November 4, 2013

Record Number of Attendees Celebrate 25 Years of Kosherfest

SECAUCUS, NJ — At times the aisles in the Meadowlands Exposition Center were so crowded as to be impassible. Every square foot of booth space was filled to capacity and the talk amongst exhibitors and visitors was the very fact that the show was a reflection of an industry that had exceeded all expectations over these past 25 years. Many of the experts who spoke at some of the seminars at the show agreed that kosher had made a huge leap from the more traditional foods that many immigrants brought with them from Eastern Europe to today’s plethora of mainstream products that have kosher certification. 

The changes in kosher have been dramatic, from broad acceptance in the nation’s supermarkets to an upscaling of the products that have made kosher a successful specialty item. An estimated 500 new products were scattered amongst the 350 booths; nearly 150 were submitted to the annual New Product Competition. Kosherfest was a showcase for what some called “the new age of kosher,” gathering bloggers and cookbook authors, owners of the new modern independent kosher supermarkets and many health care buyers. But perhaps most importantly was the gathering of retailers, distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers from around the world.

There was every feeling that kosher had successfully made the transition from the baby boomers to today’s younger generation of kosher consumers with their appetite for more and different products. The new age product list at Kosherfest consisted of “facon”, Asian sauces, hickory smoked meats, and even new pizza cones. In almost every category of foods, there was line extension, new packaging, and a healthier version of something that had been on the market for years.

Only two handfuls of exhibitors were present when Kosherfest was first launched in 1989 at the Passenger Ship Terminal in New York. But some of them led the charge of an industry that had grown from some 16,000 items in the mid 1980’s to well over 200,000 today. Some of the most visited exhibits were the large pavilions of such icons as Kedem, Osem, Empire, Manischewitz, and AgriStar. Also noteworthy were the large international pavilions of Israel and Argentina who were part of the growing internationalization of the show. Even countries like the Philippines and Vietnam (through Edem Foods) were represented at the show. 

After 25 years, it was clear that kosher had come of age. After all, it was really more than 3000 years old.