December 30, 2013

Meat Scandal in Los Angeles; Recognition by Forbes Lead the Major Kosher Stories of 2013

New York, By Menachem Lubinsky and KT Staff Reporters - Our lead story in 2013 was the kashrus scandal, discovered right before the Passover holiday at the Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat in Los Angeles where video by a private investigator showed owner Mike Engelman unloading “questionable” meats during the supervising rabbi’s break to attend morning prayers. The Doheny story was reminiscent of the scandal that rocked the Monsey community in 2006 when Moshe Finkel of the Shevach butcher shop was found to have included non-kosher poultry in his store just two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. The LA scandal led to many changes and new protocols by kashrus agencies, led by the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO)…  Kosher continued to be a growth category in 2013, albeit that the range of growth was from 20% in some large Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods to flat sales over Passover in some secondary markets due to changing demographics. The explosion of kosher received recognition from none other than Forbes which in a major article entitled “Is Kosher The Next Big Food Trend?” spoke of the opportunities for kosher. The writer notes: “Still I selected the kosher option based on my believing that it meant the food was better than the non-kosher option. And this common view that kosher is somehow better, purer, and healthier than non-kosher foods is an opportunity for the kosher food industry.”

Other stories of note in 2013 were the popularity of Greek Yogurt in Cholov Yisroel Markets with the category growing nearly 100% in one year. The trend was led by Norman’s, which in recent months was joined by Mehadrin. Norman’s recently introduced a variety of 100 calorie Lite Greek Yogurt...Gluten Free products seem to have taken the kosher market by storm, including many products for Passover, despite the fact that only 3% of Americans are said to suffer from celiac disease. Somehow the perception is that gluten free is healthier…A Single Serve k Cup Single Serve Coffee in three flavors – chai tea, pareve cappuccino and hot chocolate – introduced by Corim Industries of Brick, New Jersey, was selected as this year’s Best in Show in Kosherfest’s 2013 New Product Competition…A new study by the Pew Research Center concluded that there are 6.7 million Americans who identified themselves as Jewish, significantly more than the 5.2 million in the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey by the United Jewish Communities. The study once again confirmed the importance of Passover to Jews of all stripes as 91% of Jews married to a Jew participated in a Passover Seder as well as 54% of intermarried Jews…The passing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was noted by kashrus leaders. Police estimates were that 850,000 people participated in the funeral of the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and Torah sage. Rabbi Yosef played a significant role in the development of the kosher certification, Badatz Bet Yosef, under the leadership of his youngest son Rabbi Moshe Yosef…A new book, “Kosher -Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food” by Professor Timothy D. Lytton (Harvard University Press, 2013), a Professor of Law at the Albany Law School, tells the remarkable story of kosher in America. The book traces the emergence of kosher certification in America...The “knaidel" suddenly became a familiar word in the US  as  Arvind V. Mahankali, who won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee last Thursday, spelled it correctly. Acclaimed kosher cook author Gil Marks in his definitive Encyclopedia of Kosher Food (Wiley, 2010) agrees with the spelling and defines knaidel as a “dumpling.”…Imports of Israeli food products continued to soar in the highly competitive kosher food market. With sales surpassing $200 million in the US, the Israeli foods are a significant segment of the lucrative kosher market…The rise of huge upscale kosher supermarkets came to Monsey NY with the opening of Evergreen…A ban on kosher slaughter in Poland was the subject of protest in Jewish communities around the world, including Israeli President Shimon Peres. Strangely it came at a time when kosher slaughter had become a $250 million business for Poland...Kosherfest celebrated its 25th anniversary this past October with many special programs and a record crowd of 7,500.