March 22, 2010

Record US Matzoh Sales for Passover Approaches $90 Million

New York…Matzoh sales in the US may hit $90 million this Passover, which begins on March 29th, a survey by KosherToday revealed, but it also highlighted some dramatic changes in the Matzoh market. Sales of the hand-made shmurah (guarded) matzohs represented nearly a third of the sales, largely as a result of their sharply higher prices per pound, but may be closer to 15% of individual matzohs sold. Shmurah matzoh sales are said to have risen nearly 18% over 2009. Matzos imported from Israel have significantly cut into the sales of US machine matzoh manufacturers by as much as 25%. Some industry sources reported that several stores only carried the Israeli matzoh. US manufacturers have long maintained that the Israelis were undercutting the US manufactured matzohs largely because they were subsidized by the Israeli government. However, officials of the Israel Export Institute say that it is no longer the case. Jewish community leaders say that many Jews prefer the Israeli matzohs as a sign of solidarity with Israel during Passover, a holiday observed by more than 80% of US Jews, according to the 2001-2002 Jewish Population Study of the United Jewish Communities.

The good news for the US manufacturers is that their matzoh sales rose despite the Israelis and despite matzoh being one of the designated loss leaders in dozens of supermarkets around the country. In some stores under SuperValu, a purchase of as little as $25 of Passover foods yielded a free 5 lb. box of matzohs. The price of the hand-made matzoh averaged around $20 lb., up from approximately $19 last year. Special matzohs like gluten free and spelt went for as high as $25.99 lb. Israeli shmurah was available for under $15 lb., but the Israelis have not been able to dislodge the Americans from major market share.

Some retailers complained that to satisfy customers, they had to carry as many as 12 brands with one store showing 14 brands on the shelf. KosherToday staff working on the survey in some cases could only calculate the value of the Matzoh rather than sales because they were part of a promotion and were technically not sold. But one retailer said: “Like all loss leaders, while we do not make money on the Matzoh, rest assured that we make it up elsewhere.” For the squeezed American manufacturers this was little consolation.