May 4, 2009

Out of Towners Coped With Shortages and Price Hikes on Passover

Los Angeles…Sylvia J. Danzer of The Kosher Maven would not give the kosher industry an ‘A’ for the way they handled this year’s Passover, certainly not in her home city of Los Angeles. In what has become an annual ritual, communities outside of the New York metro area complain about late deliveries, shortages, and higher prices. Said Mrs. Danziger: “Passover in Los Angeles this year was also more expensive in comparison to previous years. Dairy prices for non Cholov Yisroel items such as cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheeses were at well over three dollars an item; over five dollars for Cholov Yisroel items. Kosher chicken prices hovered around four dollars a pound, while meat prices averaged close to ten dollars a pound or more depending on the cut. The loss of Agriprocessors certainly contributed to the higher costs.” In other markets too in the East and in the Midwest, some customers complained that the display of new kosher items was spotty with some supermarkets opting only for the traditional foods. Danziger gave most of the supermarkets in LA with some notable exceptions a failing grade for their Passover sets: “Although Southern California has the second largest Orthodox community outside of New York, it is often treated as an afterthought when Passover and other major Jewish holiday goods are shipped. This means that when the food that arrives is not sufficient to meet the demand of the supermarkets and kosher stores, some distributors may resort to making up those shortages with items left over from previous years.”

In truth, there were many shortages even in the New York area. Customers complained about the lack of ketchup, yogurts, and some frozen items. One distributor said that the shortages often result from the rather short shelf life of Passover items. “Planning a Passover set is more difficult than other holidays since customers will not touch the items a day after the holiday.” Manufacturers say that the relatively short shelf life is why retailers try to order less rather than more, which accounts for the shortages. The good news was that this year there was no shortage of flavored matzoh, Tam Tams, margarine and Coca Cola, which the distributor described as “progress.”