March 30, 2009

Matzoh Sales from Israel are Down, but Maybe Not

Jerusalem…KT Middle Eastern Bureau Chief and Staff Reporters…It has been one of the big stories to come out of Israel this year, but it may very well be a case of comparing apples and oranges. Sales of matzoh, the unleavened bread for Passover, are rising or falling depending who one talks to and what sales period is involved. For example, the Israel Export Institute expects export sales to drop by five to 10 percent this year as a result of the global economic crisis, yet several bakeries are reporting stronger demand. Last year, export sales grew 31 percent to upwards of $12 million with more than half of that coming from the United States. Institute Director Avi Hefetz said that the sales spurt last year came before the economic troubles deepened. “Hotels this year are ordering less because Jewish communities in the US who tended to celebrate the Passover festival in hotels are this year expected to celebrate in private homes.” An Export Institute statement said that Israel exports matzoh to 40 countries. In 2008, sales to the US made up 57 percent of the total, sales to Italy represented 10 percent, sales to the UK, France and Belgium 5 percent, Canada and Australia 3 percent.

Last year matzah sales to North American totaled $7.1 million. Sales to EU countries increased 21 percent to $3.3 million. Sales to Asia and Africa declined 17 and 73 percent respectively. Matzah production continues at an accelerated pace despite the gloomy forecasts. David Wolf, CEO of Matzah Aviv in Bnai Brak, in business for 65 years, is looking to increase exports to the US this year. He said that Aviv, one of the three largest matzah bakeries in Israel, will be exporting $2.3 million of matzah compared to $2 million. Wolf said the American Jewish market has increased its demand for the more expensive specialty matzah such as egg, honey and whole wheat. Wolf told the News1 website that it seems that Jews worldwide won’t let the economic situation affect their Passover Seder. Meanwhile, the Irenstein Matzoth Bakery in Ashdod says it has produced the world’s largest kosher matzah. It measures almost 14 feet across and is on display in the factory’s visitor center. The bakery’s manager came up with the idea as a way of raising the employee’s morale during the Cast Lead military operation in Gaza. The monster matzah is on display in the bakery’s visitor center. Osem is gearing up for a 10 percent growth in sales of its Passover products. The most popular items are the cakes and cookies, self rising flour, snacks and soup mixes. Yad Mordechai, producers of honey and olive oil have launched a Pre Passover project with Chef Haim Cohen. The website: www.mevashlim.com is offering creative new recipes for Passover with an emphasis on the company’s quality olive oil.

And Sogloweck, a leading meat processing company, is offering recipes for healthy kosher matzah sandwich recipes featuring lunch meats which are kosher for Passover, largely for those who eat beans or pulses on the holiday. The company’s premise is that the food for the week long holiday gets boring and it is possible to create interesting sandwiches such as a tasty pastrami and beet combo.