August 18, 2014

Some “Soft” Kosher Markets Show Signs of Life

Kansas City…A city of some 19,000 Jews most definitely would be considered a secondary kosher market, certainly when compared to New York, Miami and Chicago. Yet, many of the Jews turned out for the annual Kansas City Kosher BBQ Competition & Festival (August 17, 2014), supervised by the Vaad Hakashrus of the city. The good news here is that it attracts some of the younger non-religious customers who once were a significant part of the kosher market and have in recent years been in decline. Kosher manufacturers are valiantly trying to hold on to the kosher market share in those markets and thanks to some aggressive programs by JCC’s, kashrus committees, and Chabad, there is some life that extends beyond Passover, which in some of these markets has also been in decline.

In preparing this feature, Kosher Today spoke to more than a dozen retailers and community leaders, most of which echoed the thought that younger consumers are by and large not frequenting the kosher shelf, albeit some do on Passover. But the community leaders see many young people looking to kosher as a way of reconnecting to Judaism. They say that young people who have little connection to their synagogues are nonetheless showing up at community events or as is the case on campus at Hillel-sponsored events. Many still have an outdated image of kosher (i.e. gefilte fish, chopped liver, and stuffed cabbage) and are not in tune with the dramatic changes that have taken place over the last 20 years. The likelihood is that they will recall two or three brands that were favorites of their grandparents (perhaps Manischewitz and Empire). At events, say rabbis, they are often shocked to find sausages, sushi, and other delicacies they would never associate with kosher. The challenge will be to reconnect them with the generation of their grandparents while introducing them to the contemporary world of kosher. For kosher purveyors, the community events represent their best chance of continuing to feature their products on supermarket shelves even in markets with less than 50,000 Jews.