NEW YORK -- The news that the Jewish community in the eight-county New York area has grown by 10% since 2002 is not surprising to the kosher community. The 2011 New York’s Jewish Community Study of New York released June 12th by UJA-Federation of New York revealed that the Jewish population in New York was more than 1.5 million. Sales of kosher foods during that same period increased by more than 25% with an average annual growth of 12%. Nearly $6 billion of foods are sold to Jews who eat kosher year-round, Jews who frequently eat kosher, and a growing number of non-kosher consumers who covet kosher products.
While the UJA study says that 32% keep kosher homes, the number of Jews who eat kosher during holidays and while entertaining is at least double that number. In fact, UJA says that 68% light Chanukah candles, 69% participate in at least one Passover Seder, and 46% take part in a Shabbat meal.
The level of observance explains the two-track of growth of kosher in the area. The nearly 500,000 Orthodox Jews accounts for the growth of kosher in both the growing number of independent stores and the expansion of kosher in supermarkets and discount stores. Retailers in New York and other markets say that many Conservative and Reform Jews as well as increasing number of nonaffiliated Jews are frequenting the kosher section.
“It is amazing that Jews who do not participate in anything Jewish like going to the Synagogue, will buy kosher chickens,” said an official at Fairway. Supermarkets also speak of the many non-Jews who buy kosher, which some factor into the dramatic growth of kosher food sales in the past decade.
The New York area represents about 55% of kosher food sales nationwide.The study also revealed that there is a significant amount of poverty in the New York Jewish community as more than half a million people live in poor and near-poor Jewish households.