coke bottlers distributed the Passover products. Dannon Yogurt returned to supermarket shelves with a limited number of Kosher for Passover products after choosing not to do a special Passover run in 2012. 

Many companies that produce cleaning products and such items as aluminum foil also market special Passover products. A popular snack item this year was Lays Potato Chips but the product was imported from Israel. Many stores even carried Pepsi made in Israel. Kraft’s Temp Tee spent less than $100,000 on a Passover promotion in a partnership with Jamie Geller, an American-born Israeli food writer and chef who is the founder of the Kosher Media Network, known for its Joy of Kosher brand. There are many basic staple brands like Tropicana that produce Kosher for Passover products.

Despite estimates that some $2.5 billion of foods are specifically sold for Passover in the US, many large companies are still not convinced, according to industry and kashrus officials. Some say that the necessary change of ingredients, shutting plants for special cleaning, and not having a targeted distribution in place, are some of the reasons why they do not do special Passover runs. The evidence, however, points to a missed opportunity. 

Industry sources say that for companies like Coke, Passover is definitely a time when they can clearly see the needle move upward for no other reason than its Passover certification by the Orthodox Union (OU). It even went so far as to assure California customers that the Passover products will be back next year. California is the only state where Coke did not provide the products until suppliers comply with a new state law designed to reduce levels of a chemical byproduct that California has deemed to be a carcinogen. The chemical is 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, and can be formed when caramel coloring is made for Coke products. 

The absence of some of the major companies has been a blessing for the kosher producers with brands like Gefen, Hadar, Lieber’s and others who produce some of the products the mainstream producers chose not to.